I offered a piece of paper with my symptoms (chest pain and heaviness being the biggest and scariest) to my brand new doctor. He read over it and then asked me some questions. I started crying. I didn’t want to die; what if it was my heart or my lungs or
He told me it was probably anxiety.
I don’t know when it started. I do remember August 2009. I had been feeling wrong for a number of days. As I put it at the time, I was “feeling off.” Lethargic and having trouble breathing are the two I remember. After asking my mom and then calling a doctor, we went to the ER. I got an EKG and some blood drawn. I remember the heart rate monitor go from a normal level to a really high level when the nurse went to take the blood, and we laughed about it.
While leaving, I bemoaned the fact that I felt better as soon as I was in the ER. What a coincidence! I stopped feeling quite as good once I got home.
I went back to college a week later. I had a messy “break up” with my not-technically-boyfriend in which he told me “if you were a guy, I’d bash your head in with a lead pipe.” The break up was a long time coming. My mom got laid off from work, which was actually a surprise. August 2009 was dumb.
The chest pain stayed. When I was angry, a vein in my neck hurt. I had trouble breathing. The year slogged by, but at least it was a busy one. When I was busy or stressed, all the chest pain went away. I figured I was too busy to think about it and that’s why it left.
After the ER visit, I had some visits with my doctor back home. He passively offered some medications – I forget what – but to me he had no answers besides “here’s some meds to calm you down,” which sounded like bullshit to me. He later offered a chest x-ray, though, which I took him up on. The hospital near college x-rayed me, sent it down, and nothing was found. I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed or relieved.
The next summer, I stayed at college to work. One of my coworkers was a giant hassle. Her ex-boyfriend, a friend of mine, was bending over backward to make her happy as she loudly proclaimed how depressed she was. Meanwhile, my quiet depression got my boyfriend to break up with me.
On top of that, the walls in the dorm were thin, and 2 of the 3 RAs (the third being my depressed coworker, of course) had giant bass speakers that sent sound through the whole building. It sent me into an insane rage. Everyone, every single one, told me I needed to get over it and get over myself. This included my mom (although that trouble was actually at home and with my younger brother) and the person in charge of the RAs. The depressed coworker RA even told me I needed to “grow up.” My mom told me that I had to get over it because that’s what the real world is like, and how could I live in an apartment if sound bothered me? I was so angry. I knew it was a problem but all I got from everyone, even my own mother, was condescension.
And so my final year begun with another shitty roommate. Every two or three weeks I’d break down crying because everything was going wrong. Once, I spilled hot microwaved soup all over myself and the floor. My roommate, despite obviously hating me, came over and helped me clean it up. (She didn’t have to – she was in the lobby with her friends playing Guitar Hero. I just happened to still where she, and they, could see me.) Still, I cried to let the stress out.
I figured it was normal. This is just how I was.
I also made a habit of watching Good Eats every night, to fall asleep.
I finally graduated and went back home. I think this was when the sound stuff with my brother, and mom’s comments, happened. I got a job pretty quickly, got my licence, and moved up to live with my aunt until I could find my own place. She lived an hour away from work, while my parents lived two hours away.
I had fewer symptoms, technically, in this time. My chest was still heavy at work, but less at home. I think it was because my aunt, in my opinion, was a hassle. But who knows. The worst was always the drive, especially the drive home. Chest heaviness hard to breathe. Same deal when I went to sleep, but watching poorly-buffered episode of Wipeout helped.
Sometimes, on the way to work, I’d wonder what would happen if I messed up, even the tiniest bit. Didn’t quite turn hard enough. It’s so easy to mess up driving. (There were a lot of reasons I got my licence at 22….)
Eventually, I knew I had to go to a doctor for my yearly checkup. Also probably all this chest pain. Of course, I was very afraid of what the answer, even if logically, the sooner it’s fixed the better. But what if it’s cancer?
I knew I wouldn’t have the guts to say anything at the doctors’ office. The couple weeks leading up to my appointment, I made a list of things I felt. When the appointment came, I gave him the list. He read it. He asked me questions about some items on the list, and I started crying.
He told me it was probably anxiety.
“But I don’t feel anxious.” I told him. “When I’m stressed I actually feel better.”
But I guess those are just more symptoms. Also the crying, he said.
So he prescribed me citalopram hydrobromide and we made another appointment because, well, you know. Medications like this are always very careful things, even if it’s common as heck.
So I took it. My anxiety got worse. It felt nuts. I can’t describe it, but it was in my whole body. I called the doctor to ask about it, and I was told to stick with it. Just one more week.
It went away.
I felt better.
In fact, I felt more than better. I began feeling normal in a way I’m not sure I ever really felt before. Chest pain was gone, breathing issue was gone, anger at sounds was gone, uncontrolled thoughts while trying to sleep or drive were gone.
In fact, I had to re-learn how to sleep. The TV watching kept me awake instead of lulling me to sleep. My doctor gave me tips. (‘Beds are for sleep and sex,’ he said. ‘Nothing else.’ And I had to adhere to that; no cozy relaxing, watching TV or reading, in bed. DUM.) I slept better. My mind felt clearer.
Things I didn’t know had been issues were fixed. I wondered how long this was a problem for me. That sleep trouble? I’ve had that since I was a kid. It’s gone now. My thoughts don’t jump immediately to death and the lack of existence when my mind idles. Not anymore.
The sound thing bothers me. How did nobody notice? That clearing is not something a well person would do, but instead I was told I was immature. Even my own mother. That hurt. That still hurts. How could nobody catch this?
Anyway, it seems so lucky. To feel like this, especially after trying only one medication. It seems so weird, too. How all these things came together. Sometimes I just like to think about it, or just sit back and enjoy the lack of chest pain.