Last week I started having some warm and mildly painful sensations in my chest. It began in yoga class of all places, during an innocuous downward dog pose. At first, I thought it was from my tendency to forget to breathe, coupled with that rush of blood to the face when you turn yourself upside down. But as I righted myself, I found the sensation still worryingly there. I told myself to breathe, to envision my heart as healthy as it was before the pain started, trying to imagine stressed, damaged tissue healing itself. It went away. Or so I thought.
Earlier that day, I’d gotten a particularly unfriendly phone call from a customer at work. It’s not often someone decides to unload on me, and the most hurtful part of it, was that it was someone who I considered a friend. Their words cut deep, and the pre-existing tense and stressful work environment in which I normally subsist cranked up to 11. Of course, this came ten minutes before I was supposed to go home for the day, so I got to ruminate on the harsh interaction all the way home.
By the time I got to the house, I was a wreck. Not even my supportive family could calm me, and I spent a good half an hour in my bed, crying my eyes out and trying very hard not to descend into a self-hatred spiral. My husband convinced me to go to yoga, thinking it would make me feel better. He was right, that sitting in bed wasn’t going to help things, and that getting out of the house and doing some exercise was exactly what I needed.
That night, the chest pain continued. I woke up with it again the next morning. The pain was eased slightly with some anti-anxiety medicine, but it’s not exactly feasible to take it all the time because of the side effects (sleepiness, reduced focus, etc.). I’d hoped that it might go away over the weekend, but it came back intermittently, with similar intensity, and it began to worry me that it might not just be stress. I feared that something might be wrong with my heart, that at any moment I could stroke out or have a heart attack and die. The idea only made the tension worse.
I slept more than I have in the two years since my son was born. I crashed on the couch when he napped, went to bed as soon as he was down for the night. I leaned heavily on my husband to pick up my end of the housework because I just couldn’t. My mood was awful, the fear of what might be looming over at all times. We went out to a social obligation with some friends yesterday and while it was nice, the pain in my chest still persisted, and when one asked how things were, I responded in an uncharacteristically chipper tone that I was under an inordinate amount of stress, and unsure how to cope. I’m so embarrassed of my behavior looking back, because how do you respond to a statement like that? He was just being nice, and despite the tone, my disclosure was rude and unfair to unload on someone who has no control over my well-being.
This morning, I called my primary care doctor. They have me down for an appointment right after lunch, so I’ll hopefully know more soon. My blood pressure has been well within normal range, as has been my heart rate. I went through another cardiac work up when I was pregnant, so I know what they’ll likely recommend and it’s not going to be fun. The last time, I had to wear a heart monitoring system that I couldn’t take off for three days, not even to shower. I had to go through a cardiac ultrasound, which meant going to a cardiologists office and having someone I know professionally take ultrasound over my breasts. Not awkward at all. Beyond all this, it was hella expensive for my insurance, and the copays added up.
So, I’m stressed about my stress, and I realize this sounds like a joke from the 80’s or something, but I’m legit worried. I’m only 34 and there’s never been any history of cardiac problems in my family, except of a peripheral artery disease my father experienced because of his lifelong love of cigarettes and atrophy. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, and it just feels so unfair and scary. The idea of my son growing up without me is terrifying and I just want to feel better.