(You don’t need to read Part 1 to understand Part 2, and honestly, I’m not sure if I want to keep it posted up.)
Warning: I get into some medical stuff here. If you’re squeamish, don’t read this entry. Spoiler: my stomach eventually got better. So there.
Also, read my disclaimer at the bottom before you write any reactions. Thank you!
Here’s a random graphic to break up the text. (via Photobucket)
I’ll continue where I left off…after I got back from Detroit, I had trouble staying asleep at night. I would wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air, and since my room doesn’t have air conditioning, I would head for the living room, crank up the AC, and try to fall asleep there (it never worked).
My ex-boyfriend, whom I was still dating at the time, would calmly respond to my frantic texts at night as I complained about my trouble breathing. I’d just like to say–Clark* was–and still is, I imagine–a good guy. I harbor no resentment against him and there were multiple factors that went into our break-up. But anyway, continuing.
About two weeks after Detroit, I visited Clark for a few days out in Long Island (I slept at a friend’s house). I figured it would be nice to get away and de-stress. Clark was so concerned for my well-being that he even decided to take me to a nutritionist he had just started seeing.
And here’s where things took a turn for the worse.
Dr. Larry Forsetti* was one of those nutritionists who claimed to be a jack-of-all-trades. He was not only a nutritionist, but he was also a chiropractor, a reflexologist, an allergist, and he even did heart monitor tests to tell you what age your body was running at (poor diet/lack of a healthy lifestyle usually raised your “age”). Did Dr. Forsetti have the certifications/credentials for all these things? I don’t know. I knew how he had helped Clark and I knew that he was a Christian, so I trusted his judgment.
There are varying opinions out there on “alternative medicine.” I’m not going to say whether it’s bad or good, but I will say this: what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Dr. Forsetti put vials filled with various allergens in one of my hands as he raised my other arm and tried to push it down. He told me to go on an organic, gluten-free diet and he gave me pills for my stomach (it was getting worse at this point)–and based on reflexology alone, I was instructed to take 5 of these pills 15 minutes before each meal, up to 4 times a day. As for my breathing problem, we never addressed it.
Well, the pills seemed to be a colon cleanser of some sort, but unfortunately Dr. Forsetti forgot to tell me to take probiotics to supplement the loss of good bacteria from my stomach. The result? I got sick. Not just all at once, though. It happened progressively. I’ll spare you most of the details, but during Fall 2010–my sophomore year of college–I lost a pretty significant amount of weight. I couldn’t absorb the nutrients in my food and I had the runs almost every day. I was also starting to feel a sharp, breath-taking pain in my stomach at random points throughout the day. Without knowing it, I became anemic and my hair was starting to fall out. I ate bland food all the time, but my stomach wouldn’t relent. I was still going to school, though–pain was becoming the norm for me, and I didn’t want to miss class and risk failing.
I hated how gaunt and unhealthy I looked. I got the haircut because I wanted to start over with a healthy head of hair. Clark wasn’t really a fan, though, haha.
I visited my gastrointerologist, whom I had started seeing back when I was in high school. The GI made me go for extensive bloodwork, and when I went to give six vials of blood, I almost passed out. I always trace back to this as my first official panic attack–the bloodwork fiasco. I had donated blood in my freshman year of college, so I was familiar with that chill you feel when you’ve reached the last ounce. Well, this time around, as I was giving blood, I was sitting up in a chair, I was anemic, I had little food in body, and I had my period, so the odds were not in my favor.
My arms are a phlebotomist’s dream because my veins are easy to find. However, this lady was not gentle, and once she reached vial five I was starting to break out in a cold sweat. I felt dizzy as I looked around the room–and when I blinked, my vision was clouded with black floaters. I immediately went into panic mode. I started shaking as the blood lady paged a doctor, “stat,” and the doctor confirmed that my blood pressure was low. My mom bought me Gatorade as the doctor ran an EKG–”standard procedure,” he assured us–and when I went home, I cried over how hopeless the whole situation felt. The kicker? The blood lady called me at my house and said she messed up the last two vials of blood, so I had to come back the next day.
Reading the results to my bloodwork was saddening. However, I soon remembered that I hadn’t taken any vitamins since I was a child, so I started taking One-a-Day-Women’s multivitamin and vitamin D. And you know what? My stomach slowly started to get better. However, that didn’t stop my GI from running one more test on me. The gastrointerologist called me up and said that since my white count was high and my red count was low, she wanted to do an upper endoscopy.
An upper endoscopy is basically a test where the doctor sticks a tiny camera down your esophagus. The test itself is brief, especially if you’re petite like me. The prep is the scary part. The doctor opted to knock me out because I’m the nervous type, and this was my first time ever having that kind of anesthesia, so I was scared of the unknown. I had to fast from food and water from 10 PM forward the previous night, and then I got to the doctor’s office early the next morning. The anesthesiologist stuck the needle into my right arm and escorted me into another room where they would do the test. I had to lay out on a black leather table, with plastic tubing around my face to blow air into my nose and a mouth guard to keep my jaw propped open. The anesthesiologist put a heart monitor on my finger, and I could hear my pulse beeping (it was fast). I had to initial those forms that confirm I’m not pregnant and that I won’t sue the doctor if I die. The anesthesiologist kept telling me to take slow, deep breaths. Finally, the doctor calmly waltzed in, gave my hand a reassuring pat, and told the anesthesiologist to “send me” (unless that’s a fabricated memory–but I know he said some weird phrase to the anesthesiologist). I remember praying that God wouldn’t let me die.
And then I woke up. The plastic tubing was gone, my arm had a bandaid on it, and all evidence that I had just had a medical test was missing. The nurse was trying to rush me out so the next
victim patient could have their upper endoscopy. The doctor met with my mother and I and told me he found some small ulcers in my stomach. He prescribed Nexium–you know, the purple pill. I started drinking Ensure as I embarked on a weight-gain journey to regain my health and my curves.
But the bloodwork fiasco and the endoscopy were pretty traumatic for me, and they pushed my anxiety even further.
As for Clark, our relationship was starting to dissolve after I returned to school for the Spring 2011 semester. Unfortunately, he had to witness something that was going on at my house–the thing that caused me to go back to therapy.
In part 3, I’ll talk about what that was, and how I finally was diagnosed with panic disorder. I’m looking forward to talking about other topics in The Panic Diaries, so believe me, part 3 will be the last part in the “how it happened” saga.
PS Over time, my stomach did get better–the ulcers and the IBS–and by the grace of God, I am no longer on the Nexium today.
PPS Disclaimer: I’m not trying to shame anyone here, I’m not trying to solicit pity, and I’m not trying to make myself look bad. I’m just sharing my experiences. If you can’t handle reading these entries, please do not read them. I am not a doctor, I just happen to have panic disorder and this is my story. Etc.