Anxiety and Panic Attacks


Just to offer you some context, it is exactly 2:26 AM as I sit to write this post. That said, I cannot guarantee any actual coherency or substance in what follows. Writing has always offered me some degree of catharsis and, hopefully, a cure for my current bout of insomnia.

A few weeks ago, I was working in the surgery center when – mid-procedure, my heart started rapidly beating, I had a slight uncomfortable tightness in my chest, and I found I had to take a couple of deep breathes to essentially restore myself to a baseline where I felt normal again. The dentistry was going fine, nothing stress-inducing had happened and it was all very routine-Monday sort of work that I was doing.

I want to say, either the next day or the day after (shame on me for not keeping better records), a similar episode occurred while I was in the office working on a patient for dental treatment. Basically an identical presentation to what happened earlier, a brief couple of minutes where I had a slight aching in my chest, a shortness of breathe and what felt like I was getting tachycardic or having some palpations of my heart muscle – not exactly sure.

Admittedly, this has not been the best year. Most recently, certain members within my household contracted COVID; and so there were health issues amongst family to be worried about. Still a very fresh and extremely agonizing is the financial loss I incurred with my poor Celsius investment. And to pour salt on the wound, the practice I work for recently sold to a large corporate entity – leaving me with a suffocating uncertainty of whether or not to stay employed with the new group or finally take a leap (along with the many headaches and financial investment) of practice ownership.

I already do not manage stress well. My entire life I have lived very phobic of everything; social situations, new endeavors, taking on risk, basically changes of any size or shape. Just today in fact, something as simple as watching my boys play in a tennis tournament this afternoon – I can literally feel my cortisol levels spiking when the game gets close. To the point where I have to walk away, stare into the sky and observe the clouds through the trees, all the while playing calming music in my AirPods. Let me tell you, it makes for a miserable existence.

Doctor Googling the way that we do, tells me a rapid heart rate and chest tightness are commonly associated with Atrial Fibrillation (abnormality in the heart rhythm), panic disorder (panic attack), anxiety, and/or stress. Fortunately, I also saw my actual physician today; who recommended we do 1) an EKG (which I did right there and then – and thankfully, everything looked good according to him) and 2) a CT calcium score (which I plan to schedule soon). An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) assesses the heart rate and rhythm; but could be used as a tool to diagnose a possible arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), blocked arteries, heart damage, failure or even a heart attack. While I did not experience any dizziness or faintness, the chest pain, rapid heartbeat and breathing warranted me getting this done. Apparently, the cardiac CT calcium score (aka coronary calcium scan) will help identify the amount of calcified plaque in my coronary arteries. As he put it, the EKG might be a past indicator of heart healthiness, but this Calcium Scoring may be more of a future indicator of sorts.

Once we have (hopefully) ruled out maybe this being a physical ailment with my heart; the next item on the agenda is to address the psychological element of it. My physician (as I am sure all do) encouraged me to exercise more regularly, incorporate yoga and if need-be, try therapy. No quick Xanax fix I guess.

Throughout my life, the times I have felt my best (both physically and mentally) are always when I exercise regularly. Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into a rut and lose momentum. I really am going to make it a priority now to squeeze in 3 or 4 days a week of a solid exercise regimen, and maybe – just maybe – I can get these panic attacks (?) to subside or disappear altogether.

The boys after their USTA Junior Circuit Tournament

Every post I write, I am always curious to know what others experiences are in this realm. I find my stress and anxiety (and now, panic disorders?) sometimes make it hard to get up in the morning. Other days I feel great, enthusiastic even, and embrace what the world has in store for me. Hopefully a healthy regimen of working out, eating right, yoga and (if need be) therapy get me feeling better. Thank you for taking the time to read this post!

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