The following is the first in a series on how I overcame a life-long struggle with anxiety. It is my desire that in going public with my story others will find hope and strength to overcome. You are not alone.
The Pains started when I was 8. Being the overly-analytical, hypochondriac child that I was, I’m not surprised my parents chose to tell me it was just growing pains and not to worry about it. But how I wished I could have traded in all those moments worrying I had fatal heart disease for a good night’s rest.
I continued to have random bouts of chest pain through my teens and 20’s, including episodes where the pain was so sharp I couldn’t catch my breath.
I tried to tell myself there was nothing truly wrong, that it would pass, and it did. But in the back of my mind I wondered and worried. Living on the Homestead with no insurance and rarely a spare penny, there as no way we could have gone in for testing. After all, I was perfectly fine 98% of the time. I could not reproduce the pain, nor point to anything that triggered it. But it was very real when did hit me.
I got married at 23, had my first child the next year, and finally felt like I’d entered adulthood. I had an awesome husband and a marriage better than I could have dreamed. But deep down, underneath the surface, I was more insecure than ever, and under extreme stress. Especially since the chest pains had continued into my adult life. These weren’t growing pains anymore, and they seemed to be getting worse. There were times during the day when I would have to lay down on the couch and do nothing but concentrate on breathing as the pain wrapped around my chest like a vice, stabbing me when I tried to take the slightest breath. It seemed worse at night, and then I would cry in fear in my husband’s arms, asking him to pray for me as I tried to block out the thoughts of death and leaving my baby motherless.
Finally one day it was too much – the fear, the pain, and the not knowing. I had been on the couch all morning. Jeremy came home early from work and decided we could no longer afford to wonder what was wrong with me, and since the pain was the worst it had been, he felt it warranted a trip to the ER.
It was a chilly day in February as we dropped of our 6 month old at Grandma’s and my husband drove me to the hospital for the first time in my life. I tried to relax, having figured out by now that the worry seemed to make the pain worse. I was afraid – afraid to leave my baby, afraid to go to the hospital, afraid to find out the truth behind my condition.
I needn’t have worried. Three hours later, after an EKG, a chest X-ray, and one other test I can’t remember, we had our answer. The two doctors (on on call, one consulting) came to my bedside and said simply –
The tests had ruled out heart or lung disease and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with me physically. They told me to take aspirin every 3 hours, up to 8 doses a day, according to package instructions.
And that was that. We headed home – relieved yet frustrated. Was it better to wonder what was wrong with you before or after a battery of tests had told you nothing was wrong with you?
Thankfully, the answer was just around the corner…