Longtime readers will remember how in the spring I wrote about having insomnia and chest pain and general discomfort associated with my GERD. After an esophageal spasm (I think) sent me to the ER in Portland as I was about to board a flight back to Oakland, I tried several different things to make myself feel better. Because of the heart conditions that run in my family, you can never be too careful. I've had countless doctor appointments and so far the official medical diagnosis is that I have premature ventricular contractions but they're not severe. They're so not severe in fact that I shouldn't even notice them. I had follow-up appointments with the cardiologist who put me on a treadmill and made me run uphill like the dickens which showed a perfectly functioning heart. I had two sonograms (damn those things hurt) that showed no blocked arteries r gave the cardiologist any pause. My cholesterol is high so I was put on a new medication. Unfortunately a side effect (for me) is terrible muscle pain so I've stopped taking it until my next cardiologist appointment in a couple of weeks.
While all of this is going on, I cut out wheat and all grains (minus beer) and for awhile that helped tremendously. I went from having daily GERD attacks to one or two a week that were pretty mild. An added side effect was that I lost 20 pounds. Score! On the medication front I take Nexium daily but lately it's just not enough and so I'm also popping Pepcid Complete and Tums throughout the day. It's a constant struggle wondering what will hurt and what won't. My endoscopy in mid-August revealed agitation of the esophagus and/or a peptic ulcer, but nothing that needed to be treated any way other than what we were already doing.
So, according to two specialists, I have problems but they're not severe and I shouldn't worry.
While I was generally okay during the days the nights are terrible. I don't sleep. When I hear new mothers complaining about how they only get an hour or two of sleep a night I know how they feel - only, it's me that's causing my own sleepless nights. My mind races. My body does strange things. I sometimes wake up gasping, feeling like a bolt of electricity has just run through my body. I'm on medication, but it's not supposed to be for the long term. With the meds I get to sleep between 1 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Without the meds I get to sleep between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. I'm back online for work between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. It's well, exhausting.
Unfortunately things got worse last Sunday night and have been going down hill from there. Everything was fine. We had a good meal and were watching TV. My jaw - both sides - started to hurt really bad. I didn't think anything of it except that maybe it was my TMJ acting up (even though it didn't feel like TMJ). When it was time for bed I took some ibuprofen because it doesn't have a bad reaction with my insomnia medication. I laid down and within seconds I was having shooting pains in my chest and what I describe as fire in my belly - essentially, the same symptoms I had when the lady at the Alaska counter at PDX called the ambulance for me. Then my arms went numb. Then my face went numb. Then my head felt like it was in a vice grip. I was so scared, but I'd already been through this once before at a hospital with inconclusive results. I tried to relax and eventually fell asleep sometime around 3 a.m. still with pressure in my head and with slight twinges in my chest.
The next day my chest pain was gone but the jaw pain and pressure in my face and head was still there. I was scared while the chest pain is old hat, this numbness is new. I called the doctor and requested an appointment that afternoon. Alan came home to go with me. She - a new doctor - told me that I was basically fine and needed to just be zen because multiple good doctors have said I'm okay. Because the face/head pain & numbness is new she's referred me to a neurologist. I have an appointment in January. She also prescribed me Celexa, a new anti-depressent. I asked her if I was okay to travel since we were leaving the next day for New Orleans. She said I should go and have a good time. And I did, in general. But it was hard. It was oh so hard.
The red-eye flight was basically great with my anti-anxiety pills knocking me out for both legs of the trip. And walking around the first afternoon while we waited for our room to get ready I felt great. At dinner, everything was wonderful. That night I had a few drinks and we went to the jazz clubs and I was so, so happy because I felt good. I felt wonderful for the first time in a long while.
I woke up the next morning with the pressure/numbness in my head and left arm. After breakfast I started having chest pains and worst pain in my arm. It never let up for the rest of the trip. After Thanksgiving dinner I was in the room crying in so much pain. I thought my heart was going to explode. It hurt so bad. as bad as its ever hurt. And every time I get one of those stabbing pains in my chest, I get this warmth and numbness that radiates out to my left arm and up my neck to my jaw and face. Web MD would classify this as a heart attack or a stroke, but to quote Alan, "if that's the case you've had 300 of them."
We had to leave one of the clubs when the pain & dizziness was more than I could handle. The whole trip every time I ate I felt sick to my stomach and then the acid would come, and then the chest pain and dizziness and numbing radiating out over my body would hit. I tried to rally. I had fun in so many instances but the whole time I'm thinking please don't let me die. Because that's what it feels like. Your body is revolting against you: the two organs that are supposed to keep you going - your heart and your brain - are seizing up and causing you major discomfort and pain. And all the doctors can tell you is that you're okay. But you don't feel okay. You feel terrible.
I had some more minor attacks on the flight home yesterday. Trying to convince myself that I wasn't going to die at the Denver airport, I looked up the symptoms for anxiety attacks and yeah, in addition to my GERD and my PVCs, I've definitely got panic attacks. I'd say at this point they're gripping. That logical bit of me said, "you're not having a heart attack or a stroke; you're having a panic attack and you'll be okay." But when we were in the car on the way home and I got a stabbing pain in my chest, well, all logic flies out the window. By the time we got home at midnight I was in very real pain. This was not something I was making up. This was not in my head.
I know Alan's tired of it. I can see it when he looks at me and that hurts worst of all.
All day today my chest has been twinging and my left arm has been warm and numb. I feel like I've got an anvil on my chest, but more than anything I've got lead around my heart. I am so unhappy and so sad and I just wish that I felt well. I'm a burden to my husband and it makes me sad. I'm afraid to be by myself in case this isn't just anxiety. I'm terrified every minute of the day and at night. But at some point I have to tell myself what will be will be. But I'm just so scared. And in pain. And wishing that I was neither. So yeah, I'm in a rough place right now. And it sucks. It really, really sucks.