I haven’t been posting much lately because I’ve had a rough couple of weeks with my anxiety. The most frustrating thing about anxiety for me is that I can go for weeks and even months feeling like I have a handle on things. Feeling back to normal and believing that everything is fine and I’m healthy and life is wonderful. And then, all of a sudden, BAM! I experience a little bit of stress, a few sleepless nights and then get hit seemingly out of nowhere with these feelings of dread because something is wrong, and then things come crumbling down.
This most recent episode started the week of Thanksgiving when Sebastian came down with a stomach bug and passed it on to me so that I spent the majority of my holiday break feeling tired and ill. The worst of the bug for me happened Thursday night and by Friday, I was feeling weak and gross but no longer nauseated. Then on Saturday, some nausea returned and triggered my anxiety, who showed up to tell me that this nauseous feeling just had to be a heart attack symptom — because for women, it actually is a symptom. I spent most of the day with that in the back of my head, building into a small panic on Saturday night that made me ready to head to urgent care several times. Luckily, I was able to talk myself off that ledge.
Then I really fell apart on Tuesday. I’d felt tired and run down most of the day, sitting at my desk thinking I was feeling chest pains off and on. It all culminated in a huge panic attack Tuesday night when I thought I felt pain in my chest that radiated up my throat in a fashion almost identical to how my heart attack started a year and a half ago. I ended the night crying tears and snot into my pillow while clutching a sleeping Sebastian in my arms, convinced that this was the last time I would ever get to hold him because I just knew I was going to have another heart attack in my sleep and wouldn’t wake up the next morning. Nick, being the angel that he is, offered to stay up all night to monitor me so I wouldn’t have a heart attack and die in my sleep. I told him he didn’t have to do that and I managed to wake up just fine the next morning.
Do you know what it’s like to be so afraid that this is the last time you will get to see, hold, or kiss your child, the love of your life? It’s truly awful. And I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.
At my therapy session the next day, my therapist reminded me that anxiety will never go away and the best thing I can do is acknowledge it and figure out the best ways for me to react to it. It’s all about managing it, even though I really wish I could just make it all go away.
She also suggested I join a support group.
As I was looking around for some groups on Facebook and other parts of the internet, I came across this article on WebMD from earlier this year that talks about how many women who experience spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) — the type of heart attack I had — are misdiagnosed and sent home because doctors don’t believe they’re actually having heart attacks, for reasons that range from they aren’t aware of SCAD to they don’t believe young people can have heart attacks to they just don’t believe women.
Reading this and other women’s stories made me feel so incredibly lucky that the physicians at Duke took my complaints very seriously, ran the blood tests, and whisked me away to the ICU when those test revealed elevated levels of troponins, an enzyme that is only present when there has been damaged to the heart muscles. I can’t even imagine how much worse my anxiety would be if I had experienced the trauma of not only experiencing the scariest health risk ever but to also have to fight the system to advocate for my health so I could survive.
Anyway, I’m feeling much better today and the events of the last few weeks now seem far behind me. I’m hoping I make it another few weeks or even a few months — do I dare wish for more than that? — before my brain decides to freak out on me again and make my life miserable. Until then, I’ll keep practicing my grounding techniques and making the most of every moment. And thank you, friends, for reading my stories and supporting me when I’m struggling. I’m so grateful and feel lucky to have you.