Panic Room

So here I’ve been, these past few months, enjoying the good life. I sit in my little home office all morning cranking out blog posts on pancreatic cysts and kidney transplants. (try to contain your jealousy). Alternately, I work with my friends at Inbox Orange to produce content on branding or re-engagement campaigns. (here you should be jealous, for real).  A few times a week, I head out for a short run before the kids get home. Ahhh, the life.

Yes, it was all going along just swimmingly (that’s a term, right? I mean, my great-grandmother used to say that, so I guess it’s a thing). And then last Monday, after a not so great run in the cold, I’m sitting at my desk and all of a sudden I couldn’t see out of my left eye. To make matters worse, the entire left side of my body felt all tingly and weak. I was positive I was having a stroke.

I was positive because I had spent that entire morning writing a blog post about the signs of heart attack and stroke, so I was an psuedo-expert on the subject. You see where this is going, right?

Soon after I was at the ER, where, after six hours of monitoring my heart, and several other tests (and getting to see someone code in the hallway right outside my door!), they basically shrugged and said, “eh, we don’t see anything majorly wrong with you.” Awesome.

So I spent the next week researching panic attacks. And yes, indeed I had all the symptoms of a panic disorder. Only one thing was missing: the trigger. All the websites suggested I might be panicked by driving over bridges, or public speaking, but I’m not afraid of anything like that. Sure, I reasoned, my symptoms seemed to increase directly after I got up from my desk to throw in a load of laundry or clean up the kitchen. Could it possibly be that I was panicky over housework? (I guarantee if you saw my laundry room, you would consider this as a plausible idea).

My panic inducing thoughts increased each day: What if my left side goes numb again while I’m alone? What if the ER doctors are wrong and I’m really going to die and then my kids come home and find me laying here and they just step over me and turn on the cartoons anyway? What if I have another panic attack? What does my left side going numb have to do with being afraid of laundry?

As only a crazy woman can do, I allowed it to consume me. It got so bad that I had to call on my friend (well, practically my sister) Angie to babysit me. I spent at least two afternoons at her house, coloring with my god-daughter, which is actually excellent therapy. But even though I felt less anxious with her, I still had some of the other symptoms.

So yesterday I finally got in to see my regular doctor, and I have this whole speech prepared about how I know I have a panic disorder, and I’m not sure but maybe I’ve become so lazy in my new awesome work-from-home-life that I’ve become fearful of any real work, such as laundry. Or possibly I have always been on the verge of panicking, but sitting alone in my office (the Panic Room), writing about health disorders, has led me down this road.

Before I could tell her this ridiculous story, she opens up my file and produces a CT scan (that they had done in the ER), and shows me–Ta da!–that I have a little protrusion on my cervical spine. And this little protrusion, which is most likely (as in 99%) a herniated disc, is pressing on all my nerves there, and causing symptoms like the left side of my body going numb and tingly, and dizziness and feeling like I’m short of breath.

What the What? (use your Liz Lemon voice)

I was so excited that I hugged her. And to her credit she didn’t act too freaked out. In fact, she assured me that I have every right to panic when the entire left side of my body goes numb. “Yeah, I’d say you’re very normal. You’d be crazy if that didn’t cause you to panic,” she said.

Can I get that on tape–the part about me being normal?

And so, here I sit, no longer afraid of panicking, because, well, I have permission to panic! And my arm that keeps going numb? I just get up and shake it a little once in a while. Some physical therapy should have me back to normal in a few months. Well, at least physically back to normal.

On another note, I can’t seem to stop thinking of my office as “The Panic Room.” And then that leads me to thinking about Jodie Foster, when I should be concentrating on innovative treatments in Urology, which… just not normal.

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One response to “Panic Room

  1. I would panic also! I’m glad they found out what was wrong. Welcome to the world of physical therapy. I’ve got 9 weeks left myself.