Thursday, October 3, 2013

stress tests, curly evolutionary brains and anxiety

I did my stress test a few weeks ago and survived! I was told beforehand that I'd have to go on a treadmill and that was it. And while that sounded easy, I was so nervous! As long as I kept reminding myself that I could walk great distances, I was okay. After all, I had gone for several walks with Hunny just a week or two prior without any great difficulty. But I was nervous that they'd make me jog and I knew I couldn't do that!

It turned out that it was just a walking test, phew! (however, I read online that if you can't walk they inject some soft of medication that increases your heart rate to get the results.) I had a bunch of wires and such attached to me (similar to the ECG) and off I walked.

It started up a slight incline, which wasn't easy, but I did okay. I managed to have a conversation with the woman doing the test (really, she just watched a screen and took notes, I did most of the work) about children (mostly my large brood) and living in the country with "old fashioned" ideas that we both seemed to share (unless she was humoring me) About five minutes into the test, the machine moved at a higher incline and increased in speed. That made me nervous. I was considering in my head all the ways that I could escape this machine if I needed to. Such as falling off, or riding it out the end and hopefully gracefully, stepping off the back end, but the thought that made the most sense to me was to jump to either side of the belt where it wasn't moving. (it never occurred to me that I could also reach out and hit that large red "stop" button at the top) Apparently this type of situation-getting-out-of thinking is common in my Dad too! But seriously, who walks that fast up a hill? Sheesh! I was still chatting with the young woman, but I was breathless and it was starting to get more difficult to keep up the conversation. (if we had gone any faster and it would've definitely been ceased on my end)

She asked if I could go faster and I puffed, "I'd rather not!" So she decided to stop the test.

I did 8.53 minutes! I was proud of myself. My Dad can only do two minutes when he goes to his Healthy Heart program, which is slightly concerning. In comparison to that, I did a marathon! It only took a few minutes for my heart to calm down and for me to not feel as sweaty, and then I got back into my clothes and went home.

I got an appointment to see the cardiologist, Dr Hamburger (yes, seriously) three weeks later. I really did not think there was anything wrong with my heart---but well, I've been having chest pains off and on for years. (I remember a particular attack one night when I was 19 1/2. It was the one night in our dating relationship that my ex-boyfriend showed compassion for me. How sad is that? I was in the much pain.)  My first attacks came the day after I turned 19, and I missed several weeks of school from not having any energy to even get out of bed (my mom remembers me crawling to the bathroom), to having such incredible pain, and having several x-rays and ECGs done. Of course nothing showed anything. I ended up having to drop out of Bible College from missing too much school and not being able to catch up. (I still may be hurt and upset over that.) Since my Father had a heart attack last year, I've also been slightly concerned about my own heart health, (I do take after him the most out of his children.) so it was good to see a specialist.

He said that the results were good, which I also suspected. I figured they would've called me in for an appointment sooner if they were bad. He asked me questions; they were interesting ones. You could tell they were pointed one and that he was weighing and considering the answers. (he asked what I did before children and then asked if I missed being a retail manager...after he asked what one was! I said that I thought being a retail manager was tough, but then I became a mother and realized it was tougher!) Then he asked me to remove my shirt and bra so he could do an ECG on me!  EEK! I just about died! I was glad Hunny was there! I didn't have a gown and the doctor just went about his business while I took off my tops. Not too shockingly, my BP was a elevated when he checked it! Imagine that! (he said that he would've been concerned since it was 'borderline', but seeing the situation..... I was thinking, 'uhm, like me having to get practically naked for a male doctor I've never met before?" Sheesh!)  But it all went well. I reminded myself that a cardiologist sees lots of breasts. He's not going to oogle mine. Although, I also reminded myself that based upon a look around the waiting room, I'm sure my breasts are the perkiest and youngest he's seen in a long time! But he was respectful and paid no attention to them.

In the end, the cardiologist said that I'm fine and my heart is well and I'm not going to have a heart attack any time soon. But instead of me taking him at his word, he is going to send me for a holter monitor (yay) and an Echocardiogram. (Kai gets Echos done annually, and has had a holter done when he was newly diagnosed.) Then I can rely on those results and feel better too. At first, I thought that he didn't need to do that and I could believe him, but then as he was talking I was thinking that he was right. I would need further proof. But I do wonder if it will ease my mind at all. I really would like to have a diagnosis for my chest pain, please.

The cardiologist was great and personable and I liked him. But then he started to talk about our evolutionary brains, which was weird, but we got through it. He said how our brains were first created just like animals' brains, way back millions of years ago when we all lived in Africa, but then somewhere along evolution they changed and now have the curly parts that we're used to seeing. (I was thinking, 'excuse me, what are you talking about?') Our old Animal Brain reacts whenever we see a "predator" (anything that scares us) and it tells the heart to increase and we get the urge to run. However, the Curly Brain says there is no need to run, there is no predator.  Since the two brains are in conflict with each other, we don't know what do to. We want to run and our body is reacting as if it is going to, but we don't actually move anywhere since we see that it isn't necessary. And that results in anxiety on our bodies.

Meanwhile, I"m thinking, 'okay, is he trying to tell me that I should take up running?" That part was a bit bizarre.

What he is saying is that he thinks the my chest pain comes from anxiety and stress. Somewhere along the line, something has happened that caused me to stress and I wasn't able to let it go and that caused my pain.  He said that I may not feel anxiety when I have the pain but that's because it is so deep within.


It's possible that my chest pain when I was 19 was due to the stress I had in going to Bible College. I was so scared that I'd never know how to write notes for class and I wouldn't understand anything. (I wasn't taught any of those handy things in highschool since those years were done in homeschooling. Which was great for me, but not so great in the confidence building.) Maybe the pain I felt when I was dating my ex was because he was a jerk and I made a poor choice in dating him and I knew it? My chest pain on the way to BCCH could have been from my fear of driving Oak Street. It's an old part of Vancouver (actually, most of Van is like this.) and so it really is only wide enough for 4 lanes of traffic, but they stuff 6 in there anyways. I am so nervous that I'm going to clip another vehicle driving!

But what about the other times? When I was at my parents and it hit out of the blue? Or when I had to call for an ambulance last year?

Dr Hamburger suggested that we talk together, Hunny and I, and discuss our stress. And if I can't, as some things a woman can only talk to with a girlfriend or family member, (he said this to my husband) I should find someone and tell them!  This cardiologist-slash-therapist was interesting. His words on stress and talking really hit me.  Not that I think he's right---that these chest pains are only from anxiety or stress. I really do still think that it could be costochondritis. (My Mom recently reminded me that my aunt by marriage has that. It's an autoimmune disease if it's chronic pain, but mostly it's short term, up to 6 months, due to injury. Hers, and possibly mine, are chronic)  But like my Hunny said, maybe the costochondritis pain is triggered by stress. Which it could be.

I am already starting to see that when my body is exhausted, I start to have trouble breathing which then turns into slight chest pain. I know that my body is telling me that I need to rest. I just need to get every one else to realize I need it. (why can't Mommys ever take breaks?)

I'm not too sure what my next step is yet. I go for my holter monitor next week. Yay. So I get to drive all the way back to VGH to get this strapped to me, which should only take a few minutes, just to go home (although it will still cost us $6.50 to park for half hour. good grief!) and return back there the next day to return the monitor. That's going to suck. (My Echo is booked all the way in January 2014.) I've been having chest pain on and off, (one week I had pains every day) but nothing to the degree I had it in August, thankfully. I don't know if I should make an appointment to see my own doctor or not. Will the cardiologist have sent my test results and info to her? I didn't mention it to him, so maybe not. (I also didn't want her thinking that he'd diagnosed me with anxiety and so any chest pain I would mention to her, she would just disregard.) Right now, I am just trying to get the rest that I need and learning to pray more and rest in His peace.


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