I have not written on here much in the past months, or really much at all since I have been dealing with some personal issues that I am going to discuss now. I am going to try and turn over a new leaf, however, and in doing so I will start to be more productive and regain some of my sanity.
About four months ago I started to suffer from terrifying anxiety that had be panicked most of every day. I had heart palpitations, full blown panic attacks, my chest would feel tight, and I was constantly worried about my health failing, that I was going to die young, and that something of great doom was coming in my near future. It felt as though a deep shadow had been veiled over my life and I could not relax or feel any sense of peace. I was horrified and I could not live with it anymore.
My psychiatrist wanted to test my thyroid and have an ECG to check my heart. He said I needed to be physically examined, which scared me even more. So, he gave me a referral to whomever doctor I could see, and I was on my way. But, I had no real primary care doctor, and hadn’t seen one in several years.
One day, about two months ago, I began having a monstrous panic attack at work. I had no health insurance so my options were limited as to how I could get help. I decided to go to a walk-in clinic down the street from my job. I felt dizzy, scared, shaky, and my heart was racing. I thought I was about to die. The walk-in clinic did a ECG and they told me that I had a bundle branch block (this is important later on). That put me in a greater distress and they referred me to a cardiologist. However, I had no insurance so I had to cancel my cardiologist appointment and spent over a month and a half living in a nightmare thinking that my heart was in serious trouble. I was so sick with anxiety I could barely function.
I finally forced myself to quit smoking cold turkey hoping that it would allow me to live a little longer. I guess that is one good thing that came out of all of this. Of course stopping cigarettes made my anxiety and dizziness worse and I continues to have violent panic attacks. I nearly called 9-1-1 four times over this period, but was too afraid to dial the numbers. I kept seeing myself dead. I was having visions of my mother coming home to see me lying lifeless on the floor.
About a week and a half ago I decided to go back to the walk-in clinic and they told me nothing new. My blood pressure was a bit high and they gave me hydroxyzine for anxiety, printed out my ECG chart, and sent me home. I was hopeless. I thought my ECG looked terrible (I had never seen one before so how was I to know?) I took a hydroxyzine and had a panic attack again, racing heart and sweating. I thought that I really did need a cardiologist, maybe surgery, medication, anything that would keep me from dying.
That weekend, applied for medical insurance and was able to get a good plan for a decent price adjusted for my income. It has yet to take effect, but I am approved and enrolled. So, I decided to find a primary care physician and make an appointment to talk about these things with.
My appointment was yesterday and I brought my referral from a few months before and the ECG from the walk-in clinic. I was expecting a referral to a cardiologist and maybe even a suggestion to go to the ER. My panic was setting in. The nurse took my blood pressure – high as usual. She asked me some questions and by the time the doctor came in I felt like I was going to faint.
He looked at my ECG and said, “So, the walk-in clinic diagnosed you with a bundle branch block?”
“Yes,” I said. “It scares me to death.”
“Well, you don’t have one.”
“Your ECG is as normal as can be. According to this, there is nothing wrong with your heart.”
He went on to say that I had a rather normal variance that is common in many people, but it is of zero concern. He told me that he wanted to draw blood and check my thyroid just to be sure, but he seemed pretty confident that what I was experiencing was severe anxiety.
I talked with him about how my heart rate will sometimes speed up with feelings of doom and terror, that I will sometimes feel dizzy and helpless, have palpitations, be unable to calm down no matter how well I try to breathe deeply. This was all mostly because I thought something terrible was wrong with my heart.
He said that the walk-in clinic nurse probably was unsure how to read an ECG. I personally assume because maybe they don’t really specialize in that area.
The doctor then said that if it is my thyroid, then it’s treatable. If my thyroid is normal, then it is most likely severe anxiety and that can also be treated. I should hear back from them next week.
This experience goes to show how terrible anxiety can be. I felt isolated, and I had convinced myself that I was near death. I was physically and emotionally drained and I did not think that I could live this way anymore, but I did not want to die. I had no idea what to do. I did not want to leave the apartment, but I also did not want to stay home all day because the panic attacks would still happen. There was nowhere safe for me to be. I felt that I could die anywhere at any moment, and I was scared to go to the hospital and face the truth that I was on the verge of death in my mid-20’s.
I had never experienced anything like this before, and I am hoping that it really is just anxiety, that it is all in my head. But, as I wrote in my book and have been writing for a while now, my anxiety has changed forms over the years. It has transformed into other types of fears, from phobias and avoidance, to now panic. This is why I am diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) because it does not fit into any established categorical diagnosis. On a dimensional scale, my anxiety is at times profound, other times more moderate. Like I said, it changes and shifts.
I will start trying to write more now that I am less freaked out about physical health. I think I can start learning how to recognize and conquer my anxiety. I have a beta-blocker to help and may possibly go into a better treatment for anxiety if my thyroid is ruled out.
If you are suffering from things that I did, make sure you go get checked out by a doctor and rule out all possibilities. And make sure you do your best to apply for some health insurance. The healthcare marketplace can be a good place to get affordable health insurance and they have numbers you can call to speak with someone if you have questions. Never hesitate to reach out for help if you need it.
Anyway, that is my little update. I am going to try and overcome my writer’s block now and see if I cannot get my life back in order after having been out of the game for so long.