Tuesday, April 6, 2010


May has been busy. Busy working, busy thinking, busy doing health related things, busy entertaining a Flat Stanley (not his real name, but we're all incognito on Blogger).

May is worried. Concerned. Embarrassed to mention that something else has come up. I think I have angina. For the last few years, I assumed that given my history, it was probably just anxiety attacks. Eventually, though, I had to face the fact that nine times out of ten, I am not experiencing any anxiety at all when the attacks come. Troubling indeed. For a year, when the possibility of MS was out there, I assumed it was the "MS hug." I don't have MS, though.

Here is what it feels like. I'll be doing something completely normal and mundane. It comes on suddenly and starts with pain in my jaw. My mouth fills with saliva and my jaw locks up and feels like it's going to crack. At the same time, my chest feels like it is going break open because I feel like my ribs are tightening, squeezing, and crushing me in a band just under my breasts and often radiating to my back between my shoulder blades. It hurts like hell.

Sometimes, I break out into a clammy sweat. Sometimes my left arm goes kind of dead, but that doesn't happen most of the time. I can breathe; in fact, I can take deep breaths and that's what helps the whole thing pass. I concentrate only on breathing and relaxing. My pulse doesn't seem to change. It's not unusual for my jaw to have residual pain for hours or even days. This frightens me.

The first attack came about 11 years ago when I was at work. It came on so suddenly and with such force, I thought I was going to die right there. There were no more attacks for over a year. After that first one, there were only two or three a year. Now they're coming much closer together, although not with the same ferocity as before.

It's true that I'm very overweight, but in 1999, I was a healthy weight. I also rode my bike to work most days, and I exercised vigorously five or six days a week. I was fit. Very, very fit. I was very fit until 2005, and then I stopped exercising completely. My point here is that whatever this crushing chest pain is, it did not start as a result of obesity or poor diet.

Health has been on my mind far too long. I'm tired of doctors. Medications irritate me on principle, so I've stopped taking most of them. I'm down to Seasonique, a low dose of lithium, a really low dose of Lamictal, and Emsam about twice a week. I don't see the point of taking an antidepressant indefinitely. At some point, I need to check to see if I am, in fact, clinically depressed.

Dr. G and Dr. S. (the overachiever systemic wellness lady) both wanted me to try medical marijuana and acupuncture. The marijuana didn't help anything--I can't believe I used to love it so.

Acupuncture is expensive. I pay $65 a week to be stuck with needles on my meridians and other special points. It hurts. A lot. At the moment, I have tiny little metal balls stuck in each of my outer ears. This is supposed to activate some healing energy along the vein that represents the pelvis.

Throughout each treatment, Cheryl checks my pulses. They are, apparently, "wiry." Cheryl seems very focused on putting needles in the tops of my feet and my ankles. This is the source of my "element." My element is wood. I am like a tree, strong but also rigid, and with branches going out in every direction. My wood is a little dry, though, so my sub-element is water.

I have no idea what this means and I do sincerely think it's all bullshit.

Cheryl is quite sweet. She's a tiny woman in her late 30's with a funny voice--she sounds exactly like Yeardley Smith. Cheryl is determined to help me, although I'm still not sure what the goal of her treatments is. She hasn't really articulated that.

When the needles are working their magic on my Qi, I'm supposed to concentrate on relaxing and letting go of my burdens. That's hard--$65 per treatment is my burden. I'm supposed to pay attention to the thoughts that surface during this time. Usually those thoughts are something like, "Wow. those needles in my left foot burn like a sonofabitch. I'd like to scratch them, but my hands have needles stuck in them and the needle sticking out of the top of my head seems like it shouldn't be jostled. I wish my nose didn't itch."

I'm giving it three more treatments, but unless I experience miraculous healing, I'm turning my $65-a-week energy to nice shoes instead of needles.

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