an alarming realisation

image by pronouced you

I have always thought of myself as one of those people who rarely gets ill. Sure, as a kid I got the same stuff as everyone gets, but as an adult, very little. This is the limit of my adulthood dis-ease: influenza for a week or so during my first year of university, food poisoning about 18 months ago after a dodgy pub meal, the occasional headache (my own fault for not drinking enough water) and the odd bout of hayfever in the summer, but that's pretty much the extent of my illnesses. That is, until this year.

I don't know what has (or hasn't) happened to me, but for some reason my body seems to have saved up all the illnesses I maybe should've had over the last 20 years and crammed them all into 2011... and we're only 4 and a bit months into the year. So far, that includes: gastric flu, months of insomnia, gallstones (ouchy), other abdominal pains, severe shoulder pain, muscle pain throughout my arms, various blood tests to check for all sorts of stuff, high blood pressure, influenza x 2, and numerous fevers and viruses. That all sucks, but none of it was as horrible or terrifying as what happened on Friday night.

I had had a pretty average day at work, not particularly stressful, just normal... apart from the racing heartbeat and shortness of breath I had been experiencing all day. I (foolishly) didn't really think much of it, until that evening when it was still happening, and worsening. My heart had started beating so hard I was sure I could see it beating in my chest, and my breathing was so fast and shallow that I felt as though I was barely taking in any breath at all. I felt exhausted and light-headed and knew something was wrong. I didn't feel as though I could take in enough breath to talk properly, so my friend James who was with me called NHS Direct to ask a nurse what to do. He was told to immediately take me to Accident & Emergency at the local hospital. I can't even try to explain how terrified I was. It was a struggle to even walk to the car, my chest had seriously started hurting by now, plus I was exhausted from the effort of trying to breathe. The journey was tough. It was only a couple of miles, but it felt like it was taking hours, and I felt as though I was suffocating. We finally got to the hospital, where I had to fill in forms and wait in a packed waiting area for an hour before being ushered into a room for yet another blood test. Next came another long wait before seeing a nurse and explaining, as much as I could with so little breathe in my poor chest, what was wrong and my medical history to date. I was taken through to a ward behind the consultation room, where I was asked several times if I suffered from asthma. I don't. That puzzled them.

The ward was small, and almost all the cubicles were already occupied. I could hear people being ill behind thin blue curtains, others screaming, and some drunk people shouting and swearing. It wasn't the most soothing place to be, and it took another hour for me to be seen. By now the cough I'd had for the last few months was really bad and my chest and arms tingled with pinprick-like pain every time I coughed. Once in my own cubicle, the doctor asked me if I suffered from asthma, asked about my medical history and after listening to my chest, being told that I had had a cough for the last 12 weeks and that I suffer from high blood pressure, sent me to have my chest x-rayed. I have only ever had one x-ray before, my wrist at the age of 4. This was quite different - it's one thing to break a bone, which is almost-always healable, but to need an x-ray for something as important as your lungs was more than a little unnerving.

Thankfully, the x-ray came back clear, but despite that minor reassurance, my breathing and heart rate had not calmed down, and I was still having pain in my chest, which had been slowly getting worse. My blood tests came back OK too, which I was relieved by, of course, but it did pose the question: what exactly was wrong with me and what had caused it? If my body was physically OK, why did I feel as though I was having a heart attack? I was told I was probably suffering from a huge anxiety attack (which by then had lasted more than 30 hours) and was given steroids to help relieve the pain in my chest and an inhaler for when breathing was particularly difficult. I was glad to be told I wasn't suffering from some terrible heart or lung problem as my paranoid little brain had started telling itself, but it was still frustrating to not know why this had happened or what I could do if it happened again. It was nearly 2am by the time I was able to leave, and I hadn't slept for over 48 hours, so I didn't really have a chance to consider that until the next morning.

I was able to sleep for a few hours, which my body so desperately needed, but I am still no closer to working out why this actually happened. If it happens again, I can at least put myself at ease by telling myself I'm not having a heart attack, but other than that I just have to wait it out and "try to relax". I don't know if it's the same with everybody, but being told to "try to relax" just makes me even more panicky, since it makes me aware of how hard it actually is for me to relax. I've always been pretty highly-strung and get stressed out easily, though in some instances this can be a good thing - I work especially well if I know I have a deadline coming up, for example. But stressing about lots of little things that gradually mount up, and eventually build up to my own personal un-conquerable Everest can cause huge problems which, I have now learned, explode in horrible ways like this. There's no one big thing stressing me out at the moment, just the usual abundance of small things, which I hadn't really considered a problem until now. I don't ever want to feel the way I felt that night, I have never been so scared in my life. It's about time I faced this anxiety problem I seem to have, but how can someone who has been this tense for this long possibly attempt to fix it???

Perhaps if the Accident & Emergency department served these while waiting to be seen, it could have relieved some of the stress and anxiety I was feeling. Perhaps I'll write to my local MP and suggest it.

4 hellos:

Claire said...

Sweet girl! I'm so sorry you had to go through this, and am so very glad that James was about and able to help.

Is there anything I can do to help? Is there anything I can do for you?

Much love,

Vixie said...

I'm very glad too! Thank you sweetie, but I don't think there's much anyone can do right now - I just need to relax and get myself a bit calmer. It's a bit of a weird one, I'm not even really sure why it happened :(

Claire said...

I know a little about this kind of stuff (nowhere near as severe though, you poor thing). If you ever want to talk and explore relaxation thingamys, would be delighted to try to help.

Love you, sweetie.


Vixie said...

Thank you lovely! Charlotte and I are going to try and find a meditation group to go to, I reckon it'll help x

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