Yesterday I had a panic attack. It was a really bad one. I thought that I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. What made the whole situation worse is that I was watching my eight year old nephew.
I woke up yesterday and felt a passing pain in my chest. I sat up and I immediately felt light headed. It was more than that. I felt as if I wasn’t fully in my body. I felt as if I was about to leave it. My heart started racing. I tried to calm myself done. I tried to talk to myself. I said, “Just pretend that everything is all right and it will be.” I said, “It’s just anxiety. You’re not dying.” I would calm down for a few minutes and then I would feel the anxiety rise up again. Every twinge in my arm, every surge of pressure was a signal that I was having a heart attack. I thought that I was dizzy because I hadn’t eaten much the day before. I’ll be honest. The day before I had only eaten two cans of chocolate covered cashews and some Doritos. Not eating is a big mistake for a diabetic. I thought that my blood sugar must have been dangerously low. I took my blood sugar and it came back 130. That’s pretty normal for me. I ate breakfast. My thinking was that I need to add fuel to my body so that I wouldn’t feel so dizzy. The food didn’t help. I was concerned that I was having a heart attack. So I did my best not to alarm my nephew, but I drove us both to the ER.
Our local ER is just down the street. I told the nurse that I had chest pain and I was admitted right away. They hooked me up to an EKG and took the reading. I was worried about my poor nephew having to see me like that in the hospital. I wondered if this would be his final memory of me. The nurse read my EKG slowly and then unhooked the sensors. I asked her if it showed that I was having a heart attack,
“No,” she said and sounded kind of bored. I immediately felt relieved, but I also felt kind of foolish. Am I a hypochondriac? The nurse sent me back out to the waiting room. I would be worked up later, while they tended to patients who were actually sick. My nephew and I waited out in the waiting room. I was still feeling anxious, but not as dizzy as I used to feel. Finally, another nurse took me into an examining room. They drew blood. They made me put on a gown so that they could hook me up to a heart monitor and they hooked me up to an IV. An fourth year medical student listened to my racing heart and poked and prodded. A nurse returned and gave me a shot of Ativan. I felt the effects immediately. I had a chest xray. About two hours later, the attending doctor came to see me and said that everything was fine, that all my tests were fine. So I was sent home with a prescription of Klonopin.
I feel foolish, but I know why the chest pain and the light headedness led me to believe that I was having a heart attack. I’m fat. Very fat. I live in a family where my mother is frightened that I’m just going to keel over because I’m so fat. She is very okay with sharing this fear with me, my sister and her husband. I also live in a society that perpetuates the notion that large people are just going to die suddenly. So despite my youth and my overall good health, chest pain and light headedness signal heart attack to me. My anxiety disorder (I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder a few years ago) did the rest. So what am I going to do? How can I protect myself?
I want to get as healthy as I can. I won’t say that I will try to lose weight. I will eat better. I will exercise. When I write I will eat better I mean that I will eat clean, I will eat smaller meals more frequently. I will avoid fast food and junk food. I will exercise. Exercise will alleviate my anxiety and it will help me to know that I’m taking care of my health. I can’t have lose weight as my goal because I could do all of these things and still be fat. I’ll keep you all posted on this journey by using this blog.
Thanks for reading,