Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The dog ate my homework...

Well, no, not really. But it's the standard excuse for why something doesn't get done, right? I've never been a regular, consistent blogger, but I used to at least try to keep up with the whole SNTT thing.

The truth is something I've struggled with talking about, but have been told (by a "professional", no less) that putting it on paper, so to speak, can really help. And reading about the similar problems faced by other members of the Domino community has led me to try.

About two months ago, I thought I was having a heart attack. Horrendous pressure in my chest, trouble breathing, all kinds of stuff. I went to the emergency room, where they did two EKGs, a CAT scan, and three separate cardiac blood panels, as well as keeping me on oxygen all night. After thirteen hours, the verdict was: there ain't nothin' wrong with my heart. They discreetly suggested it might all be in my head, and recommended a shrink.

So I went. I may be the only person on earth who's made it to almost-35 without ever having seen a therapist/psychiatrist/etc. He diagnosed general anxiety disorder with localized panic attacks. Of course, it's going to take years to determine exactly what caused this to start now (hopefully my insurance will cover it), but for now he's put me on Lexapro, an antidepressant which is also used to treat generalized anxiety. It's my second week on the drug, and I can't really say I've noticed a difference, but he said it could take four to six weeks to kick in, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'm also trying to cut out caffeine (almost 2 liters of Diet Pepsi a day) - I've managed to cut down, but I'm not certain that the withdrawal isn't contributing to the anxiety.

The good news is, I've been so nervous and nauseous that I've lost 12 lbs. in two weeks. I've also found that, at least temporarily, exercise helps to head off the attacks. So, in addition to my regular tennis classes three evenings a week, I've also started going to our office gym every day at lunch. I need to lose at least 40 lbs., so I'm hoping this will kick-start things.

So, that's my excuse. I feel so... cleansed :o) I doubt anyone's still paying attention to this sorry excuse for a blog, but at least I got it down in pixels, so my homework for the week is complete.


Joe Litton said...

Gosh, I suspect you'll get at least a comment or two from some of the many folks who have had INCREDIBLE good results from finding the proper medication. My mom was paranoid schizophrenic ...and when she was on her meds, things were fine ...when she decided she felt fine and didn't need these pills, then she would descend into a literal catatonic state, and only electroshock would open her system up enough to allow the meds to work again. I have no idea how many times we went through that cycle (one of my brothers and I were her guardians the last year or so of her life) ...but I know ABSOLUTELY that there IS such a thing as a chemical balance and potential imbalance in our nervous systems. So more power to you for researching what was going on and taking steps ...and then sharing those steps with other to help them.

And gosh, I can identify with not eating when stressed ...that is NOT the ideal weight-loss plan, but it sure does work :)

Glad it turned out that your heart is fine! That's a lot harder to fix, I think.


gregg.eldred said...

Esther: I see you on the list serv so I really don't 'worry' about your presence here.

Thank you for sharing, and I hope that things work out for you.

Although I can't speak from first hand experience, a quick call to my insurance provider confirmed that I would be covered, and the sessions, of which I am entitled to 52 visits a year, are 'only' $30 out of pocket. I think that the Corporate HR People want to make sure that it is affordable and available, so that they don't have major issues at work. If you can follow my train of thought. :-)

I wish you the best.

Stan Rogers said...

Sweat not the caffeine withdrawal -- apart from some horrendous headaches for a little while and a bit of encroaching lassitude until you get acclimated, there ain't much to it. Certainly, there'll be no skittishness in the mix -- if anything, caffeine contributes to anxiety.

And yeah, getting things down makes them a little bit easier to deal with. Particularly when you're dealing with feelings you know aren't grounded in anything real. I mean, the feelings are unquestionably real and can't be ignored, but left unexamined they tend to feed on themselves and grow. Before you know it, a wee bout of uneasiness can turn into what looks for all the world like a cardiac episode. (Not that I'd know anything about stuff like that or anything. Oh, wait -- I've had both anxiety attacks and heart attacks, and I really couldn't tell the difference.) Adrenaline is good, m'kay, but moderation is key. I find that keeping the problem actively in mind, perhaps not constantly, but at least consistently, helps to keep it in perspective.

Take your time. Take it easy. And don't wait too very long for the medication to kick in.

Jennifer Forbes said...

Hi, I just came across your blog and this post.

As someone with an anxiety disorder who takes similar medication, I can tell you that exercise is great and so is cutting out the caffeine. If I were you, I would cut it out slowly if you're used to drinking that much a day.

Also, I lost a lot - too much - weight when I was first diagnosed and started taking medication. For many people, it is a side effect in the first couple of weeks. I lost the weight very quickly and so I think that was unhealthy in my case.

Likely your medication will kick in after another week or so. I hope your recovery goes well.

Esther said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and support. I'm starting to feel a bit better as the medication kicks in. Ironically, I had my yearly physical yesterday, and it turns out that the chest pains may actually be a heart condition, not a symptom of panic attacks. The good news is, if it's what my doctor thinks it is (supraventricular tachycardia), it's very common and easily treatable with beta blockers. I have to go to the hospital cardiology lab tomorrow to get a Holter monitor, which I'll wear for 72 hours, to record my heartbeat.