A History of Not Dying Part 1: A Chronicle into the Convergence of Anxiety and Health

I’m having a harder time writing. Its starting to become a lot and I often don’t feel like writing anything. I’m not even sure whether this is cathartic anymore. Its taking a lot to keep talking about myself. I don’t want to quit this because I feel like I may be the kind of person that has a hard time following through and completing things. Anyway…

I am not crazy. I meant to start 2018 by exercising patience and not jumping to conclusions. And then NYC got hit by a cold spell on New years day. I was outside for about 20 minutes and became convinced that I may have frostbite or hypothermia. In spite of any evidence, I truly believed that the nerves beneath the skin were damaged. My wife could not hold in her laughter when comparing my hands for signs of frostbite the right one has frostbite. Turns out, she has had frostbite before and her hands had actually swelled. She didn’t even go to the hospital or stayed awake worrying. She just waited for it to go down. I really want to be like that. The first week in the year, I have been unable to think about anything except a complicated death in my sleep from nerve damage.

I wore a sock (can’t find my gloves) on the right hand for the past three days. I think it was actually helping my crazy ass. It was a pink breast cancer sock that I never wear, because its pink. I have spent hours examining my hands and concentrating to determine what I was actually feeling.

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Sometimes, I am not even sure what I feel and that’s scary.  I am scared that therapy and behavior adjustment etc may not be enough. I’m starting to consider pills again. I’m scared because the last time, I went on pills I felt like I was disappearing. I hate the feeling of being anesthetized. Do I have to trade my humor, wit and entire personality to feel less insane? Then, what would my life be without everything that makes me, me. In spite of my many anxieties, I think I’m an awesome person. Except when I don’t.

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It’s hard to start at a beginning of what has become an obsession with dying because the roots of anxiety were probably here a long time before they actually became a tangible problem. Is obsessing and trying to micromanage my health different from any other anxiety?

I first started having a preoccupation with dying about a year ago during a stressful period when I felt like I had no control over my life. Any of it. I used alcohol and other things to regain a sense of control, and not think about the things that I couldn’t accept/change/deal with. It began with a bad trip fucking left at Albuquerque. It definitely was not the first time I had traveled. And yet, I remember being stuck in a spiral, going back in time and being aware that maybe I didn’t pass as a tough well-adjusted boy growing up (more sissy issues). I texted my wife to ask her about my mannerism, my voice and my ways. I was tripping. I kept going bbugsbunnyquoteack to this small effeminate dude and feeling that was who I had become. In that moment I felt like the world secretly was pointing and laughing at me. As I sunk lower and lower, I began to shiver and feel as though I was passing out. I clung to the window of our living room, having never experienced anything like this. It was the first time I had ever thought I was going to die. I looked out over the rooftops of the apartment buildings and I thought about my mother country, the feelings that I had suppressed and the feelings that I had forgotten. I wrote a letter to myself to remember these feelings that I had brushed over and avoided through the years. All the while, my heart was pumping out of my chest. I called my wife and told her that I may be dying. She rushed home to the side of her beloved (that’s me). I drank lots of water, took a shower and turned in. It was the longest night of my life. I wasn’t sure that I would survive the night.

ru3qmThe next day, feeling disoriented and woozy, I went to the pharmacy and checked my blood pressure (198/98). The pharmacist told me to go to the emergency room. I had never been to the ER  so I decided to walk there. I was taken to the ER: Critical Care Unit because my blood pressure had risen to 238/112 (stroke risk). I spent the entire day at the hospital, running tests, being lectured about taking blood pressure medication and staying away from drugs. Also waiting, hours for a bed, hours for the doctor. It was my fault. I knew that. I was given Amlodipine and discharged 6 hours later.

***

Four days later, I found myself trapped and unable to cope. By habit, I rolled a joint. I was two smokes in when I asked my wife to check my chest. My heart rate had jumped to 116 beats per min. I lied in the bathtub in warm water until it started to climb down. It never fully did. I was afraid that I was going to have a heart attack that night. I took a double dose of the Amlodipine. I turned on TD Jakes and fell asleep after 4 am literally on top of my wife, with my arms and legs wrapped around her, like an infant. Or a puppy. The next morning I was back at the ER. The nurses were not happy.

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I was placed on a different stretcher and wheeled back to the same room. It was so overcrowded that beds had to be placed along the hallway. More tests were performed and my heart rate was coming down though my blood pressure remained very high. There were more speeches about using drugs and alcohol. The doctor also began to push the idea that anxiety may be playing a substantial role. I had had anxieties a lot of my adult life but what I was experiencing was new and different. And scary. After 7 hours, I was discharged a second time.

I was instructed to see two additional doctors. The first in the general clinic and a second primary care physician for follow-up and appointments. They also suggested I find a good therapist. I didn’t know that it would get a lot worse before it got better. 

The General Clinic: The first was a young studious-looking lady who lectured me downloadabout drinking and doing drugs. She didn’t drink any alcohol. She didn’t do any drugs. I believe the takeaway was look at me, now look at you. Stop that! I agreed with her and promised never to ever do any drugs or drink any alcohol. She added a low dose of Lisinopril to my prescription. My appointment with a primary care physician was in two weeks on November 14th.

In the time between, I wasn’t really the same.  I was scared to sleep at night. I kept noticing new things and feeling strange things. I constantly felt chills and had palpitations. I often felt like I was going to pass out. I felt weak and was beginning to lose weight. The pills sometimes in slowing my pressure seemed to slow my ability to breathe. I thought that I would die at any point and that it would be my fault. My pressure was still really high and I had begun to take machine readings many times per day obsessing over the rise and falls.

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I began obsessing over the amount of water that I was drinking and over the food that I was eating.  I kept feeling like I would die without fully accomplishing anything. I was completely out of control. I found myself contemplating death. It never came.

The Primary Care Physician: On the 14th, I stood in the hallway outside the nursing area, with my completed registration forms in hand. The nurse techs and the doctor were flirting with each other, they were making him feel like the man. And he was the man. They threw themselves at him. It was understandable because they all seemed equally ugly, inside and out. One nurse told the other that she would take my forms and collect my vitals. She was doing us both a favor. She took the paper and walked ahead towards the scale, before turning back and shouting, “Sir, did you put on this form that you want to kill yourself.”

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I explained that I meant to answer the question which was that I was not as happy as before and I was often sad. “I will give you another form”. I didn’t know it was a test. I took the other form I was given, and I passed that test. I checked every happy box on the form. Apparently I was content with every aspect of my life.

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And then I saw the Dr B, a middle aged man with a fixed grimmace on his face. He said that he did not know what weed or brownies were. He said he didn’t understand why anyone used drugs. Lucky him. He kept trying to rush me out his office, condescending to everything I said. He had all the power, and he like that. I took out my book, and my pen and began to read off questions. Dr B. kept insisting that he had other patients to attend to. I was taking up his time. He kept saying that he didn’t have the answers that I was looking for, giving the impression that medicine was theoretical and that my system was be too complex for simple answers. I was supposed to continue what I had been doing and observe whether conditions improved. It was a very disappointing session.

At the close, I was given a higher dose of lisinopril and amlodipine. I was told to stop thinking, drinking and to stay away from drugs. My follow-up appointment would be two weeks later. There was no way to prepare myself for how bad things were going to become…

Keep fighting!

– Anxious Brother

2 Comments

  1. I enjoy reading your posts, Anxious Brother. And I feel for you. Deeply.

    Forgive me if you’ve shared this already, but have you tried aromatherapy? Meditation? Yoga? Running, swimming or any other cardio you enjoy? I find that western medicine and practices usually make things worse.

    Like

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