I was sick for a month and a half, but didn't know it!
Well, actually, I knew I didn't feel well, but I didn't know just how sick I was for weeks. I'd gone to the doctor two days before Christmas and had to get shots and antibiotics because of my lungs. The doctor never told me what was wrong. I assumed it was a respiratory infection, but it wasn't terrible so I wasn't worried. We went on our short vacation and I felt ok, so I figured I was over it, but apparently I wasn't. In my posts about the Nutrisystem program we did, I talked a lot about how tired and weak I felt. I still believe it's not a great program to be on, and I still believe the lack of food caused some of it, but I believe now that one of my main problems was that I had walking pneumonia again. I honestly had no idea because I wasn't coughing or anything. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how I found out I had pneumonia, but since we're friends here, I'll explain.
Let me preface my story with this: I'm not a hypochondriac. I hate going to the doctor and being on medication isn't fun. I may complain about not feeling well, and I might whine if something hurts, but I don't spend a whole lot of time believing I've got some kind of incurable disease. The only thing, health wise, that scares me stupid is that something might be wrong with my heart. We all know I'm paranoid about my heart just...fritzing out. After
what happened to my dad, I worry about that sort of thing. He'd never
had heart problems until the day he had his heart attack and died, and my heart frequently does strange things, so I'm pretty
sure my fears aren't unfounded.
Sunday morning, about a week after the diet debacle, I was sitting in church listening to a woman talk about her husband, who had just survived a massive, damaging heart attack. Like, the kind of heart attack that killed some of the muscle in his heart. It was scary, and the story spooked me. It probably wouldn't have bothered me so much if I hadn't been having chest pains all morning and my left arm hadn't gone numb. I'm not kidding. I'd been sitting there trying to convince myself that I was fine, that I'd be in a lot more pain and distress if it was my heart (as I've learned to do), but it didn't work. Against all attempts to keep calm, I went into one of the most insanely intense anxiety attacks I've had up to that point. If you don't get anxiety attacks, let me explain something: This isn't just being nervous about something. It isn't having a "bad feeling" that won't go away, this is an all over, absolute conviction something is wrong and it doesn't matter if you try and think rationally, it doesn't work. I can only assume that it's some kind of out-of-whack chemical thing in your brain that does it, but it's very real and completely terrifying. I didn't say anything, though. Well, at least not until after lunch. I couldn't calm down or breathe, my chest was still hurting and my arm was still numb. I just jumped into the car and went to the doc-in-the-box. I think I still had a bit of rationality left in me because a) I didn't ask Steve to come with me, b) I didn't go straight to the emergency room, and c) I managed to calm myself down enough to sit quietly in the waiting room until I was called back. Once I got into the exam room, though, I was so scared that I started to cry. I told them my chest hurt and my arm was numb (it totally was) and that my dad had died of heart problems and that I was scared, which got me fast tracked into all kinds of tests and being hooked up to things. I happened to mention that I was pretty sure I was having a panic attack - mainly to explain the crying - and that's where things got confusing. The doctor said "yes, I believe you've been here complaining about chest pains before." I have, but I never thought it was my heart. I'd been there 3 times over a period of five years, maybe, and only a couple of times it was some kind of upper respiratory thing, so I'm not sure what she was talking about. Then the doctor asked if I was stressed and told me that being stressed would damage my heart, even if nothing was currently wrong with it. The EKG was fine, thank heavens, but the other tests showed I had pneumonia, which explained the pain in my chest. Still have no idea about my arm, though. Also, because I'd been sick and hadn't been slowing down or getting treatment, it apparently affected me mentally, which happened the last time I'd gotten pneumonia; panic attacks and all. It's all very strange and tangled up, but I understand it better now than I did. At any rate, she gave me prescriptions for the usual stuff and told me she was also going to give me something to help keep me calm that I needed to take every day. Here is where I am still really confused. As I said, she seemed to remember, or at least think she remembered, me coming into the clinic a lot about chest pains, but she also seemed to think I'd been in a constant state of panic every time I'd been there. I thought that was strange, but who knows? Maybe she remembered me and thought I was over-reacting every time. So she gives me a prescription for something that I thought was like Xanax, or at least some kind of tranquilizer, because she was so worried about my anxiety levels. Once I found out my heart was fine, I felt so much better. I was shaken, but no where near as afraid as I'd been before, so I didn't take one of those mystery pills until the next day. I figured that I needed to try it out and make sure it didn't put me to sleep, but it really didn't seem to do anything at all. In fact, it wasn't until I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was dying that I even thought to look at what I'd taken.
Imagine being dead asleep and suddenly bolting up, fully awake and in such a state of panic that you literally jump out of bed running. That's what happened to me. It made the panic attack I'd had the day before look like a case of the hiccups. I'd asked Steve to sleep in the living room because I knew I was contagious, but I ran in there and shook him awake and told him I needed to go to the ER, that something was wrong and I didn't feel right. My skin was crawling and my heart was beating so hard that my hair shook. This wasn't just Crazy Town stuff, this was full on terror. It's hard to explain, but I thought my chest was going to explode. If you've ever been startled, imagine that feeling of being startled not going away and only getting stronger. I grabbed the BP cuff we have and put it on, (that might have been some Crazy Town stuff) and my blood pressure was up higher than it had ever been before in my life. Steve was trying to calm me down (bless him, his brain was on straighter than my own) he told me I needed to be still and figure out what was wrong. I wasn't in the mood to be rational, though, and I probably would have jumped into the car and taken myself to the ER (sans pants) had I not woken up enough to realize that I wasn't in pain and I could breathe. I also remembered that I had taken a pill I knew nothing about, which I immediately looked up online. It hadn't been a tranquilizer at all. That doctor had given me a prescription for an antidepressant! What?!
I'm not a doctor, but I do know that you need to know a little bit more about a patient than "Has Occasional Anxiety Attacks" before you put them on antidepressants. Don't get me wrong, the doctor I see in the Walk-In clinic is a great doctor, but I don't see her on a regular basis. I might go there once a year, if even that, and it's for things like sprained ankles that don't heal on their own, or sinus infections or whatever. Antidepressants are no joke. I've been on them before and they did bad things to me, but I have no idea what made her think that was the right thing to put me on. I am convinced she had me confused with another patient. So I spent the rest of the day trying to keep calm and not scratch my skin off. My blood pressure eventually went down and in the process of reading about the pills, I found out I'm not the only one that they affected that way. Apparently, you're supposed to keep taking them and just deal with the violent panic attacks until the medicine itself eventually drains you of feeling. I'm paraphrasing WebMD, of course, but still. Screw that noise.
At any rate, I took my medicine and got over the pneumonia, only to have it replaced by another respiratory infection, and folks, let me tell you, I can't wait to be able to breathe normally again. Sucking on a inhaler is no fun. So that's the story about how I thought my heart was killing me, when in fact, it was my lungs. I'd really like it if we had indicator lights on our bodies that tell us exactly which organ groups are giving us trouble. It'd save me a lot of anxiety.
PS: This took me a long time to write and I can't remember why I went into such a lot of detail. Sorry about that.