Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Heart Attack/Panic Attack/Indigestion?!

Sometimes I wonder whether I should post things on this blog.  I am aware that it is open to the public, so obviously I don't put my private thoughts on it (although I used to at the start when I was writing it anonymously).  So I have thought hard about what I am about to write, because it is quite personal and quite embarrassing.  But I have decided that it is relevant.

After my last blog post, I wrote for an hour or two.  I then had a sandwich and some sunflower seeds for my lunch.  After that I sat down in the conservatory with a cup of tea.  I texted Paul to tell him that I was relaxing and that I had decided I should do so more often.  (I had already text him earlier to say that I had deleted the completely rubbish romance novel that I had been trying to write and he had replied saying he thought that was a good idea). 

All this preamble is leading up the point that I was not consciously stressed at that point...  Anyway, before I'd had a chance to drink much of my tea, I started to feel pain in my chest.  It got worse.  I retreated from the conservatory into the front room where it was cooler, because I had broken out into a cold sweat and was having trouble breathing.  The pain continued and I started to worry.  I lay down on the sofa (sometimes I get indigestion and lying flat helps).  I got up, because it didn't help.  I tried to stay calm and keep breathing slowly and deeply.  No help, and now I was feeling dizzy and a little sick... 

After a few minutes of this, I called Paul at his work.  I had considered calling the ambulance, but at the back of my mind the thought of my diagnosis always niggles, and I was frightened that if the pain subsided soon, as seemed likely, I would be sitting in A and E for several hours, earmarked as, at the least, an hysteric and at the worst a schizophrenic.  I have had bad experiences in hospitals over the years, of trying to reassure doctors that I am fine mentally and them remaining convinced that I am not, so I do my best to avoid the places.  

I do get a lot of physical aches and pains, and I have had IBS for years.  The IBS has abated considerably recently, if not stopped - I have been implementing a strategy of mind over matter with it, and I seemed to have won.  I know that my mind is capable of conjuring up all sorts of physical manifestations of worry, and although I worry a lot less than I used to, anxiety does creep back in at times.  I have been very busy recently, on Twitter and Facebook publicising my work, writing, doing the usual stuff and home and with the kids.

The chest pain still did not make sense.  It was agony, and it continued.  Paul came home and insisted that I call the GP, which I did, and they asked me first to go to A and E, but when I said I didn't want to do that, they said I could see a doctor at the surgery.  She listened to my heart and said it sounded fine, but booked me in to have an ECG on Monday.  She said she thought that it was likely to have been indigestion, or a 'bronchial spasm' or windpipe spasm.  Or a panic attack.

The doctor said we might never know what it had been, but she gave me a prescription for an indigestion medicine and told me to take one pill a day for a week, to prevent the return of symptoms.  (I haven't taken them.  If it was indigestion I can live with it.  Well, I couldn't and wouldn't want to live with that pain if it happened again, but if it was indigestion I would have to be on pills for the rest of my life, to prevent it ever happening again.  Which isn't practical, and as we know, all medications have side effects, and also they don't always work.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't indigestion, but I have been eating more slowly and carefully since, just in case).

I didn't really think that it was a panic attack either, because as I told the doctor I have had plenty of those in my time, and that was not how they manifested.  But if it was either indigestion or panic, that's not good because presumably it means it could happen again at any time, which is a scary thought.  Although obviously it would be better than heart trouble, which really would be awful.

I didn't have the ECG yesterday in the end, because something came up, but I am booked again for tomorrow.  I am really embarrassed about having to go for it, because I feel like an idiot.  I am actually physically really strong, I have done loads over the last few days, and if I had a heart problem I don't think this would have been possible! 

But I know I should have the ECG, for various reasons, so I will.  I will post about it here if anything shows up on it - no news will be good news.  Almost certainly, no news is what it will be. 

I am a hypochondriac, I know it.  Usually I deal with it these days by ignoring any and all symptoms of physical ill health, and they go away.  This time though, I couldn't.  And it is interesting timing, because last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and I had been on Twitter talking about anxiety, which was the subject for this year.  I had been saying that I used to suffer from anxiety, but was much better now...  And then this happened, and showed me that actually I am not much better, or not always.

I did have an episode like this once before, about five years ago, and at the time I didn't go to the doctor.  Paul was at home with me when it happened, and although he wanted me to get checked out, I had my usual doubts, so I didn't bother.  And it has been fine since then.  Until now.  Whether it was anxiety, or indigestion, or a combination of both, I have been wondering what I can do to prevent a recurrence. 

I probably should give up gluten again.  There have been a lot of books published recently on the subject of 'grain brain' and how bad certain foods are for us.  I followed a gluten-free diet for a year or so, and should really go back to it.  But I found it difficult, and restrictive...

I probably should just stop worrying and generally take things easier.  Keep a balance between work, rest and play.  Enjoy life.  I suppose whatever it was that caused the chest pain etc, it was a warning that something in my life is out of synch, and I should be grateful that it was just a warning and nothing more serious. 

On a completely different subject - I watched The Book Thief last night at the cinema.  It was a real tear jerker.  Not as good as the book, but then of course films so rarely are.  People should read more books. 

I should read more books.


  1. Hi - I was in casualty last night with side effects from Quetiapine, fast heart beat, muscle cramps and feeling very faint. Do you think yours could have been related to any side-effects from something?

  2. How are you now? Hope all under control. So hard but aim realistically and never for perfection. Lower goal, greater reality of achieving it.

  3. Hi C.C.

    I haven't been on any meds for a long time. I did take some stuff for hayfever earlier this year, but stopped needing it over a month ago. I haven't even taken paracetamol for quite a while now. So it's not that... but poor you. I hope you feel better now and that the medication issue is being dealt with.

    And Anon; thanks for the advice. I do find it hard sometimes, I want to do so much but have limited time. I need to keep reminding myself how far I have come in the last few years. Sometimes I look back and think life was easier, and simpler, while I was still on disability benefits, before I had any expectations of myself. I used to just play with the kids, clean the house, shop etc, all the time. Now I try to write, to earn money, and feel that I am not doing all the other things properly.

    However, I have gained a great deal of satisfaction from developing the beginnings of a career at last. And in fact the kids are all doing brilliantly at school, are all happy and relaxed and have loads of friends. So everything is good, except for the unnecessary worries in my head! Anyway, you are right, I need to stop pressurising myself.

    I have been reading more, and it is helping. I read One Plus One by JoJo Moyes this week, which is a good feel-good book. I also tidied up the summerhouse today (it always gets in a pickle over the winter months). I packed up loads of the kids' old toys and Paul took them to the charity shop. It was sad in a way to see them go, but cathartic. Now we have more space to live. Anyway... thanks for your interest.

  4. Hi - "long time not hear". Hope you're ok. x

  5. Hi DITO. I am okay, thanks. I don't know where the time goes. And I don't like to neglect this blog for too long, so thanks for the reminder - I'll write a short post now... x