where the writers are
Anxiety lurks
Highway To Oblivion

     No puppy blog this time.  Only the faintest tinge of humor.  I share with you a medical caveat based on personal experience.  But first, a relevant excerpt from that-book-that-has-everything, my novel Highway To Oblivion:

“Patina was being smothered by a dirty rag held by an amorphous hand. 

Anxiety lurks.  Like a monster from a just-forgotten nightmare, it prowls in the shadows right outside the bedroom door of consciousness, waiting to pounce when the lights go out and the shadows soften.  To live in nervous fear, starting at every sound is the true danger.  To meet your monster head-on and survive the onslaught can make all the difference.     

Are these attacks the norm instead of the aberrance we choose to make them, like closeted toilet habits which must be performed but denied simultaneously?  From time to time we each awaken with that drowning pressure, riveted by moonboots of nightmare magnetism to wherever we find ourselves.  Can we relax and enjoy the show while our hearts explode and our minds implode in direct proportion?  Can we treat the puzzle as an attack with no more validity than a sneeze on the margins of time and remember to say Gesundheit, take a deep breath and congratulate ourselves on being human?  If we accredit, name, prescribe, analyze, we accord it more power than it would ever on its own to able to muster.  We feed the very beast we are out to slaughter, then wonder why it is so huge it can’t be killed. 

Suppose as children we were told there might be times when out of a cloudless sky would come a seemingly foundless fear, smacking us with such physicality that we would think we might die on the spot.  Suppose we were reassured that we would not.  That the fear, like a bit of bad chicken salad, might sicken us briefly, but would depart as magically as it had appeared, leaving us none the worse for wear. 

Life is more than half preparation, a preparation deeper than squirreling away the practical specifics.  It is a preparation of the soul, that calisthenically-exercised part of our psyche, to evaluate the situation and deal with the adversary even while our bodies are riveted in pain.  Patina had always been strong on preparation.  

She realized that to slow the pounding of her heart she must transfer the energy.  Like a karate sensei breaking a board, force needed to be localized and then focused.  Her fear needed an outlet beyond the fight or flight syndrome.  Released through the concentration of pen to paper, she willed her brain to form words.  Stream of consciousness it was not, rather a sharp little waterfall that could wear away stone.  To accomplish anything at all from the madness was a huge success, and the success itself proved that her life rolled onward, unstopped by fear and heart-hammering sweat.  As on the day of diagnosis and during the ordeal of the biopsy, she regained control of her life.  It took a while, but she did it.”

     That said, I myself am no stranger to the anxiety (panic) attack, having suffered several during times of personal crisis when I was unable to arrest the fight or flight response.  My heart flopped in my chest like a dying mackerel.  Like Patina, I wrote away the incidents by focusing on the deliberate act of forming words, pen to paper.  However for the past two months, no amount of writing or focus could prevent that feeling of being sucked down the rabbit hole.  Close to blacking out but hanging on by fingernails.  Incredibly expensive, debilitating, depressing (and I must admit more than a little frightening) to find yourself an Alice whose wonderland is in fact hell and who is treated a couple times daily to a surprise return trip there.  A medical mystery for a television drama.  Four first-rate doctors ordered myriad tests and did their best to answer my off-hours calls for help.  I even visited the local ER twice, because at least I would be closer to the paddles, the shots of ephinephrine, the oxygen mask.  None ultimately needed.  All tests were negative.

     Finally the ah-ha moment.  I intuitively posited that my new heart drug (prescribed for erratic blood pressure last summer shortly after I had indeed experienced a genuine panic attack with a viable logical reason behind it) far exceeded the needs of my usually normal system.  I consulted the uber-cardiologist.  “Well, yes.  You can stop the pills.  Shouldn’t do any harm.”  Eureka!  Now two weeks later, yanked from the brink of an expensive and potentially-cancer-causing cat scan, me-myself-and-I are all back.  Many thousands of dollars poorer.  Two wasted months in hell.  The moral?  The lesson?

     Trust your common sense.  And check your medications.     

7 Comment count
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Be your own doctor...

Too bad we sometimes have to figure out diagnosis and treatment for ourselves. My youngest daughter was sick for months--then told by a new doctor in a new town that she might have a terrible disease. Finally she got on the Internet and discovered one of her prescribed meds was preventing her body from absorbing Vitamin B. GRRRR. She solved her own problem--but I was scared to death before she did. I am amzed at the knowledge that doctors do have. But I always wonder how a doctor can know everything about the complex human body and how they can keep up with every new med. Obviously they can't.

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Good for your daughter, Sue!  Glad she’s OK now.  I only hope her doctors and mine learn from their oversights.

Stay well!

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I am sure what happened to

I am sure what happened to you is the norm. I wonder if the doctor could have told you to go get a good massage twice a week and relax with yoga. instead of giving you meds! You are lucky because you cottoned on but I bet there are people out there taking pills that they don't need at all!!! Scary. m

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Yep.  Scary, Mary.  I have a five-pound copy of the Physician’s Desk Reference listing info on all drugs, but I trusted these doctors and didn’t refer to it soon enough.   

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And your experience is a common one. I am so incredibly angry at doctors who prescribe things without following up or becoming educated about he side effects. My grandmother was recently prescribed a medication for Alzheimer's that made her suicidal. She had a bit of dementia, sure, but the Alzheimer's medication was something our family figured out to be the culprit of her behavior, and yet she almost died before we figured it out. (When we suggested this to the doctor, he said that she should be institutionalized--granted, she has other problems, but she had never been suicidal.)
Moreover, I was offered so many pills when I went through my panic. I took one, and panicked too much to stay on it because I thought it, too, would kill me. I'm glad. I was able to resolve my problem without drugs. I realize they are sometimes necessary, but they shouldn't be handed out so readily. And us patients need to do our own research, for sure.
I thank you for reading my post, and for sharing this with me. Your writing is fantastic: "My heart flopped in my chest like a dying mackerel." These things are not easy to capture and share.
Best, Jen

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     Alzheimer’s is certainly a very real and serious disease, but it has been my unfortunate personal experience that it is a diagnosis too easily made when there are a host of other possibilities.  My elderly mother became severely dehydrated and malnourished from being too depressed to eat, suffered a psychotic break right in front of me, was hospitalized at my insistence and when given IV hydration/nutrition (again at my insistence) within hours became lucid and once-again herself, although the diagnosis had been Alzheimer’s.  Dehydration and malnutrition play havoc with the mind --- think of survivors on a lifeboat hallucinating--- and I don’t believe are considered often enough when dealing with frail elderly people with failing capabilities.  Caveat:  check your grandmother’s hydration and nutrition levels.  Even if she does have Alzheimer’s, a hydrated brain is a healthier brain!

     I am not against qualified doctors and prescription meds, far from it.  However, today’s medical community is seldom patient-friendly.     

  Thanks so much for your comments.  Let’s stay in touch.    

 Warmest, Mara    

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Chilling post, Mara. Yup,

Chilling post, Mara. Yup, always follow your gut. I have stayed as far away from prescribed medications as possible throughout my life. As you found, they can be very dangerous. What irks me is that many doctors are too nonchalant about the effects of drugs on their patients. What’s more I know person after person who had to basically diagnose themselves – what’s wrong with this picture?

I went through a prescribed “statin” drug group via my doctor saying I needed them to lower my cholesterol. This went on for over a year. Each different one still made me sick – from heartburn to acid reflux. And, of course, you have to have liver function blood testing every six weeks while on statins for fear of liver damage. I finally refused to take them and said I’d just live with cholesterol levels higher than “they” like to see. My doctor wasn't happy with my decision.

But the end of January this year. I heard about a nutritional cleanse and healthy life-style program that I began because it sounded good, but I was hesitant since it was a network marketing thing and not cheap, but I could get my money back if I didn’t like it. To make a long story shorter, it worked for me by lowering my cholesterol by 40 points in three weeks, I lost weight, and I feel better than ever all the way around. I’m an advocate of it now, to say the least.