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Breaking Point
Dec 16, 2012
I've suffered from anxiety for years. As a child, I was always anxious about losing those I loved, because I experienced many deaths at a young age. In my 20's, it became inwardly focused. My first real episode was when I pulled a muscle in my chest at work and thought it was my heart. A year later, I found out I had non-cancerous Barrett's esophagus - just a small spot, due to untreated reflux. Those things all caused bouts of depression or feeling sad, but my first panic attack was in 2008. Since then, I've suffered from them with growing frequency.

In 2009 I had a legit health scare with my heart. I went to the ER for chest discomfort and they did the usual tests (bloodwork, EKG, x-ray) then gave me some ativan and sent me home. Next day at my follow-up visit, my PCP sent me for a chest CT scan just to be sure. They found what they called a dissected aorta. They put me under for surgery but once they did their transsesophageal ultrasound they couldn't find the dissection. They did a heart cath to be absolutely certain, but found my heart was as healthy as could be and that the "dissection" was an artifact on their CT scan machine. Had some lingering anxiety from that, and ended up on Lotrel to control hypertension. Had an echo test on my heart as well, which came back great. Also did the 30 day monitor test to address some skipped beats and flutters. Test came back perfect, and the meter showed those skips were benign and harmless.

This year, I was diagnosed as a diabetic (type 2). I'm on MetFormin and it's pretty well controlled. I've lost weight and changed my diet as well, which has helped.

Long and the short of it, is that I've had sporadic anxiety problems since then, but recently they've become so intense and so terrifying that I'm at the point I feel like I'm losing my mind. It's been building all year (changed jobs twice, of course lots of anxiousness with that) but now my health anxiety is on overload. The symptoms are becoming intolerable.

I went to a MedExpress clinic due to the feeling of being unable to breath deeply to catch my breath. They did an x-ray and ekg. The ekg was fine, but she thought she saw signs of enlargement on the x-ray so sent me to the ER by ambulance and pumped me full of baby aspirin. The ER ran their tests and found that my heart was functioning normally - EKG was good, x-ray showed no enlargement whatsoever, and I was given a shot of ativan because they thought maybe it was anxiety.

Since October I've had a series of progressively worsening symptoms. It started with a very heavy-chested feeling, like I couldn't catch my breath. I would get them from time to time in the past but nothing this long or concentrated. Along with that, I had a lot of sinus pressure which made it hard to breath. No drainage (just some post nasal drip). It happened frequently while at work. Also had some tense muscles in the back of my head and neck.

Got a chiropractic adjustment, which helped out a bit with the heavy chest and upper back trouble.

Then noticed a pain in my lower back and abdomen on the right. Pursued that to find it was gallstones, and that I have to have my gallbladder removed. Symptoms there are intermittent and under control, so I'll be having it done after the holidays. Definitely worried about it, because having it removed can cause GERD and sometimes Bile reflux. If the bile reflux hits my barrett's esophagus, it could definitely cause it to turn cancerous. So I feel like I'm damned no matter route I take. All I have is the hope I won't get bile reflux.

Once I was diagnosed with the stones, I felt a little better for a few days, but recently I've been overwhelmed with just a general sense of dread and panic that has, in the past week, re-focused on my heart. I had to leave work early last week because the panic I felt was so bad.

Thursday evening I went to the ER because my symptoms were so violent I thought for sure it was a heart attack. Aside from the usual panic attack symptoms, I had a strange, flushing sensation, as if someone grabbed by heart on the right side and squeezed it like a tube of tooth paste to the left, which sent a flushing sensation up my neck or down my arm. It was not painful but very disconcerting. Couldn't get my heart rate below 140. Took 2 ativan (.5mg each.)

So I went to the ER to get checked out, and they ran the same array of tests they have in the past: bloodwork (checked a bunch of stuff including thyroid and hormones), x-ray, and an EKG. All normal. After sitting there for a few hours, my heart rate went down and the "flushing" sensation had stopped. Felt better, came home, really determined to get help for my anxiety attacks.

Every day since, I've had at least one massive panic attack that has had similar, violent physical symptoms (I say violent in terms of how they feel when they hit - it's sudden and unnerving.) I find I'm getting them a little more when I'm alone (if my wife is at work) and I find I'm obsessing over getting them while being alone with my kids or un a public place (this weekend we did a live nativity play at our church).

I'm becoming increasingly despondent and depressed, fearing the next attack or fearing that the next attack will be heart-related. I'm obsessing that there's something wrong with my heart that they've missed, haven't tested for, etc. Don't know how long those test results are "valid" for from my hearth cath, echo, etc.

This morning's attack also added a few new things: sweat. Bad sweat - profuse sweat. I also had a very intense, warm sensation in my left ear. Almost felt damp. My shoulder and chest felt light or weak...hard to describe. Wasn't pain, though. Took 2 ativan (1mg total) and it calmed me down but the sweat persisted for awhile. Now I'm sitting in my chair, finally calm, but with that feeling in my chest like it may happen again if I get up or do too much.

My concern, like most others, is that they've missed something in their tests or that what I have is something they haven't tested for. For example, my teeth aren't in great shape, and I know that can contribute to heart disease, if you have an infection in your teeth or gums that goes down.

I've had the symptoms of a sinus infection for a few weeks now and finally got on an antibiotic for them (bactrim) but that made me very dizzy. I've not run a single fever throughout all of this - my temp has been consistently normal the entire time, even when sweating profusely earlier. It's making it harder to focus and harder to really just be a dad to my five kids. I'm so depressed, just waiting for the next hammer to fall.

I need to get out of this. I guess I'm looking for anyone who has had similar symptoms (I'm sure they're out there) to set my mind a little at ease. I've got a therapy session scheduled for next week and I may see about a daily maintenance medication to keep this from happening. I want my life back - I used to be so laid back and fun hand energetic. Now I just want to sit in my chair all day and not move for fear of an anxiety or heart attack. The prospect of going back to work and sitting in my cube is horrifying to me. Especially in a building with over 4,000 other people.

I'm a mess. And it has to be anxiety, because I DO have actual physical illnesses. I'm diabetic - it's a disorder I have to live with and face every day, and I'm doing that. I don't get anxiety attacks over it. I feel like when you've "really" got something wrong with you, you suck it up and do what you need to face it. But when you obsess over IF something is wrong, then it's anxiety - a nasty condition in its own right, but because it distracts you with scary thoughts it's hard to man up and face it for what it is. Am I making sense? I just want my life back.

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