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Hey there all, thought I'd share my experiences..

First off, the trigger.... About 4 years ago (age 30), while sitting on the porch having a smoke and drinking my usual caffenated drink I felt short of breath. I asked my wife to drive me to the ER but fortunately passed a fire station where I went in and asked to be looked at. My heart rate was at 160+ and my sinus rythem (the familiar heartbeep pattern you see on a heart monitor) was replaced with a jagged random line pattern. This condition is called atrial fibrilation - where the circuits that keep the heart in a regular beating pattern. It's serious, but not critical. After being admitted, 12 hours later my heart went back into a normal sinus rythem. They had a cardiologist check my pump out and all was clear. Regardless, I saw that as a sign and took the doctors advice to quit the stimulants (nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol).

For someone who drank, smoked and lived off cherry pepsi, this seemed impossible, but near death is a great motivator. After about two weeks it began: "Hmmmm, did my heart just skip a beat...I feel kind of short of breath too".... This anxiety progressively got much worse and became 24x7 thing. I was afraid to go to public places, face freinds and family, and sleeping was near impossible. The panic and fear consumed my life. I began seeing a Psycologist and Psychiatrist. I went on everything klonopin, paxil, buspar, ativan, etc...etc. Nothing helped. Basically they made me a mellow anxious train wreck. I must have convinced myself that I had 3 dozen different conditions. I spent countless hours online researching my phantom illnesses.

"How the hell could this be happening, I used to be a normal person...I don't understand why they can't fix whatever is wrong with me!!! Thats their job!!!"

I must have taken 4 or five trips to the ER during that time and at least a dozen to my physician. I saw every specialist you could think of. "Gotta be my heart"... went to see cardiologist. "Must be my brain"... had an MRI done and saw a neurologist. "Maybe it's my inner ear"... (I did suffer from tinnitus during this time awfully)...saw an ENT doctor. "Maybe my thyroid"...saw an endocrinologist. Had ALL sorts of bloodwork and tests run.

"What??? Theres nothing physically wrong with me!!!! Then whats going on!!!!"

It was during my last round of meds (I believe it was Gabitril) that I started having bouts of uncontrollable crying. At that point my psychiatrist was at his wits end and wanted to start me on anti-psycotric drugs. I had enough of this roller coaster. Meds were not going to do the trick, I had given them plenty of chances. I went off everything and started taking chelated magnesium and changing my diet. Even that didn't really do the trick, although I did feel a little better physically.

It occurred to me one night while I was stargazing (one of the few things I still enjoyed), that I felt fine. I was calm and the panic wasn't there. I repeated this every night I could afford to. I had come to the conclusion that whatever was throwing my brain off, I had to try to combat it. I DID have some control over it in certain situations. I needed to try to control the snowball effect that happened from small triggers (like heart palps). I had been seen by every specialist available and there really wasn't anything wrong with me (as far as they were concerned). I had to convince myself of that.

Easier said than done, the human mind is a damn strong, stubborn, powerful piece of work. I had to start 'riding out' my episodes and try to begin to brave the things I used to take for granted. I would go out shopping with my wife on short trips. I took up meditation and martial arts. It was VERY hard being in those situations and trying to act like nothing was wrong, but there was no way in hell I could let my brain contiunually trap me into that sense of feeling. I needed the diversions. I took only what I could handle and did the things that calmed me as often as possible. It subsided very slowly over a long period of time, but it did subside so slowly I barely noticed it had gone.

It took about 5 months from the onset for me to really feel 'normal' again. Now some of you who are just now beginning this journey may cringe at the amount of time, but now it's really all a blur to me. Although I lived through it myself, I can't even imagine what was going through my head that would prompt me to go to the ER so many times. I really was a different person then. Those of you who have suffered longer, you truely have my sympathy.

In then end, I really cant say what 'fixed' me. I know it wasn't the drugs. I believe what happened was this: Like so many others I experienced a life changing event. I also quit three heavy stimulants at once cold turkey. This threw my chemical balance out of whack severely. My brain had to right itself and unfortunately, it required a little help from me (convincing myself that I really wasn't insane or sick). It was a long slow process, but it did end. There was hope, although I did not see it at the time.

So many folks experience things like this and dont bother coming back to share their 'everything is okay' story. I wanted to share mine. Your mind is responsible for generating every pain and sensation you know is real, and it can easily do that whether those conditions exist or not. Don't micromanage yourself. The human body is excellent at healing itself, all it needs is a little help from you and many can overcome these conditions over time. I truely believe this to be true. Good luck everyone. :)

-Eric





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