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Cardiophobia

cardiophobia

Cardiophobia is defined as an anxiety disorder of persons characterized by repeated complaints of chest pain, heart palpitations, and other somatic sensations accompanied by fears of having a heart attack and of dying. Persons with cardiophobia focus attention on their heart when experiencing stress and arousal, perceive its function in a phobic manner, and continue to believe that they suffer from an organic heart problem despite repeated negative medical tests. In order to reduce anxiety, they seek continuous reassurance, make excessive use of medical facilities, and avoid activities believed to elicit symptoms. The relationship of cardiophobia to illness phobia, health anxiety, and panic disorder is discussed.

I had no idea. Did you even know this was a thing?? (edited to add that personally, I don’t actually make “excessive” use of medical facilities…but I do think about how often I go to the doctor and I think about how it would be to go to the doctor every time I felt health or heart anxiety)

I did a bad thing and I googled something semi-medical. I googled “I am afraid of exercise.” And lo and behold, there are people out there just like me, who are afraid of exercising because of cardiophobia. There are other reasons for fearing exercise, but I was mostly focused on the cardiophobia because that’s my issue. Cardiophobia is the main culprit of my health anxiety, although these days I do have some mild cancer recurrence fears, too. By the way, I survived my google espisode and I REALLY only looked at cardiophobia postings…I did not stray or fall down any medical google rabbit holes. Go me.

I had my appointment with my cardiologist this morning. I have mentioned this before, I believe, but I like this man because he’s non-judgemental about my weight and talks bluntly yet kindly when we meet. He listens to what I’m saying before starting in on any exam. He even listened to me when I said I was afraid to exercise because of my heart, and that I was working on it in therapy. He did an EKG which came out fine, then said we hadn’t done a stress test in many years (not since I first saw him probably in 2012 or 2011)…and he said we could do it right away if I was amenable. I said yes, of course, because no time like the present. The stress test was with an EKG and blood pressure cuff hooked up to me, but no echocardiogram like Hub had a week or two ago. The nurse said they only do echocardiograms when there’s a potential structural defect, which the doctor was not concerned about.

The stress test was hard for me. At one point, the BP cuff was so tight (I hate when it starts to tighten, stops, then starts again like it’s starting over…) that my entire right arm from cuff down to my fingers was beet red. I told the tech that the cuff was way tight and she reset it. But those stress tests make you go fast and at an incline on the treadmill and that’s hard. It was already hot in the room and I’m pretty heat intolerant. When they went from high speed and full incline to cool down, I got woozy and I told them. The nurse said that happens and it’ll go away, which is kind of did. Except for the fact that I am having a lot of imbalance issues (like being on a boat rocking up and down) these days, so it didn’t fully go away.

They unhooked me and gave me a cup of water, then the nurse left to consult with the doctor. When she came back, she said they saw no blockages and no abnormalities on the test results, so I was free to go home. Hub was waiting in the waiting room and he helped me out to the car because I still felt overheated and wobbly.

Do I feel better? I’m not entirely sure. But at the very least, when I go in to see T on Friday and we start working on my specific health and exercise anxiety, at least I can say that I was cleared by the cardiologist. Unfortunately, I’m dealing with heartburn again, which had mostly been under control up until about two weeks ago (a lot of this pain is probably the heartburn crap, which I think started out “silently” and is now just getting worse and worse. I’m going to get back onto my digestive enzyme regimen, with the exception of having to find a new digestive enzyme pill because the previous stuff I was using had to be purchased through a practitioner and the nutritionist I was seeing for it refuses to respond to any of my inquiries. I think she’s pissed that I stopped coming in for appointments.

Anyhoo, I’m cleared by the cardiologist. I go in to see T on Friday for hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP’s creators claim a connection between the neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (programming), and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life. Apparently NLP is something that hypnotherapists can try to use to help along with the hypnosis. I don’t know squat about it, but we’ll see how things go.

I’ve already had one hypnotherapy session, just an induction where she wanted to see if I could go into a hypnotic state. We tried again on the last session, but I was so mired in grief that I basically burst into tears mid-hypnosis and that was the end of that.

I’ll talk about hypnotherapy in another post soon.

Hub and I started and stopped acupuncture, but are planning to start it again because we both felt it was somewhat helpful for certain issues. We were supposed to start again this week, but my cardiology appointment screwed that up. Hopefully next week.

There’s today’s update.

 

 

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Who do I do for?

Maybe about a month ago, I said to my father, “What do you think about having the family over for a Memorial Day barbecue?” He agreed, and although I offered to host the dinner at my house, he said it was fine to have it at his house.

I made this suggestion for a couple of reasons.

  1. My aunt and uncle (my mother’s brother and sister-in-law) have been trying to get us to come to gatherings at their house or their daughter’s house since my mother’s passing two months ago. In both cases, I declined, as I was not ready. My father went to the mother’s day gathering, and came back saying it was very difficult for him.
  2. My brother has told me how he wants “the family to stay together” and that he doesn’t want to give up “family get-togethers” even though Mom is gone. (I have so much more to say about this but…enh)
  3. I don’t want my aunt and uncle to become disconnected from my father and/or from the rest of my siblings and me.
  4. I wanted my father to have something to look forward to

I figured this would be very low key, so I didn’t make a big thing of it. I invited my aunt and uncle, my cousins, a friend of my mother’s, and my local siblings. I told people to bring any kind of side dish that they liked to eat, but that we would provide the grilled meats. I didn’t think about anything until I needed to buy the food a few days before, and even then I kept pushing it out of my head.

I thought Memorial Day would be easier because we don’t associate the “holiday” with my mother. In past years, if we ever did anything for Memorial Day, it was an impromptu cook-out at my house mostly because Hub wanted to grill anyway and sometimes my parents and brother would join us. I thought this would make everything easier.

When I went over on Sunday to bring some food ahead of time to my father’s house, I asked him if he wanted help setting up in the dining room, which is where we normally host more than the immediate family. But he wanted to have everyone in the kitchen. We went through a bit of work to make that fit, but he seemed to want to stay away from the formal dining room where we usually have gatherings. I understand, so I didn’t discuss it with him, we just did what we needed to for the kitchen.

There was a snafu with the grill, but we managed to get food grilled and put out on the island for people to serve themselves and then sit at the table together. I felt very disconnected from everyone. I spent most of the two hours disengaged and quiet. No one seemed inclined to hang around after eating.

My aunt–the one who can’t seem to get past her own grief for her mother–put her hand on my shoulder on the way out and said, “It’s a good first step, right?” I wanted to punch her in the throat. Instead I said, “thanks” and turned away.

We cleaned up, then everyone pretty much left. When I thought my father was okay, Hub and I went home. I was a bit annoyed at the “side dishes” that people brought (someone brought a little package of pre-cut fruit, someone else brought a little bowl of cut veggies, and someone brought a bowl of cole slaw), but I really just wanted the evening to be over.

I didn’t want to have this get-together. I didn’t want to be the one arranging it. I didn’t want to be there. I hated the whole thing. I didn’t do any of it for me. If it had been my preference, I would have not had any get together. I’m not ready. I’m not interested. It hurts too much.

My brother, the one who has said how upset he is that the family isn’t getting together? He’s the one who hardly ever spent time with my parents. He’s the one who doesn’t stop by and visit, or instigate any get-togethers. He never hosts anything at his house. He never arranges any family get-togethers. He never even calls to say “we’re heading out to dinner, want to join us?” He says he is going to invite our father out to eat to stay in touch with him, but he hasn’t done it. My brother’s wife saw our mother maybe once in the last difficult two months of her life. She just didn’t care. My brother suffers from major depression. He is being treated for major depression. I want to do what I can to help him. I don’t know how he is helping himself in this arena of staying in touch with the family. I think he is relying on me to do it, and I don’t want to do it. If he wants the family to continue to get together, he’s going to have to participate. Because I’m not going to step into my mother’s shoes and take over. It isn’t me. And I don’t want the things he wants. If he wants those things, he’s going to have to do them.

My father…I don’t know what he wants. I don’t think he ever HAD to do anything with regards to family gatherings, so he just doesn’t do it. If I don’t do it, will the family slow fall away from each other? My father doesn’t want to do anything. He never had to pay bills–my mother did that–so he has no clue what money he has or doesn’t have. He doesn’t know about his the house or car insurance. He doesn’t want to know. My brother–the one who lives with him–is basically doing all the bills. And the grocery shopping. And the cooking.

I basically just spent the last ten minutes sobbing. I’ve cried myself to sleep the last two nights. Today I just feel overwhelmed and completely overemotional and this isn’t even the first time I’ve cried today. Apparently not the last, either. As soon as I catch my breath, I just start again.

I miss my mother so much I can’t even… I just can’t even. Period.

I’m in pain. My body hurts. I saw my massage therapist but it didn’t help and she’s going on maternity leave so I won’t see her for months. I’m not sleeping. The acupuncture isn’t helping. My health anxiety is suffocating me. I haven’t been able to write anything (my books or anything other than the blogs) for years. Since before my mother got sick. I can’t figure out the paperwork for my mother’s bonds.

I feel like … nothing. I don’t want to engage with anyone. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t have the energy to be the person everyone else seems to need me to be. Not right now. Not today.

 

 

 

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Too much or too little?

I had a session with T today, which was kind of all over the map. Part of what I wanted to talk to her about was V (pt 1 and p2). I haven’t written much about my sessions with V because I haven’t felt like we’ve done what I wanted to do. Very specifically, I approached and began seeing V so that I could attempt to do hypnosis with a therapist who specialized in it, versus seeing a hypnotist who had no therapeutic training. I was looking to get assistance with my insomnia type symptoms (I say “insomnia-type” because I don’t feel I have true insomnia, I just have shitty sleep), which was something V said initially she could help me with. In the end, she preferred not to use “hypnosis” and instead went with “breathing and relaxation” techniques to work with me. As well as EMDR.

I’ve had seven or eight sessions with V, and while I did discover where my “not enough” feeling came from, I haven’t had any progress with my sleeping. And I haven’t felt any other progress, nor has V seemed interested in pursuing hypnosis. I also feel very uncomfortable that at least once a session, she’ll say she’s not sure if X will work, or that she also struggles with sleep but I shouldn’t be concerned it will always be that way for me. I just feel like I’m talking to a therapeutically trained ME. And I don’t want to talk to me… It sounds weird, but that’s how I feel. So I pretty much had decided to discontinue sessions with V, but I’ve never…fired a therapist before. I didn’t want to make V feel badly because I didn’t want to continue. I know it isn’t my issue and she is a professional, but honestly she feels so insecure to me that I hate to feed that feeling by firing her. But I’m not getting what I want from her and I don’t want to continue if that’s the case. I already have T–who works well for my on-going needs–I don’t need another regular therapist.

So when I sat down after dinner, I crafted a short but complimentary email, and after re-reading it a couple of times, I sent it. Now I wait to hear back. Unh.

My plan, at this point, is to give acupuncture a go. I’ve had it before and although it didn’t help at that point (for horrendous menstrual cramps about 16 years ago), I know it does work for a lot of things for a lot of people. I just need to work appointments into my schedule, because I know acupuncture is an on-going treatment that often works better with multiple appointments per week, or at least one every week for a lot of weeks. But I definitely want to give it a try, for the fatigue/insomnia as well as chronic pain. T approved of the plan I had set out, and reminded me that I need to keep myself balanced or I was liable to break down.

That was the other conversation I had with her. I wanted to really find out how I know if I’m just avoiding everything by trying to stay busy and/or zen/zone out. I know in my heart that I’m feeling the emotions relating to my mother’s illness and the situation we are in. But I am concerned that maybe I’m not giving my emotions ENOUGH attention. How do I know? How do I know that I’m not mis-using my coping skills for avoidance purposes? She said there’s no answer that suits everyone. To try to pay attention to whether I’m avoiding things that need to be done or dealt with by using my coping skills, or if I’m still addressing things while fitting my coping skills into my life. And that if I spend more time coping/avoiding some hours/days/weeks, that I shouldn’t be too concerned.

I’m not well known for allowing myself to be emotional, so I worry about me avoiding or repressing the emotions surrounding what is happening daily. I just can’t decide what feels right and balanced. T tells me to quit worrying about it. Seriously, has she met me? 🙂

 

 

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