Monday, March 5, 2012

When Anticipation Turns Into Anxiety....

I'm not going into detail about how this came about but two weeks ago, I went to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack.

I felt like I did about 2-3 hours or cardio and there was a 300 pound weight on my chest.  I couldn't breathe and my heart rate was at 120.

I had just read an article called "If You're Going to Be Treated For a Heart Attack, Try Not to Be Female."  To sum it up, it basically says that when women go to the hospital complaining of chest pains; they are discriminated against.  It also said not to down play what they're feeling and to be their own advocate.

I had been having chest pains for a week but they generally went away.  The night before I went to the ER, the pain wasn't subsiding and I got nervous.  The next day I decided to go to my friendly neighborhood urgent care (which I now know that if you are experiencing chest pains or abdominal pain, skip the middleman) to get checked out.  They did an EKG and said my heart rate was abnormal and that I should go to the emergency room.  I dropped my kid off with her nana and my husband and I set off to the hospital.

I called my sister to let her know and she kept telling me, "You're not having a heart attack, it's probably anxiety."  I wasn't sure what it was but my chest was hurting something fierce.

I walked into the ER and told the girl up front, "I have chest pains and an abnormal EKG from urgent care." I was immediately taken into their "quick look" area to get my vitals checked and got another EKG.  The nurse was fast and was pumped with energy.  He looked at the EKG I had.  He asked, "Where did you get this from?" I replied, "Urgent care."  With an eye-roll he says, "Ugh, urgent care."  I thought that was so funny.  He yanks the wires off of me and sits me up and says, "Sinus tachycardia yes, heart attack? No.  You should feel better because I just ruled out your heart."  He gave me a quick smile and we went to the waiting room.

In my head I began to mull over what my sister said.  Anxiety.  It was a pretty rough week and it was only Wednesday.  I was looking around and there were people who looked worse off than how I looked.  I started to feel guilty and yet my chest pains weren't going away.

A short time after I was called and they rolled me to triage in the wheelchair which I felt was a bit much but its more of a liability thing.  I got set up in my little area and told several people what happened; I started to feel like a broken record.  They did blood work, a chest x-ray, a cat scan, urine screening.  Once the doctor came in, I thought my heart was going to bust out of my chest.  I see him look beyond me then back at my face.  He says in a calming voice, "Ms. are you an anxious person?"


He said, "I know because as soon as I walked in, your heart rate jumped from 98 to 120," and smiled.  "We're going to get the results back from your blood work but for now how about we get that heart rate down okay?"  He tells the nurse, "How about one milligram of valium."  She nods.

Valium?  The drug of choice for housewives everywhere.  I never thought I'd have to succumb to the powers of it.  They handed me this tiny pill and I take it.  It   Now that I think about it, they could have given me a placebo.

Once all was said and done, I didn't have diabetes or high cholesterol.  I had an anxiety attack....maybe more than one that week.  And telling someone to calm down in the middle of an anxiety attack won't help.  The doctor said to try and figure out ways to handle my stress better.  I really thought I could handle stress fine but my husband said that I often care to much about things that are out of my control.  And instead of getting defensive, I agreed.  I do care too much about things that don't need much caring about.

My sister in law, who is a nurse (which I'm very grateful for) came by the next day, took me to Target to get my prescription for twelve pills of valium.  The bottle says in big, bold letters - TAKE AS NEEDED.   This made me laugh.  We did a little shopping and she picked up pizza for dinner.  She also brought me some yoga DVDs which has helped me stress less.

All in all, I think I've learned to have more faith that things will work out and that I need to be more carefree.  Things that are going on in my family life are still going on, but truthfully its a brief moment in time.  And anytime I need to get my head on straight I just think about how good I actually have it compared to the terrible things happening in the world and tell myself to shut up about my champagne problems.


  1. I've never had an anxiety attack but I know a lot of people who do have them. I was interested to find out that Steve Martin had them for most of his adult years and never could quite figure out a way to control them until he was well into his 40s. Learning to meditate might help a little - learning breathing and calming techniques when you feel yourself getting stressed might help too. I like valium very much. Too much for it to be a good drug to have in my possession, but I'm sure you'll use it much more prudently than I would! Sorry you're going through this.

    1. Yet another reason to love Steve Martin. I have all 12 pills in my little bottle and my pharmacist sister in law recommended that I split them in half. So I guess I have 24 little bits of stress relieving pills in my arsenal. Thanks for your concern friend.

  2. Oh! I am glad you weren't having a heart attack and that you have a sister-in-law to watch over you. Breathe deeply and take care of yourself. I plan to be reading this blog for several more years!!

  3. I like you candor, sharing your experience. Anxiety or not, it is still real and I am glad you addressed it and are working it out!