Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not as crazy as everyone thinks.

Just a quick update to those of you that were planning to visit me in a white padded room: You'll have to wait a while longer. It turns out there is actually something physically wrong with me.

Pericarditis is inflammation of the sac surrounding your heart. It often occurs after a viral infection (like I had prior to this all starting), hurts worse when you are reclined, makes you short of breath, and becomes much worse when you breathe deeply or exercise. BINGO.

The diagnosis is simple and could have been made over a week ago if they hadn't decided instead that I was insane, but it's not as simple to fix. Unfortunately, inflammation is cured by anti-inflammatories and they don't exactly work overnight.

Thank you for the prayers if you're sending them my way - I can use all I can get until I start to get some relief.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hard times ahead...

It's difficult for me to write a serious post, as by nature I feel better being sarcastic, self-deprecating and exaggerative to add drama to a story. Unfortunately, the story I have now needs no dramatization.

Mental health problems carry such a stigma in our culture that even though my own personal education is in mental health I fall victim to it on a personal level. After my trip to the emergency room two weeks ago I blithely accepted the diagnosis of anxiety and tried to assure myself that it would resolve itself with time. Tingling in my limbs, sleeplessness AND fatigue, chest tightness and cold sweats are all telltale symptoms of anxiety issues and although I have my own personal problems with mistrust in the medical field (un/misdiagnosed cancer at 23, you think?) I comforted myself with the fact that I am in the lowest possible risk factor category for any kind of heart problems and that the many M.D.s I had consulted with knew what they're talking about.

So on Thursday of last week I put on my best tough face, donned my workout wear and decided that since my problems are of the psychological variety a little endorphin rush would do me some good. Water bottle in hand I headed to the track near my home to get my heart rate up to something beyond the excitement of a Dr. Phil episode (the highlight of the previous week), and all was well until somewhere between .3 and .4 of a mile when my chest pressure was starting to transform magically into something much more implicative of a chef's knife being plunged into my heart repeatedly.

I did make it 2 miles (two VERY slow miles) with many stops along the way and then gave up to try some yoga at home.

The agony continued and I figured that a hot shower and some meditation would be like natural Valium and I'd calm down as soon as my body recovered from the Arizona temperatures and the actual physical exertion which hadn't been accomplished in weeks. Unfortunately, no such luck.

Here's where my stubbornness comes into play, yet again. For fear of hearing, "There is nothing wrong with you, go home!" again from the emergency room staff I sat up all night long in tremendous pain and figured I would mention it to my doctor, with whom I had a normal old appointment the following day.

However, when I showed up on base complaining of chest pain they chastised me for even going there (there are no emergency services on base) and told me there was nothing they could do. I must have looked completely desperate though, so my doctor saw me anyway, confirmed the anxiety diagnosis and gave me TWENTY(!) little magic white pills known to mortals as Xanax and known to us crazies as sweet, sweet relief.

Unfortunately, twenty pills that last 4-5 hours a piece don't take you all that far and I am now rationing them like mad until I can get in to see a psychiatrist that will figure out something better and less addictive.

The real struggle with this post is trying to figure out how to end it (The post, that is. This is not some drawn out suicide note). I'm lying here in bed, the pain in my chest hard, fast , red hot, and unrelenting, and the bottle of Xanax is sitting on the nightstand to my right. The temptation is real, but since I don't know how long it will be until I have something better/different/more effective I'm saving them for midnight so I can hopefully get some sleep.

To tell you that I'm 100% convinced this is all anxiety related would be a lie, but I do think it's important to write this and publicly heed my own advice and take my own knowledge to heart. The brain is an amazing mass of cells, and physical manifestations of feelings are nothing new or remarkable. Although I have no idea what I am specifically anxious about my body is sending me messages loud and clear that something is wrong, and I hope that if nothing else this will serve as a reminder to everyone to reads this (and to myself) that you should always listen to what your body and mind are telling you. Taking care of your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health, even though psychotherapy is often only considered an option for the truly sociopathic or alternately the bored wealthy Beverly Hills housewife. I have an amazing husband, a lovely home, a wonderful family and a shoe collection that takes up two closets. What could I possibly have to be anxious about?

If you need to talk to someone, do it. It could save you (literally) a lot of heartache, and quite a few strange looks when you tell doctors that there are six foot lobsters chasing you through the emergency room (I'll save that for another post entitled “The joys of intravenous Ativan” perhaps).

Friday, May 8, 2009


I've always been a worrier, it's true. From a young age I'd lie in bed and devise elaborate plans entailing what I would do if robbers broke in, if I was abducted by aliens, or if the monsters under my bed broke loose from their chains.

Gradually, those fears gave way to other anxieties (although I will admit that probing by alien is still a bothersome thought) and the things that keep me up at night are now more along the lines of illness, wellness of family and friends and whether or not the duracell that powers my biological clock is running low.

Somewhere between losing my job and the wedding from hell my anxiety started to kick into overdrive and I stopped doing normal everyday things like eating and sleeping, and instead supplemented those with attempting to watch Law and Order reruns 24 hours a day (surprisingly doable thanks to TNT). I surmised that once we were hitched, the visitors had vacated our home, and I was back on my way to being gainfully employed I would calm down.

Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case. Although I did manage to find joy in churros and sticky buns during our honeymoon I still haven't been able to sleep like a normal person, much to the dismay of my charming and ever accommodating husband. Last Sunday his patience wore out though when I mentioned to him that not only had I been having chest pain for the entire week, but my left arm and left leg were now both numb. He swept me into the car and six hours, two blown veins, two EKGs and a quadruple dose of Ativan later it was determined that I had anxiety problems. Duh.

Although I still have the chest pressure and tingly limbs I am happy to note that I don't think I'm dying and I do have an appointment with a psychiatrist so I can be sufficiently medicated - at least enough to function on a daily basis.

My favorite quote of all time is something that Mother Teresa said: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." I try to keep that in mind when I get frustrated with other people, and it just occurred to me that I should also keep it in mind when it comes to myself. Sometimes I think we are harder on ourselves than anyone else possibly could be, and I am no exception to this.

However, if anything can clear the mind it is the cold crisp air of the mountain so we are headed up to spend Mother's Day in Pinetop this weekend and hopefully the lack of smog will scrub my mind clean and freshen up the cobwebs in my brain.

To all of you mothers out there I wish you the happiest of Mother's Days!!!