Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Miracle Cure

Rejoice - you can happily disregard all my previous emails about chostochondritis. In a moment of blinding clarity, I have in my possession the miracle cure.

It all began on Sunday night; I'd had a relatively pain-free day which involved only two baths. I was sitting watching Being Human on BBC3 and suddenly began to feel terrible. The left hand side of my chest felt as though it had locked up, and I could feel a huge pressure on my sternum - as though somebody was pressing down hard on my heart. I tried to convince myself it was another panic attack, but simply couldn't calm down - every passing breath caused the pain in my chest to flare up. The sensation was unlike any of my previous attacks; my breathing was laboured and I felt terrible.

I rang NHS direct. The atrophied sensible bit of my brain suspected this was a panic attack, but I thought if I could describe the symptoms to somebody qualified, they could at least put my mind at rest. If it was a panic attack, it was definitely the worst one I've had yet.

I spoke to somebody on their helpdesk who in turn put me through to a nurse. I described my symptoms; that I'd felt like this for a good 30-40 minutes and that my arms were clammy and there was a huge pressure on my chest. The symptoms weren't passing with time - in fact I was feeling worse than I did half an hour ago. They said they'd get my doctor to call me back, but it was our local walk in centre that did so. They told me to get along there so they could check me over, just to make sure everything was okay.

After sitting in the waiting room for around half an hour, the symptoms were passing. The pain was still in my chest, but wasn't half as bad as it had been. My breathing had almost mostly returned to normal.

I went in to see the Doctor and this is where the moment of clarity happened. He asked me what the problem was and I explained that with hindsight I'd just had a very bad panic attack. And this is where the key to my entire problem was revealed in one short sentence;

"Perhaps in future you should just take a few deep breaths and don't waste peoples time by ringing them".

Mystery solved. As a solution, it's perfect. It's clearly way up there with telling people with depression to snap out of it.

And now, as if by magic, I'm magically better. Well, all except for the terrible pressure over my heart and the shifting pain that moves between my shoulders, side and back. And the awful headaches and horrible imposing feel of dread that accompanies every waking minute. I know the symptoms are made worse by panic - but try telling my body that when it's busy firing all the adrenaline it can and kicking off my fight or flee response.

Roll on Friday when I go to see my GP about getting an appointment for councelling to see about pain management, where I'll hopefully speak with somebody a little more understanding.


  1. Dave, the bloke at the walk-in centre is an utter wanker. Panic attacks are almost indistinguishable from cardiac arrest when they are at their worst.

    Never ignore a seriously painful attack, even if it means some jumped-up little jobsworth tries to make up for his lack of soul by shouting at a scared human being who is in excruiciating pain. It's better to be checked over properly and waste five minutes of people's time than find yourself seriously ill because you ignored the warning signs.


  2. What you just described is the first stage of MTFU therapy.

    You can probably guess the next step.

  3. I've tried the MTFU therapy for nearly four months now; it doesn't seem to work :)


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