I wound up in an ER in Edinburgh, Scotland a couple of weeks ago with a full-blown panic attack! How does that happen?
Is the entire world in A-fib?
Scotland was warm with no rain, London hit 100 degrees one of the days I was there. Heather and I had to buy fans to carry with us from hotel to hotel as the windows in most hotels opened only slightly. They, of course, had no air-conditioning and the thickness of hotel walls retained heat within the rooms. Flying over the UK from Glasgow to Heathrow, I thought I was seeing the California landscape. Dry, dry, dry! Brown fields with patches of green were the norm the entire 45 min. flight.
There was a fire in the Artic circle this summer and the Scandinavian countries had record heat and small fires. California and Oregon are burning intensely as air is labelled hazardous at times.
In the US, it’s Democracy vs Dictatorship. We are in a Mad Max soccer game, everyone must participate in the mayhem psychologically, physiologically and sociologically.
I perceive my A-fib as a metaphor for what’s happening in the NOW! Echardt Tolle, Ram Dass et. al. say Be Here Now, and so I am. It might be a better mantra –be anywhere but here now.
Jet lag had rendered my body and brain out of sync. I couldn’t sleep – literally. Five nights, I was up all night. It was the metropolol that our medical community puts a person on when they have an A-fib event. They lump us all in one category. They don’t measure the circumstances leading up to the event. They don’t consider nutrition depletion due to illness, stress and/or going off other medicines. They tell you if don’t take our medicine you will have a stroke or heart attack – so you take the medicine because you are a responsible person and don’t’ want your family caring for a vegetable in a wheel chair.
My doctor said it couldn’t possibly be the metropolol creating insomnia. I wondered if she had ever googled beta blockers – it’s there in colorful black and white – insomnia. I over-medicated myself every other night to sleep – my cocktail was 20mgs melatonin, 1.5 Lorazepam (known as Ativan) and when those didn’t work, I added a Tylenol PM. Yee ha, I knocked myself out. Heather was a champ driving on the left-hand side of the road while attending to an increasingly incoherent mother.
When we got to Edinburgh and saw where our hotel was – in the heart of Scotland’s Times Square – near the castle (a major tourist trap) – my heart started pounding furiously, I was weak, I thought it was a heart attack. I told the woman at the check-in desk I couldn’t stay there – did they have a sister hotel. They did. Twenty minutes away surrounded by fields and cows, we arrived at the Prestonfield. It had air-conditioning – there is a god! The pounding in my heart and brain was nuclear however and I needed to get to a hospital. The Edinburgh ER is worth a trip. It’s a must-see attraction. They put me in wheel chair, wheeled me to the doctor’s station and said someone would be with me shortly. Dear god I need someone now but I was told there were 50 other people in the ER with heart problems just like me. Have we all lost heart – I started crying. It turned into sobbing and they put me in a cubicle as I was probably scaring the others.
A lovely nurse showed up eventually, taking my blood pressure, 200 over infinity and my heart rate nearing the 150 beats a minute finish line. She told me I was fine, she said I needed “to find serenity in the things I couldn’t change, to change the things I could” as I finished with “and the wisdom to know the difference.” I cried harder. Life’s hardships, sorrows, fears and challenges were pouring out of me. I was a vulnerable mess. I called Tim, crying I am in the ER again, I know he was scared but he talked me off the ledge as Heather watched my blood pressure come down.
A calm, kind doctor entered. He pulled up a stool next to me, he held my hand as I cried. He said I wasn’t’ having a heart attack I was having a panic attack. He listened to me as no other doctor has except one in the Mt. Shasta ER. I explained to him the many factors during the past year I believed had tumbled me into A-fib. I was insistent that it was a lone event, but every American doctor had scared everything out of me into taking the evil drugs. He calmly said I had over-medicated myself to sleep, that jet lag was a huge factor, I needed good REM sleep which I probably hadn’t had in months. He couldn’t tell me to get off the drugs, but he did say he felt the logic from American doctors was soft but stay on the Eliquis.
He didn’t give me any drugs. His compassion and listening were more soothing than any drug. I still didn’t sleep that night, but I made the decision to stop taking the metropolol. If beta blockers don’t stop A-fib, why take them?. I haven’t had another incident since May and with all my anxiety and panic one would think that a fertile field for an A-fib event. Within a day I slept like a baby. The heart raced and bounced for a few days but settled. The ever-present anxiety of wondering when or if there would be another event remained strong the rest of the trip.
It was a long-haul home. My temperpedic bed embraced me as my pillow cushioned my head perfectly. I no longer needed to put a flat pillow inside another flat pillow trying to get the right height. The dogs were happy I was home. The air was and is unbreathable. Tim was leaving for his photo 11-day photo trip, but I was home
I have made some changes due to alternative methods of dealing with A-fib. I have little faith in traditional medicine. We are fortunate however in tiny Mt. Shasta to have a doctor who thinks outside the medical box. His passion is researching and studying how cellular energy or lack thereof affects our health. He’s an evangelical Christian which doesn’t fit my belief system, but I trust him. In the examining room there is a picture of a surgeon performing open heart surgery with Jesus standing by his side. Normally, I shrug it off but this week I thought – how oddly comforting. I told him I was desperate. I could no longer be on beta blockers. I gave him the year’s rundown of stress/health/and going off hormones. He asked what kind of hormones and I told him. He said they weren’t bio-identical and therein was one of the problems. I told him I had specifically asked for bio-identical from the many doctors I had seen over the years and he said they didn’t give them to me.
He knew exactly what to look for as I suspected he would. He said the heart runs on energy. When it’s not getting proper energy, it goes into A-fib and many other heart events. The energy the heart needs is d-ribose, CoQ10, L-carnitine and magnesium among other things. I had been taking lots of magnesium prior to leaving for Scotland and added Dr. Dean’s magnesium protocol when I got home but he said I probably needed something stronger. He took a blood sample, and in a few weeks, I will hear the results. He suspected there are other nutritionally depleted systems in my body. He also told me panic attacks result from low dopamine levels in the brain and mine were probably low.
I saw my traditional doctor a few days ago who gave me all the scientific BS about metropolol and Eliquis and my craziness. However, when she measured my blood pressure at 118/69 and my resting heart rate at 65, it wasn’t the f’ing metropolol, it was my grasping in the dark protocol of magnesium, d-ribose, CoQ10 and l-carnitine. I am looking forward to Dr. Shearer prescribing the correct doses of supplements and to dopamining my fevered brain.
I go back to A-fib being a metaphor for what is happening in the world. Fifty people in the Edinburgh ER with heart issues and all the countless other ER’s in the world with people losing heart energy. I have had to do lots of deep breathing to get through the erratic heart stuff. I need to let go of trying to control the emotional swirls within me and around me, and therein lies the psychological and spiritual A-fib lessons.
Our bodies aren’t meant to have beta blockers suppress our heart rate for extended periods of time. Our blood shouldn’t be thinned by a pharmaceutical company looking for explosive profits. No matter what you say to the traditionalists they will scientifically tell you why you are wrong and then literally scare you to death. I cancelled the cardiologist because he would only say the same thing. Talking cellular nutrition as a starting point rather than drugs will get me nowhere with those people. Finding the right doctor is equally important. I had been seeing a naturopathic doctor who prescribed a big dose of hormones as protection for the heart. Crazy! She didn’t understand Milroys disease either and my body was reacting in the most horrible way. I had arthritis in my hands that I could feel take hold of my joints and the swelling in my ankles and calves was painful. She was all about the paleo diet. I realized she was completely wrong for me and stopped the hormone blast and the endless meat eating. My hands no longer hurt, and I didn’t need a diuretic until last night which was over a month.
Drug detox would have been cheaper and more peaceful. The Ativan was difficult because not taking them was giving me the symptoms that I needed the drug for – crazy! But Scotland illuminated my current limitations, my fears, my challenges and my strengths when seemingly out of my mind. It showed me how strong Heather is and how calming she is for me when I go coo coo for cocoa puffs. I hope I don’t A-fib again, but I am prepared to handle it if I do and not panic. I know the difference between a heart attack and a panic attack. What I struggle controlling is the fear that creeps in at night creating my sleeping problems. The event happened at night and it terrified me and the terror remains in my tissues and brain cells waiting until sundown to resurrect. I sit up in bed and breath slowly from my heart. I tell myself it’s an unfounded fear. It’s my ego fighting for it’s life when in reality all the other parts of my consciousness and subconsciousness are fighting for a new life.
What I learned from the many kindnesses that were bestowed upon my most vulnerable self is that kindness is essential to healing. It’s hard to be kind to myself. I want to power through, to take control, to have immediate answers, to deny anxiety and fear but none of those “go-to’s” work anymore. However, I know I am moving into kindness because I unashamedly cry a lot and I don’t care. Like many people of my generation, I learned that crying demonstrated weakness; so I held back the tears and replaced them with determination and anger. Now, I cry looking at old photographs, I cry watching the Dodo clips on Facebook. I cried when ex-CIA director John Brennan demonstratively stood and stands up against Trump – at last someone with integrity, and I cried.
And so, my game plan for now is to be kind to myself and to others even if it means crying my way into it. It’s quite cathartic. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we all unashamedly cried at the good things, the bad and for ourselves.