Monday, April 23, 2012

From Puffy Feet to Heart Beats - or How My Doctor Scared Me This Morning

For those who don't know, I went through a major health scare a few weeks ago.  I went from just a bit of stomach upset to full-blown fever with hallucinations and a nearly 20 POUND water weight gain (yes, POUNDS.  It was embarrassing and painful) overnight.  Obviously knowing something was very wrong, I saw my dr. the next day, who went into a panic thinking I was possibly in some sort of cardiac distress due to a viral infection.  In fact, she said she was utterly shocked at how bad I looked when she came into the exam room, and the state of my feet and legs (I had such bad swelling that I could barely bend my ankles and toes).  A few doses of Lasix later, and I did a 180....most of the water weight fell off, and I felt a lot better just in 3 days.

Not wanting to miss anything important, she sent me for an echocardiogram, or a heart ultrasound.  The tech couldn't see anything significant during the initial exam, but the cardiologist had to read the results and send a report to my doc.

When I didn't hear anything urgent from her office, I thought everything was fine and figured we would catch up today, when I had my regular monthly appt.  They did notify me that all my blood work came back fine, so I wasn't too worried.

The good news is, I lost all the water weight AND 3 more pounds (huzzah!).  Most of the echo was heart is pumping as it should, and my blood pressure has always been 120/80 except during especially anxious times.  What is of MINOR concern (I wish she had phrased it that way from the beginning) is the ventricular diastole, or the process of the heart relaxing after it pumps.  The echo showed it was somewhat delayed in relaxing fully, which can impact my blood pressure.  She consulted the cardiologist while I was there, and he was not greatly concerned considering my blood pressure history.  I was filled with dread when she first started discussing it, but that calmed me down.  I will have to monitor my blood pressure and go for another echo in 6 months.  I'm so glad the swelling was not anything to do with my heart (they believe it was just my body's defense against the fever - it must have been higher than I realized), but hearing that there's already concerns is disappointing.  I'm not sure of the history of heart problems on either side of my family - while my mom died of cardiovascular disease, hers was most likely linked to her smoking habit.  My dad's side of the family has high cholesterol, which I have tested every 6 months and it's always in a normal range.

This was a real wakeup call for me.  It made me realize that I needed to be more informed and more proactive about my heart's function, as should anyone at my age (38).  No matter if you're a health freak or completely inactive - just a quick check with your primary provider or a cardiologist (for more in-depth testing) could prevent a heart attack.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


"Everyone has an angel. A guardian who watches over us. We can't know what form they'll take. One day, old man - next day, little girl. But don't let appearances fool you, They can be as fierce as any dragon. Yet they're not here to fight our battles, but to whisper from our hearts. Reminding that it's's everyone of us who holds power over the world we create.

You can deny angels exist....convince yourselves they can't be real. But they show up anyway, at strange places and at strange times. They can speak through any character we can imagine. They'll shout through demons if they have to. Daring us, challenging us to fight.

Who honors those we love with the very life we live? Who sends monsters to kill us, and at the same time sings that we'll never die? Who teaches us what's real, and how to laugh at lies? Who decides why we live, and what we'll die to defend? Who chains us, and who holds the key to set us free?

It's you.

You have all the weapons you need.

Now fight!"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Reclusive Agoraphobic

Perhaps that is what I should rename this blog.  Or the Reclusive Agoraphobic Duchess.  Maybe throw something in about bi-polar disorder, just to make it clear where I stand.


I am very much in need of restarting therapy.  I'm waiting, waiting, waiting....trying to be patient as I know Native Behavioral Health is overwhelmed with patients; in the meantime I'm zonked out on Klonopin all day that takes most of the anxiety away, but does nothing for the dread and frustration.  It's like having a limb that is broken to the point that going outside your home is incredibly difficult.  I feel like I walk around on emotional crutches when I'm outside my step at a time, breathe....the mantras all circle in my head as the sweat grows on my brow from the internal effort to stay "normal" on the outside.  I look pleasant and friendly and like I'm having a great time, but most often I'm terrified inside.

I wish people really understood more about this illness.  Once upon a time, I was ignorant to its limitations and made jokes about it - I had watched a TV program back in the 90s, and the woman they were featuring could literally not leave her home.  I thought all along that is what the illness was - someone just not being about to go outside their home.  How very wrong could I be?  I go outside my home often.  Likely more often if I had a job, but that's another story.  I go to the grocery store, shop for clothes, go to restaurants and movies.  It's the feeling, inside, that defines the illness - the logistics.  There may well be many extreme agoraphobes that can do little more than leave a ROOM in their homes, but that is extreme.  The most common manifestation of agoraphobia is the fear itself of new situations and places.  I have not been back to Fred Meyers since a man grabbed me from behind and tried to hug/kiss me.  He was drunk and trying to compliment me, but of course, it made my agoraphobia worse.  Same with Target - a sweet native lady thought I was a relative and hugged me before I had a chance to tell her I was not that person.  Even though that was not a negative experience (she was so sweet), it was still an event that my agoraphobic mind identifies as a threat.

I hope there is a time that I can beat this thing.  Leaving therapy so abruptly in Oregon without any guidance or expectations of waiting so long may have been a really bad idea.  I feel I have regressed quite a bit and I'm having to fight so hard to hang on to "normal."

In the meantime, I hope those I meet and have met understand why I'm so reclusive.  It has nothing to do with how I feel about them, it's an internal struggle to be "me" every day.  I envy those who can just go through the day without feeling fear and doubt so constantly.

Back to being the fighting Duchess.  I have a date tonight and I have to push my mind into the right place, because I'll be damned if I let my illness ruin a night of fun with my Richard and my friends.  I feel like a lion tamer, whip and chair in hand - back, agoraphobia, back!