At about 11 pm on a summer night last year, as I sat at the computer finishing up a post after spending two hours outside that day pulling up weeds trying to make this house look less like the only haunted house in the subdivision, I felt this lightning shot of twingey pain in the exact middle of my chest.
Dang it. I thought. A freakin' heart attack. Great. I've got too much to do tomorrow to have a heart attack tonight.
I shut off the computer, ran upstairs and jostled my husband awake.
Get up. I'm having a GD heart attack. SECONDS COUNT! We gotta get to the hospital before any major heart tissue is damaged.
What? What? What are you talking about?
Me. Now. I'm having a freakin' heart attack. Get out of bed. I have like four minutes to get there before it's too late and you have to spoon feed me for the rest of my life and that's if I live.
::flipping on the light and looking at me:: No offense, honey, but you look too good for having a heart attack. I remember this guy at work had one and it knocked him flat to the floor like he was struck down for some past sin or something ...
Mark. I do NOT have to prove to you that I'm having a damn heart attack. GET UP.
Don't go all crazy now when I ask you this, but, are you still having one?
See, I think you're fine. Lay down. If it attacks you again, we'll go in. You can ask them for any tests you want. Just lay down.But promise me you won't tell the Doctors that they're wrong again when they try to discharge you. It's getting embarrassing.
I listen to my husband and change into my pajamas and lay down. And I fall asleep. And during the night, there is no left arm numbness or jaw tightness or nausea or breaking out in a cold sweat like my refrigerator magnet "KNOW THE SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK!" warns. It never feels like there is an elephant sitting on my chest. In fact, I sleep like someone hit me over the head with a 2x4.
Life as a hypochondriac. It's not easy. I've taken myself in to the ER for imagined strokes, hemorrhages, blood clots, allergic reactions, asthma, and skin cancer.
Appendicitis visits deserve a mention of their own.
I was never like this until I had children. The root fear underneath all my imagined demises is that I don't want my children to lose their mother.
I think that if I get myself to the hospital on time the medical staff there will work their magisoso and keep me alive until the next systemic crash three weeks from now.
This is no way to live life, I realize this: panic punctuated with terror with momentary hysteria twice a month.
I decide I need to go see an "excessive health anxiety" therapist. Yes. That is a real specialty. After our sessions together, this amazing therapist's advice to me is something that has maintained our insurance premiums to something that no longer caps us out two months into a new year.
Her strategy is this: Test Your Reality. Examine the actual possibility of what you think is happening and then decide based on your symptoms -- not your fears -- if you still need to take your eight minute short cut planned out route to your predetermined closest hospital. (surprise ... the one I actually thought would be closer is actually farther. Who says trial runs are a waste of time and gas.)
This is no miracle cure, I still worry excessively about my health, but at least now I don't feel like I'm walking around waiting for a limb to fall off. I have points in my day where I don't think the pain in my head from when I bend over to pick up a three day old grape under the kitchen chair is the pain from a tumor pushing my brain tissue out of the way.
This Test Your Reality way of life has brought me a wonderful freeing existence. There is also the bonus of a surprise fringe benefit: added hours to my day that were once spent sitting in ER hospital waiting rooms.
Now I get to do what really needed to be done in the first place: find some good burial plots. Something nice in a quiet corner, with some shade ...