The sun is beginning the set, the temperatures beginning to drop. With each step and breath I can begin to see the self-made fog before me. Every corner, straight away, the crunching of fall leaves reminds me to listen to each gentle beat.
I am still moving.
I am still alive.
It was a standard ‘teacher-in-service’ workday at our building. The weather was nice for the early autumn months, and I was beginning to settle down into the final minutes of the day. I started to pack my bags, and I walked down the two flights of stairs to my car. From the building it was approximately 22 miles back to my home. I would find my wife taking a nap, I would lay down for an hour, rise again, change clothes, and venture out to our weekly running group. Monday’s are routine, Monday’s are predictable, Monday’s are safe.
As I entered my car, I caught myself raising my fingers to my throat. Slowly I worked my hand around to feel for a pulse. Was it fast? Was it slow? Was it loud? After walking down two flights of stairs, I had the innate desire to just check myself before beginning the car.
87 beats per minute, by many calculations completely normal. It felt ‘loud’, but the numbers didn’t lie. I checked myself two more times before starting the car. Nothing out of the ordinary. My chest was cramped up, it had been for a few days, notably around my pectoralis major region. I had tried to ignore it, but that pain mixed with a pounding pulse made me uneasy as I started to turn onto the freeway.
The sensation of uncomfortableness in my chest region caused me to access my smartphone and type in the phrase that came to mind:
Signs of a heart attack.
Looking through the list, I started to notice the symptoms. The shortness of breath, the pressure in the chest, and almost as if a secondary soul took over my body, I found myself on the freeway with phone in hand, dialing, “9-1-1”.
Operator: 911, what’s your emergency?
Myself: I think I am having a heart attack.
Operator: What is your location?
Myself: I am pulling off at 152 and North Oak. I will be in the parking lot across from the Quik Trip. Red Mazda.
Operator: Please do not leave your vehicle. Wait for the ambulance to respond. They will be there shortly.
Gasping for breath, heart racing, I sat in my car as the ambulance pulled up behind me. Out of the emergency vehicle came Sean, the paramedic on call. He escorted me into the back, and started to take my vitals.
My blood pressure was high, but the indicators showed that my heart was completely normal. Two more attempts and my blood pressure had lowered.
Nothing indicates a heart attack. Have you ever had a panic attack? Anxiety? Something you may want to consider.
I declined their invite to the hospital, and drove the rest of the way home. Terrified that my wife was going to be absolutely livid at another health bill due to my own fears.
Upon entering the house, already prompting my wife on the way home, I collapsed into bed sobbing and apologizing. Telling her how scared I was, and I didn’t mean to add to the bills. I laid in bed for thirty minutes before deciding my next move.
I was going running.
I changed clothes, and left for our nightly running group. Even after spending the afternoon in an ambulance in what turned out to be a panic attack.
Heading into the final straightaway, three tree roots, one drop, and I am back into the parking lot. I take in a deep breath, enjoy the steadiness of my non-trembling hands, laugh with my friends, and enter my car to go home.
My heart is calm, my pace is normal, I am going to sleep well tonight.
The next day I will go to yoga. The day after is a gym session. After that, I will find my mileage and go for a run. If I am moving, I am still alive.
Since that day in September of this year, I have had roughly four or five onsets towards new panic attacks. All of them are driven around my health. It is 100% embarrassing and humiliating to share, but it is sadly very real. I have gone through specific steps to try to get a better hand on them. Much of this originated last winter when I did have to call an ambulance due to cracking my head open on a sidewalk outside my house. That first reality of being ‘vulnerable’ is terrifying, and it is very hard to shake off.
Each week now includes one yoga class, solely to help me calm down throughout the week. When I am not calm, I’ll feed myself any thought and believe just about anything. I have constant contact with my wife, two friends, and on multiple occasions two cardiologists both of which keep me grounded and remind me that there is nothing to be so worried about. Finally, I run. I run because if I were actually having heart complications, the overbearing movement and physical exertion would immediately be noted while moving with strenuous activity. Instead, running has the opposite effect, it frees up my muscles, and helps me move about more freely. I have started to run solo in the woods again. For the longest time I was fearful of being alone on the trails because of the fear of something happening to me, and no one knowing where I was.
I am not stating any of my fears are rational, in fact with enough lab work to launch me into space being completed, the fears are completely irrational. That is the part that is the hardest part to control, understand, or accept. The most irrational things I know are the ones that my own mind generates.
Humiliating, that is the word that I keep coming back to in my own thoughts. I feel absolutely foolish most days now. I reside in this realm where I have accepted that God is in control of everything, yet my own stubbornness suggests that internally I believe otherwise. If I have to have control instead of God, I have to create my own fears, and in turn I do not allow God to be in control. At the moment, I do not have the perfect answer constructed.
Sometimes I’ve learned that I write because putting fears with font helps make them seem less overwhelming. I wish I had perfect cure-all that would alleviate this problem, but until I do, this is just another reason that I have to keep running.