I just had labs drawn. I know, you’re shocked. A gal with Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, & a jerk of a thyroid, had labs done again. Yes. I. Did. (This is what sarcasm looks like in print form.)
I saw the results. Everything was great except for one thing. Literally, one thing. My serum chloride was low by one point. A 96. My lab calls 97 normal, some say 96. Either way, it was highlighted on my report so I did the worst thing I could think of. I googled the test.
Up until 2 years ago, I didn’t understand anxiety. The anxiety that stops you dead in your tracks and sends your heart through the roof. I’d heard of panic attacks but never understood them. I didn’t understand why some friends couldn’t, all of a sudden, make it to an event. I just didn’t get it. Until I did.
My rheumatologist had often said that my blood pressure was a little high at his office. Yet every time I went to my PCP, endo, etc. it was fine. I checked it at home. Fine. My RA was super flaring at the time so I spent a lot of time at my rheumatologist’s office. One particular visit changed the course of my emotions, forever. I was meeting with the Nurse Practitioner because my foot was so painful. She examined my foot and said that it wasn’t RA related. I told her I had brought X-rays. Without looking at them, she said it wasn’t related to my RA. Then what? She said she didn’t know. I felt sweaty, dizzy, like I was going to faint. I held back tears.
I had spent months in agonizing pain before my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. I had spent months telling doctors that something was wrong. They said I was wrong. And now this Nurse Practitioner was saying I was wrong. I was exhausted and frustrated.
My actual rheumatologist passed by my room and stopped in. He asked why I was there and then examined my foot. He said a joint in a different area of my foot was so inflamed, it was hitting my nerve and thus causing pain. He almost lectured the NP. He gave me an injection and left to get an Rx for a topical pain reliever. I don’t know if the NP was embarrassed or what but she then said “well, your blood pressure is always high and he hadn’t mentioned that you really should get that checked out”. I asked her how bad it was. She said not too bad but you never know the strain my heart could be under. I left the office and drove home.
My heart wouldn’t stop racing. I felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. I got home and could barely get in the door. I tried to put soup in the microwave for my daughter and stopped. I called my mom, asked her to come watch the kids, and I drove myself to the ER. I honestly didn’t know if I would make it there.
When I finally ended up in triage, my heart rate was ridiculously high. They immediately gave me an EKG. And then sent me to the waiting room. I waited for 4 hours. I felt safe. I knew if something was wrong with my heart, I was in the best place. They did labs and X-rays while I waited. I finally was put in a room and was told the cardiologist would be in in a few minutes. My heart beat faster. A cardiologist? I was terrified.
The doctor came in and spoke with me. She was calm and explained everything thoroughly. She then asked if I’d ever had a panic attack. A panic attack? Me? No. She said that my blood pressure skyrocketed when she came in but as she spoke to me it flew down to normal. She said all of my labs and tests were perfect. My heart was fine. She told me to follow-up with my PCP if this happened again.
And it did. The next day. All day long, I just wanted to be checked in at the hospital. I barely moved at home because I was afraid to make my heart work harder. I sat with my legs elevated and didn’t dare eat or drink anything other than water. My PCP saw me that afternoon. She walked in, I cried. I was mortified and terrified at the same time. She assured me that my heart was fine. She said I had anxiety and we could do something about it.
It took awhile but the meds started to work. I stopped taking my blood pressure machine to work with me everyday, just in case I needed to check it. I wasn’t terrified to walk or exercise. I was confident in my heart. There were moments of panic..I had a rough time going to my rheumatologist and for some reason, Target (our monthly shopping expenses were so low back then?).
Fast forward to now and my lab results. I’m on a different med now and haven’t felt any major anxiety in months. That one little chloride test got me rattled. I googled what it meant as my heart beat faster. Congestive Heart Failure. Yep, that’s what I had. I researched treatments and read way too much about the disease. I felt my face getting warm and my knees going weak.
My phone rang and I was snapped out of my anxiety stupor for a minute. When I glanced back at the computer, I closed the browser window immediately. I had left myself go to far and I knew it. We’re my labs fine? Yes. Do I have any reason to believe I have CHF? No. But I was reminded. I was reminded that the mind is powerful and sometimes too powerful. I was also reminded that my anxiety can, and probably will, come on at any time and that as terrifying as things seem in that moment, one phone call can snap me back into reality. I hope I can be that phone call for someone with this post.