Saturday, July 7, 2012

getting this off my chest

Last weekend’s mixed media intensive was great – I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot and will blog about it soon, I promise.

This post is completely unrelated to art.  There’s something funky going on in my body and while I try to figure out what it is, I’ve not been my usual art-making, blog  writing, comment-leaving self.

As you may recall, the last week of June was the thoroughly exhausting first week of my summer camp program.  It was a happy week, but a busy one.  I didn’t feel great, but chalked it up to being hot and tired.  Sunday afternoon, during the art workshop, I started feeling sort of congested and tight in my chest with a few heart palpitations.  I largely ignored it while I engaged in class, but during the hour long drive home (in a thunderstorm) I had plenty of time to wonder what was going on with me and to let my imagination go in terrible directions.

I’m not prone to hysteria, and am rather cautious and pragmatic.  Even though there were lots of logical reasons I could be feeling chest pressure, head ache, shoulder ache and tingly left arm, I also knew that these could be symptoms of something more serious, and rather than waiting a nervous night for my doctor’s office to open, I asked my husband to drive me to the ER.  All those CPR classes in which they tell you women’s heart problems look very different from men’s made me want to rule out the possibility of heart attack or stroke.  They watched me all night long, did a million EKGs, a chest x-ray, tons of blood work, and a stress test on the treadmill.  I checked out completely healthy and was sent home about 14 hours later.  Needless to say I was exhausted from barely sleeping in the ER all night and I napped a bunch Monday and worked a half day Tuesday and napped some more.  Wednesday was the 4th of July and we spent an easy day at home.  I still felt some chest congestion, but wasn’t worried.  Thursday I worked all day and felt more or less fine, but by  Thursday night I felt increasing chest heaviness.  Totally weird and abnormal and like nothing I’ve ever felt before this week.  Friday I felt good when I woke, but after an early morning trip to the grocery store I felt totally wiped out – heavy and weak legs, totally heavy feeling in my chest and neck. I was ready to go back to bed two hours after waking up.  I called my doctor (who I love and who looks like Kyra Sedgwick).  She’s out of town,  but  the nurse said “I want to get you in today” and scheduled me with someone else who I’d never met.

This guy struck me as arrogant and condescending.  He diagnosed with me with anxiety before he even examined me.  As someone who battles with depression and has dealt with some truly anxiety-provoking personal and professional situations in the past, I tried to tell him this was NOT anxiety or depression.  I know what those things look like in me and they don't look like this.  He went on to list all the ways anxiety can effect your body and brain chemistry.  I tried to tell him he was not taking me seriously, but I started to cry because I always cry when I’m mad.  This only added to his opinion that I was a stressed out anxious person.  I considered walking out, but figured that would only make me look more hysterical, so I decided to just yes him death and go home as quickly as possible.  He prescribed an anti-anxiety medicine and then (almost as an afterthought) did a cursory physical exam.  Based on that, he decided to test my thyroid function, saying that could bring on some of these symptoms. (seriously – you couldn’t have STARTED there?  you went straight to crazy without considering a physiological cause?)  But mostly he told me I was absolutely fine and healthy and I should take my drugs like a good little girl. He all but patted me on the head.

So I got my blood test, and filled my prescription and came home and ranted to anyone who would listen about Dr. Arrogant, and then my husband came home and made me laugh and completely doted on me and made me feel better. 

Here’s what I love about us.  No matter what’s going on in our lives, there’s always something to laugh about.  We were sitting in the ER last Sunday.  They had done an initial EKG in triage and they were waiting for some space to clear in the ER before they wheeled me back.  So I’m sitting in a wheel chair in the middle of the lobby and Ric is standing next to me.  I say “this is the first time I’ve ever been to the ER for myself” (I’ve been to this particular ER twice for Max and more than a few times for my Dad, but never with me as the patient).  Ric says dryly, “are you all excited?”  and I answer “my heart’s all a-quiver” and then the two of double over laughing until we cried.  I may be in the middle of a life-threatening emergency but I can’t resist a straight line.

Anyway – this is a long and rambly way of saying I may or may not be around much.  I feel more or less okay, but I’m kinda tired and loopy.  I still have some weird symptoms but I know I'm not in any danger, and while the anxiety meds don't make me feel better physically, they make me not care that I don't feel good.  I will spend the weekend pleasantly stoned on prescription drugs so that when I call Dr. Sedgwick next week, I can say that I was open minded enough to follow Dr. Arrogant’s recommendation.

Art posts will resume in the near future because I’ve got all kinds of fun things to talk about and show.


  1. Love that you and your DH can laugh together!

    I took anti-anxiety meds for awhile - I would get panic attacks while trying to sleep and they helped me sleep, which is a good thing for your body - the sleep thing that is.

    I hope you feel better soon!!!! ((((hugs)))))

  2. Oh hope you figure this out and feel better soon, tired sure doesn't sound like anxiety to me? Hope Dr. Sedgewick straightens it all out and it's nothing - maybe a little heat exhaustion and you are back right as rain to your old wild creative self. I will be thinking of you. xox

  3. :( Please feel better soon. And tell Dr. Sedgewick that her alternate is a big jerk. She needs to know.

    Take care xoxoxo

  4. I still wish you would have said, although what I could have done short of drive you home, I don't know. And then your car would be stuck in Providence. So that wouldn't have been helpful at all, really. I love that you're calling her Dr. Sedgwick now, and I hope she's helpful, and I hope you feel comfortable mentioning how Dr. Arrogant made you feel, because you'd hope she'd want to know if another doctor in the practice was alienating patients.

    I love that my husband and I laugh, too. I tell my kids, no matter what else you do, make sure you marry somebody who makes you laugh. I can't imagine a life (or marriage) without that, it must be so much harder.

    Take care of you.

  5. Well done! Ten points on the 'coping' scale. But for heaven's sake... take yourself seriously. Despite Dr Useless you could actually be sick! Insist on Kyra doing all the necessary tests before you accept an 'anxiety' diagnosis. We'll be faithfully awaiting your ebullient return.

  6. Nothing worse than a terse doctor. I have Hashimoto's disease...which is fancy for thyroid disorder. It took about 4 doctors before someone ran the correct test and figured it out. OH...the stories!!! I had several doctors telling me to see a psychologist! lol At one point, my legs were uncontrollably twitching. One MALE doctor asked me to stop twitching. Not kidding.

    I will admit that all your symptoms do sound like classic anxiety. I don't know about you, but I would like that diagnosis over many others!! lol Feel better. Dr. "Kyra" is on her way!

  7. Oh I'm so very very sorry you are having both physical problems and Dr Arrogant problems. Going to a physical therapist yesterday, my husband got frustrated with me because he said I wasn't describing my full symptoms seriously enough and I tried to explain that I was trying not to burst into tears out of sheer frustration (not with the PT, just the problems) and so kept smiling. I find when I cry to release tension I end up being given an anti-depression med which I don't need. ARGH!!!! Well, good luck with the testing. I hope everything passes and you never figure out what it was because it never returns, but short of that I hope it's treatable or temporary. All our thoughts are with you. Rest and recover.

  8. Oh, Karen, I'm so sorry that you are going through all this. How frustrating to not know exactly what is going on, and to have SUCH an unsatisfactory doctor's appointment. I hope that you have a better experience this next week when your regular doctor is back. Until then, get lots of rest, enjoy your husband's sweet care, and know that there are plenty of us sending up prayers on your behalf!!

  9. Seems to me that dealing with Dr. Arrogant was enough to give a person anxiety. Here's hoping when your own doctor returns you have some more answers. Sending you well wishes and prayers.

  10. Oh Karen, I am so sorry to hear that you aren't feeling well. I hope you feel much, MUCH better soon!

    I am so glad that you have your wonderful sense of humor and fun husband to get you through :)

    I will be thinking of you (and hope that Dr.Sedgwick really is a "Closer" and figures out your medical mystery).

    Please get plenty of rest and take care of yourself...


    p.s. I dedicated my last silly post to you, dear friend. (Just in case you're in need of a cluckle... er, um... chuckle! There I go again...)

  11. Oh man - no fun - you just stay looped and keep your husband close and go see your real doc. Hoping you are 100% back to normal (normal?) soon and back to your wonderful artistic and busy self. I will be thinking of you and you better keep us posted so we don't worry too much.

  12. Blimey. Hope you get all better real soon. well done you for keeping your sense of fun and boo to patronising jerk doctor!

  13. So sorry to hear you are going through this. Will be thinking of you and sending good thoughts. On the radio this morning Barry Cryer said 'Life is tragic, but if you have a sense of humour you have the antidote. So you certainly have the antidote. Added to which you are a very strong lady.. Will be looking out for updates on your progress ... And for your lovely blogposts. XXX

  14. I haven't read the other comments because I couldn't wait to respond, so I hope this isn't repetitive.

    No one knows exactly how you feel because you're you. But I know that all the things you have been saying are reminiscent of what I've been going through for the last few years (about five, so far). The symptoms have been mitigated by passage of time and some intervention, but they are not unusual for women who are pre-menopausal. So, if you are pre- or peri-menopausal you should go to your gyn and check with her, in addition to Dr. A. But I would imagine he has given you a prescription that might help you a bit. If he didn't, you can ask your gyn for some other med for the same issues. chemical soup matters.

    I have recently struggled with anxiety which I did not have when I was younger. I'm not saying it's directly hormonal-related. But I'm saying that, even though I have my family's depressive tendencies and have been treated for depression in the past, I had never had that tightness of chest, or feeling like my throat was closing, or feeling a twinge go through my neck and arm, or being incredibly tired for no apparent reason, or not being able to sleep even though I'm sleepy, prior to a few years ago.

    I immediately thought I was having a series of small strokes, or one of those small heart attacks one hears of popping up on an EKG years later. Or that I was diabetic (weariness), or that I needed more anti-depressant (didn't try that), or that I have lupus or cancer or parkinson's or malaria.

    Because basically, this seems to happen without warning (for example, in no-stress situations), and for no apparent reason, and in varying degrees of intensity. It was driving me nuts! I, too, called emergency when I felt I was having a heart attack or stroke. They did all the tests and they said I was the healthiest person in the room. Which, of course, pissed me off.

    I guess I'm saying that you aren't nuts. And I haven't had any drastic change in meds or behavior or lifestyle. Basically, time has evened things out. I do take a progesterone for a certain situation, but whether that evened me out I don't know because the timeline doesn't seem to coincide. It just seems like sometimes when hormones (which rule out lives, and I'm not talking about 'womens' hormones, but everyone's) are in flux because we get older, it does something wonky to us. We should feel normal but we don't.

    If you hadn't had those tests I'd say get tested, But since you have, I think a trip to your gyn might be revealing.

    Well, at least you'll be revealing something to the doc.



  15. Annoying! Frustrating. How can a doctor be so insensitive! You definitely need to tell Dr Closer all about how you were treated and let her know you don't want to see him again. I know you said you've dealt with anxiety and depression and this isn't how it feels to you. However, bodies change, and you might at least entertain the idea that anxiety is playing a part. My sister has exactly those symptoms right down to the frequent exhaustion and after visiting multiple doc specialists, tests galore, she's healthy as a horse but has this tightness in her chest, can't get up and go to work she's so exhausted, etc. Diagnosis from every doc after all the tests came back clean - stress/anxiety. The gal above may have a good point with hormonal influences - those crazy hormones can cause ridiculous ripples..... Whatever the cause, I hope you get it handled sooner rather than later and get back to feeling your old self. Nothing is worth than feeling like sh** and not knowing why! Take care and we'll be eagerly awaiting your cheery return.

  16. I'm so sorry that you're not feeling well. You know your body better than anyone, and if it doesn't feel like anxiety to you then I bet it isn't anxiety!

    Rest up, be looked after and laugh with Ric, I love him already!


  17. Fwiw, I had a similar experience w/an idiot ER doctor yonks ago. He told me my pain was psychological. I grabbed my clothes and told him I didn't need his fucking asshole opinion. He stood w/his mouth open. Likely only time he'd ever been called up on his shit. Turns out it was gallstones. Diagnosed 3 YEARS later!

    Get yourself well Kiddo!
    We'll be here when you're ready to resume your usual art-making, blog writing, comment-leaving self. xo

  18. You take care of yourself! In the off chance that it helps even a little, I'm sending lots of ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "feel better soon" vibes~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.

  19. Oh, the crying when your mad and frustrated. How many times that's happened to me too. Sending good thoughts your way.

  20. Hi Karen,
    Oh some doctors can be so arrogant!
    Be sure to tell your regular doctor.
    I've had a number of friends who have had similar symptoms.
    They were told that flutuating hormones can cause heart papitations.
    But their doctors also checked thyroid, and did EKG's which came out normal, to rule out atrial fib.
    Chocolate,wine, heat, caffiene , and especially lack of sleep can make the palpitations worse.
    Good luck!
    Thinking of you,

  21. Wow - scary stuff, you poor thing. Good for you for taking things in hand and not just waiting for things to get better (I'm bad about that). And Doctors - don't even get me started! It's just great you have one you like and trust you can see soon. I'll be thinking about you!

  22. Oh my gosh Karen. I hope you are okay now.

    My love and I have much the same sense of humour, and we can find the humour in most things, pretty much dry, dark and very insensitive to outsiders probably, but you do what you can. Though when he was really sick at the end of last year, and began playing songs like Knocking on Heaven's door, I wasn't so ready to laugh, though looking back now from a safe distance I can see the humour.

    Having dealt with both depression and anxiety, I had a really similar experience with a doctor not my own. Who seemed to see that on my file and think I was mad, rather than actually listen to me or examine me properly. And how freaking annoying is it to cry when you are really mad. I hate that I do that.

    I was even more grateful for my wonderful doctor, though I do sometimes worry about what I will do when she retires. Which leads to anxiety and panic attacks so I try not to go there!! :)

    Sending healthy vibes your way. And hoping they figure out what is wrong with you.


  23. Hope your real doctor and you can sort through all of this. Sorry you had to deal with doctor arrogant. Be kind to yourself and perhaps, if you agree and this works, slow down temporarily. That might help in the short term until you see your doctor. I have always been awed by your pace. I couldn't do it. Take care of yourself, my mail art friend, mm

  24. I'm just seeing this post now.... I agree with what everyone said above, especially just Jen (I love her already - I'm sure that doc would've loved to have written "psychosis" as her diagnosis after that! Dipshit! Make that plural, obviously, as you have experienced lately. Wait, why don't we order up a hysterectomy for the hysterical woman, like they used to do not all the long ago – f’in buggers a-holes. Oops, I digress…:D).
    I hope things are going better for you already. Yep, hormones, asthma & allergies, genetics/family history, stress, anxiety (sorry, but a possibility), dehydration, caffeine, chocolate, etc., etc., that everyone's talked about, and sounds like you were observed and/or tested for (full blood panel, etc.).... UGH.
    Good vibes to you.... Thanks for sharing. Take good care of yourself - you do so much for others, but won't be any good if you don't take care of yourself first.... (I know you know this...:D)
    Big hug~