I have a brain cloud.
April 17, 2010 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm having issues with anxiety and dizziness. I have a brain cloud.

YANMD. For whatever reasons the fates determined (mostly inspired by my upbringing), I'm an anxiety wreck! The last year has escalated (so many good and bad things going on), and I'm having really bad dizzy spells too. Someetimes I wonder if it's my blood pressure and I have to check my own heartbeart out of fear. I have indeed been to the doctor and she prescribed Klonopin for when I feel the badness coming on, but otherwise prescribed tea and relaxation. There is nothing apparently wrong with me. I have a job that I should be thrilled to have (in my field, well paid, etc) and my bills are paid. I have just had a physical and other than a minor Vitamin D deficiency, and a tendency towards hay fever there is no reason other than stress or over-emotionalism to be bringing this on. I think part of it is my baby clock but uh, nothing I can do about that right now. I'm trying to chill out, I'm trying to exercise. I have mediation music that is supposed to calm me down. I'm drinking water. I have a wonderfully supportive husband so why can't I chill the freak out?

What do I do? Yes, I know I'm burnt out, but there's nothing for it and I'm already taking those steps that should have marked an improvement for me. For whatever the trigger happens to be that day, I'll start getting the "my brain is getting too heavy in my head" fuzziness feeling. I can't focus and while I've never passed out, I feel like it's coming on. These are the flags to take the anxiety pill which I do without fail but does anyone have a method they've used to thwart this at the start? Anyone have experience with this and found a routine or method to help themselves?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Try harder to exercise.
posted by rhizome at 11:29 AM on April 17, 2010

A lot more, and a lot harder, exercise. Less of a schedule.

Also, Adderall helps me with the organization which minimizes the freakouts, but if you don't have ADHD I don't recommend it for anxiety--!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:39 AM on April 17, 2010

Klonopin? Wow. But no therapy prescribed? Anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants are more effective when used in combination with therapy. I would look into it, if I were you. Even if there does not appear to be any reason for you to have anxiety now. But no matter how "together" you may be now, you can still be feeling stress from your past.

Also you may want your family doc to evaluate your diet (and maybe your sleep habits). (Just get a second opinion if he tells you to jump in a volcano.) Maybe be careful not to overdo it with the exercise and the water, and make certain that you're eating (healthily) every three hours or close to it. Enough to ensure that your blood sugar level remains fairly even. Your exercise routine should probably include slow walks outdoors. You probably know this, but don't ever try to "walk off" the dizziness. Sit down when you feel it coming on.
Yeah, I have some experience with this, but I can't see a doctor anytime soon. That's the key in all this, of course. What your doctor prescribed seems like a good start, but I think there's more that can be done. (Therapy, diet evaluation, for starts.)
Good luck and I hope you feel better soon.
posted by Hdog at 11:40 AM on April 17, 2010

I've been in your exact situation (awful anxiety/dizziness/etc without any real cause), and what works for me are exactly what liketitanic and rhizome have suggested. Also the diet modifications that Hdog mentioned - specifically, NO CAFFEINE, in my case anyway.

In fact, I've been slipping with my yoga and exercise, and have been getting that fuzzy brain feeling (and therefore taking rather more Klonopin) than usual. If I don't have time to go to the gym or do an hour of yoga, I find that just getting outside and walking around the block really, really helps. Fresh air + activity help me escape the awful little brain spaces I can create for myself.

My therapist told me to read and listen to music, but I found that neither was distracting enough to stop me from just sitting there thinking about how I was about to either die or pass out.
posted by alphasunhat at 11:42 AM on April 17, 2010

Oh man, here is a topic I am more than qualified to post on.

I've dealt with anxiety as long as I've been conscious. When I was 6 years old, I would watch the highway through the windshield from the back seat of the car on long road trips, afraid to fall asleep because I thought without my constant oversight, we'd careen off the road. I was the anxious people-pleasing firstborn kid; I was harder on myself than either of my parents or any teacher ever was. Part of it was just a personality thing, and that personality thing was exacerbated by the fact that my family was sort of financially unstable and shiftless (young parents in the military, wild younger sister), so I felt responsible for Keeping It All Together, All The Time.

I give you my background to say: you must understand where your anxiety comes from. All the way through my 2nd year out of college, I had panic attacks, dizzy spells, long insomniac nights of believing I was going comprehensively insane and was never coming back, and mornings-after spent drinking coffee (!) to stay awake, provoking even more panic and dread and dizziness and on and on and on. Most people think of their lives as movies, as having narrative flow; I thought of my days as a pile of bright photographs, totally unconnected, and electrified. I didn't trust my own mind--whenever I felt, internally, like I had my feet on the ground, that ground turned into a wall, and I was barely hanging on.

Really. I did not even know where to begin.

So I looked on the internet. I looked up "cognitive behavioral therapy" and "panic attacks" and "anxiety" and all that shit. I strung together my own mantra for talking myself out of panic attacks: "You're not dying. Your body is fine. The worst that could happen is that you feel uncomfortable, and it will pass, and you will move on". It took 2 years, but saying that to myself when I felt anxiety coming on has cut my anxiety down about 50%. I think it's because the fear and anxiety of having the sensations of anxiety was way scarier than just having the sensations and observing them in a detached way. I am a creative person, and I was getting good at inventing colorful medical and mental disaster scenarios for myself, which I had to learn to cut off at the root. I also started being more creative in healthy ways--drawing, writing, learning to cook, and reading--so that my active mind had other stuff to think about.

There was probably another 30% reduction in my anxiety from quitting caffeine. The effects of that were way bigger than I thought--coffee was triggering a lot of head-buzzing and heart-pounding, and my disaster-prone brain started blaring alarms every damned time. I had to just cut it out.

So The only thing that helped me was locating my anxiety within the greater story of my life: in my past, in my physical habits, and in my mental habits. Not self-psychotherapy per se; just doing sanity checks: have I been eating well? Drinking coffee? Drinking enough water? Letting myself get into disastrous thought-spirals? Meditating enough? Running enough? If I don't do this, I find myself overwhelmed with daily panic-triage and living a fragmented life, which I found was the greatest and saddest effect of my anxiety. Good luck to you, and let me know if you have any questions--I could write about this for days.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 12:05 PM on April 17, 2010 [14 favorites]

Nthing exercise. Helps burn off extra adrenaline I believe, and does nice things for your neurotransmitters.

Progressive relaxation

Deep, slow belly breathing. Also, pursed-lip breathing (especially good if you tend to get shortness of breath or chest tightness)

Magnesium supplements helped me get over a severe, weeks-long bout of anxiety when I was in my twenties. These days I take L-Theanine which doesn't do anything dramatic for me but seems to take the edge off.

Kelly Howell has some nice guided meditation MP-3s on iTunes. I find her Healing Meditation one very soothing. I often use the music-only track when I just want to chill out but not meditate.

When I'm having severe anxiety issues, I listen to podcasts practically non-stop. Gives me something to focus on besides my own thoughts. Dan Savage is interesting and often hilarious. Radiolab has a lot of cool episodes as well.

Cleaning house sometimes helps if I'm anxious because I'm worried about a lot of life-stuff I can't control. It makes me feel like I'm doing something constructive. Usually I listen to a podcast while I'm doing it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:50 PM on April 17, 2010

I know the brain cloud well. I have gotten very good results with the nutritional recommendations advocated in The Mood Cure.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:36 PM on April 17, 2010

You could be me. A month ago I cut out all gluten, coffee and alcohol and I'm starting to feel way better. For me I think it's a food allergy that makes my body go into a state of anxiety and weakness. I'm booked to see a naturopath next week to talk about the same issues. Think about seeing an alternative doctor, it's not your fault, and consider it could be a hormonal or nutritional imbalance.
posted by gillianr at 5:00 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Vitamin D deficiency can account for some of that dizziness, or so I've heard. I would take a multivitamin that has it, as well as fish oil. Fish oil does wonders to stabilize my moods.
posted by egeanin at 2:02 PM on April 18, 2010

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