So the past three weeks have been challenging, frustrating, scary, confusing, inspiring, and hopeful. For the first time, in a long time, I find myself wanting a label....but not that one....
You see, for the past three weeks, I have been going on a "fun" and "eventful" journey. I have to frame it this way or it makes me want to pull my hair out. The journey, let's just call it, "What Patty should do to feel her best." I was going to initially call the journey "what is wrong with Patty," but I really don't think there is anything wrong with me. This is all a journey for me to try and figure out how I can feel my best. What I can do to wake up feeling good, feel motivated throughout the day, not feel anxious, eat well, and be healthy.
This most recent journey started the week of February 11th. I always have difficulty with this time of year, March especially. So, each year as March approaches, I kind of grab on for dear life to see how I will "do." Put my seat belt on, knowing it will most likely be a bumpy ride. I just have bad luck in March. I have some difficult memories during this time of year and I also think the winter blues totally catch up with me by the time March rolls around. I truly feel like a new person when spring and more sun approach.
So, flash back to Feb 11. I had a bad dream that week and that just kind of set me off for my most recent panic attack cluster. They seem to come in groups and then go away. So, I had a pretty bad panic attack on Wed. Feb 13. The worst I have had in awhile. I actually canceled my dentist appointment because I just needed to get home. I got home, eventually calmed down and immediately made an appointment to see my doctor. I didn't usually go to the doctor's for my panic, but I was feeling down right exhausted. I feel like I was doing so much every day, between reading, breathing, listening to my iPod on the train in the morning that I was just exhausted. I decided I needed help.
I got an appointment for Friday, February 15th. I was able to meet with a wonderful doctor who was able to talk me down. She talked through my panic attacks with me and ultimately gave me some medicine I can take if I start to feel one coming on, as well as some daily medicine I could start taking to help me manage this bought of anxiety and panic that appeared to have reared its ugly head again. It took me awhile to finally ask for daily medicine, because for some reason I felt like I needed to deal with this on my own. I needed to find a way to meditate through it, breath through it, etc. For a good 5 years that worked just fine, I found myself exhausted and I am totally ok with this.
The doctor I met with also listened to me about all of my quirks and nuances with my heart. Back in 2010, as I think I have mentioned before, I had a "heart marker" come back as off. My doctor at the time never explained to me what that really meant, but I was suddenly certain that I dying of congestive heart failure, due to my inaccurate understanding that my Grandmother Landry had passed away from congestive heart failure in 2007. Needless to say, I was totally freaked me out. My doctor was nice enough to refer me to the cardiologist, which is where my journey continued.
The cardiologist was great and was willing to put me through a bunch of tests to ensure all was good and healthy and that I was "just having panic attacks". I feel like the word "just" should never be placed in front of panic attacks, because for anyone who has ever dealt with them, it honestly feels like you are having a heart attack. My heart would just race and nothing would stop it. This thoughts of "oh my god, I am going to pass out/die/explode" would all race across my mind. Their title is also a bit misleading because more often than not, they would just come out of nowhere. Not like I was super stressed that day, I would just suddenly get a wave of a feeling come over me and if I let myself go down that path, a panic attack would occur. There were times I could prevent them from actually happening, through walking, breathing, etc, and then there were times that no matter what I did, nothing would stop the onslaught of one.
Luckily the cardiologist knew, as did I, that my biggest challenge was my mind and she was willing to help me "get over it." So, she took some blood tests, brought me in for a EKG, back for a stress test and even sent me for an ECHO (still awaiting those results). Gratefully the EKG and stress tests all went wonderfully. I haven't been that scared in a long time and my blood pressure was through the roof for all of them, but I am proud of myself for at least going through the process.
The cardiologist suggested some steps I can take to bring my cholesterol down a bit and was concerned with my blood pressure. My blood pressure is normally around 120/70,which is just fine. While visiting the doctors during my panicked times it would shoot way up. So, at that point, I am panicked about being panicked, trying to get use to new daily medication, worrying about my possible thyroid issues, cholesterol and now blood pressure? Not to mention my ECHO hadn't happened yet. It has been a rough few weeks folks.
I went home to visit my parents and for a Wheaton Board meeting the weekend of February 21st. I had only been on my medicine for a week, so I was excited to head to my parents and relax. On the way home from my friends house, I started having a panic attack while driving. I have NEVER had a panic attack while driving and I certainly do not suggest it. I am just grateful that it wasn't the first one I ever had. I made it all the way from the MA Pike to the center of Milford through reminding myself I was fine, just super anxious, and super shaky. I really thought I was going to make it home. Then, I suddenly hit a red light. At that moment I decided it was no longer a good idea for me to drive. I pulled over into a 7-Eleven parking lot, got out of the car and asked them to call an ambulance for me. I was just so shaky. If I had thought about it for 5 more seconds, I would have just gotten out of the car, had some water and called my parents to come and pick me up, but because I driving it threw all of my regular "how I deal with a panic attack," out the window. I suddenly found myself on the phone with my dad, telling him I was headed to the hospital, and then talking to paramedics. I had always joked that I was one of the few people I knew that had panic attacks and never went to the ER, well that streak has officially been broken.
The EMTs were super nice and understanding and while I fear the bill from the hospital, I am just grateful that I made it off the highway and into Milford. So, there I was in the ER, for like 3 hours. They just talked to me, tested my sugar, pulse (racing), blood pressure (sky high) and EKG--just fine. As I stayed there my blood pressure slowly started getting back to normal. The hardest part was that they wouldn't let me take my emergency medicine until the doctor saw me. I felt much better after taking my medicine.
If I had been anywhere but driving, I would have never gone to the ER. I would have just taken my medicine and watched some TV on the couch. Because I had one while driving, I ended up in the ER for over 3 hours on a Friday night. I am grateful to my parents for helping me out and my aunt for helping my parents get the car from 7-Eleven. Funny enough, my parents were already at the hospital, as my mom was having a colonoscopy. So, my dad came and visited me while waiting for my mom. Was eventually discharged with some reading material about panic attacks.
What a few weeks!!
When I got back to the city, I told my doctor about the panic attack I had while driving and was told that some people get more anxious during those first few weeks on medicine. Luckily, that seems to have gone away.
And it continues....so, the checking on panic attacks, led to the cardiologist, which led to the endocrinologist. You see, when my blood work came back, my thyroid and other readings were off. The doctor thought it made sense to go see an endocrinologist to make sure my thyroid, etc was ok.
So, this morning I went to the endocrinologist to learn that my thyroid readings "were very typical for someone on birth control." Say what?? The doctor was lovely and she took more blood to look more into my other readings that were off and took a sonogram of my thyroid. Everything looked good, which is encouraging. I continue to have some other inflammation markers that are off, so she is trying to figure out if there is something else going on?? Arthritis?? Lupus?? Fibromyalgia?? Who knows???? It can also all be caused by stress....so not a helpful marker at all, but we shall see.
I feel like I also need to report that my blood pressure at the doctor today was 110/60, so again, was just fine when not in the panic state and not with the cardiologist, apparently. So, for anyone that counting, it is 4 doctor appointments prior to the ER and then three more doctor appointments since the ER--including 3 EKGs, 1 stress test, 1 ECHO, 1 thyroid sonogram and my blood pressure taking a million times, on top of about 19 viles of blood and one peeing in a cup ;)
So, as I sit here on Thursday, March 7, 2013 and cannot wait for March to just be over already and cannot wait to have all of my blood and test results back, I apparently want a different label. I have to say, I was secretly hoping it was going to be my thyroid. Why would I have felt better being able to say it was "my thyroid," as opposed to "anxiety, panic attacks and stress." As Greg had to snap me back into reality when I was complaining that I wanted a label and that thyroid was a better one than anxiety....your health is your health. Why do I know this for everyone in my life, but me? It is crazy what stress can do??!! I just don't really feel "stressed." But then again, my tension headaches are back as well, so who knows?
It makes me sad.
I feel like I really want a diagnosis. I feel like that would help me figure out more clearly what I need to do to feel my best. For all I know, after all this, my diagnosis may just be "Anxiety." Again, with the "just"----it certainly isn't "just" anxiety. I am grateful for the journey am just hopeful to get there. I am not usually into labels and "diagnosis" as I feel like it can be dangerous sometimes, but I guess I just want answers here.....
Meanwhile, I appreciate the reminders that at this point, I am really just ruling out other things. Making sure there is nothing else going on. It just continues to feel a bit like I am in a long and winding line for a ride at Disney World. As I weave my way through the ridiculous lines, and look at all the cool artwork along the way and try and appreciate and be grateful for my journey, all I can think about it getting to the front of the line and finally getting on the ride (figuring out what is "wrong"). And, as soon as I think I am at the front of the line, suddenly there is another turn and like 20 more miles of rope and lines to go through to get there. It really is exhausting going from doctor to doctor and specialist to specialist.....
I am truly grateful that I have insurance, I am truly grateful that I am healthy, I just continue to believe that I will find ways to feel my best. Whether it be learning to work on stress, diet, exercise or environmental factors, as exhausting as it is to try and figure it all out, I have to remain confident and hopeful that I will get there. I also have to remember how I am feeling and all of the struggle, so the next time I am feeling great--health wise, I am even more appreciative of that wonderful feeling.
For everyone out there feeling healthy, try and really soak it in and absorb it. Be grateful for your ease of mind, body and spirit, as it does not come as naturally to everyone.
I remain grateful for my happy little life, I remain grateful for all of the caring and wonderful people in it, I just continue to soldier on try and find ways to feel my best self, every day. Life is good! It feels good to write again, it has been hard to be in a place to do so while all of this has been going on....Grateful!
And that's all she wrote...