February 11, 2011…The ER

Chest pains, numbness in the feet and hands, racing heart, back pain, shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, palpitations, cold sweat. Now that’s a party.

It started when the alarm went off at 4:00AM. It began with back pain unlike any back pain I’d ever had. Then one after another, symptoms just kept piling on. With a little help from co-workers and the internet, I was convinced that I was having a big-time health crisis. And it had to be a heart attack.

I am no stranger to panic attacks. I had my first one when I was planning my wedding (should have been a sign). I feel them coming and through the years, I have learned how to stop them in their tracks. I did go the medication route for awhile…the paxil and lexapro. But I got to a point where I decided I just didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to control it myself and totally believing that I could, I quit cold turkey (I do not recommend this method). That was about 3 years ago. I’ve managed pretty well…until yesterday.

I was scared. Really scared. I’d never had one like that and I couldn’t shake it. I could slow it down for a little bit but it would come back hard and fast. I kept telling myself “this is all in your head, you can manage this, breathe, it’s just a panic attack, no big deal, you got this, you know what to do, relax”. But I was so dizzy, so uncomfortable, so out of control, so beyond anything I’d ever experienced before. It was different and that’s what really got me worked up. I was having a panic attack over having a heart attack that was actually just a panic attack. Vicious cycle.

My doctor wasn’t in. I had a hair appointment and a party that night. I got in my car and headed to the salon. The trip in the car gave me an opportunity to calm down a little. I really thought I might have it whipped until I sat down to wait for my girl to come get me. I felt like I was gonna faint and I knew I couldn’t sit there for three hours and I knew I’d never make it to the party in that condition. I’d driven by a hospital on my way, so to the ER I went.

I just finally came to the conclusion that it was more than likely a panic attack but if it wasn’t and I died, I’d be really pissed. And I’d feel really stupid for not just going to get checked out. So my embarassed ass walked into the ER, checked in and basically told the girl, “I think I’m having the mother of all panic attacks and I just need someone to confirm that it’s not a heart attack so I can relax”. An EKG, a couple other tests and two hours later, I had my confirmation. Amazing how most of my symptoms diminished significantly almost immediately. For the love…

A lot of thoughts raced through my mind during my little psychological adventure. Even though it ended up not being a near-death experience, it still felt like one at the time. And I’ve been processing some of the realizations that I came to when I was so afraid that I was about to bite it.

The biggie was that I’m not quite ready to die just yet. I’d be lying if I said that I never had thoughts about throwing in the towel. Yeah, I’ve gone there. There are times when I’ve gotten so overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, hopeless, tired, lost and afraid that I’ve thought that dying would have to be easier than continuing on. I’ve thought about what a relief death would be.

Now there’s no need to call in the guys with the white jackets or Dr. Phil quite yet. The thought of taking care of that myself has never been an option. Not only do I not have the balls to do it, but I had a dear friend make that choice several years ago. I’ve seen what gets left behind. I could never do that to my family and friends. I don’t judge her for her choice, I just know that could never be the choice for me. I do sympathize with the position though and there are stories in the news on a regular basis of Autism moms who just can’t do it anymore. I understand.

So I definitely wanna keep going, I feel that there’s a lot left for me to do. There are choices for me to make and games for me to play.

Question is…where do I begin?