02 January, 2014

Making Adjustments...

... for a better life. It's a new year, what better time to change things up? Let me back up and give you some history as to what precipitated the adjustments that I am making in my daily life. On the 26th of October last year I woke up with such terrific chest pressure and pain, plus shortness of breath; I was absolutely convinced that I was having a heart attack! The next few hours saw no relief after taking some aspirin; I was scared (okay, petrified!) and after a short discussion with my husband I agreed to a quick trip to the emergency department of our local hospital. I was seen immediately. After four hours on a heart monitor and a barrage of tests I was sent home with the reassurance that my heart and lungs were just fine. I was given two recommendations ( Prilosec in case I was suffering from GERD and Motrin for the chest pain) along with strict advice to see my own primary care physician as soon as possible. It was a relief to know that I wasn't having a heart attack, but I still didn't really understand what was happening. I went on a 14 day regimen of Prilosec and took Motrin as needed for pain, and over those next few weeks I began to feel better. I hoped that might be the end of the symptoms. I saw my family doctor in the meantime and he concluded a few things: 1. I did the exact right thing in going to the E.D., scary things always need to be eliminated first. 2.  he explained that the recommendations of Prilosec and Motrin were broad strokes to cover my symptoms without really getting to the bottom of the situation. He felt that I might be suffering from stress-induced Costochondritis; a harmless condition with acute  chest wall pain that could be recurring. We talked about that and the symptoms for awhile and he suggested that I go home and do some research on the condition; especially looking for the triggers associated with flare-ups. By this time I had had a second bout and was willing to figure out what I could do, if anything, to change things and get back to normal.
My father has cautioned me for years about burning the candles at both ends. I knew he was right and  I gave up a few responsibilites where I could and learned to say "no"; albeit weakly and half-heartedly. I read everything that I could about Costochondritis and absorbed every associated fact, like a sponge. Still, I had two more attacks, the most recent one coming on December 20th in the car on the way back from lunch with friends. The only thing that works to treat the pain is rest, Motrin and a heat pack on my chest. I spent a full two days in bed this time. It was clear the time had come, once and for all, to take more drastic action. That evening I told my husband that I was giving up coffee from now on. That may seem trivial to you, but if you know me you would realize that this is a HUGE step. (Think: giving up quilting or sewing!) Coffee and I have been inseperable for years; actually, my entire adult life. Both of the last two attacks came after two cups of coffee. It was a start. I was worried about the inevitable caffiene withdrawal headache and decided to switch to tea, at a third the caffiene level per cup it seemed like a logical step-down. I haven't looked back and I never had even one headache as a result. Again, if you knew me you would realize this is a major lifestyle change. I told my husband that we needed to start walking for exercise again, ever since that first attack at the end of October we hadn't been walking at all; the Costochondritis was promoting a viscious cycle of inactivity that was working against me. I began sleeping in later in the mornings, an additional hour to an hour and a half... another MAJOR adjustment for me! These were three triggers that I had stumbled upon, all ones that I was guilty of pulling every single day, like a loaded gun pointed straight at my own head. Too much caffiene through coffee, not enough exercise and not enough sleep; all risk factors contributing to stress and my condition. I still needed to do something about conscious relaxation. My sister-in-law pointed me in the direction of breathwork techniques by Dr. Andrew Weil. She happened to have a copy of his CD and loaned it to me; in it there is a lecture about breathing correctly and exercises to practice relaxation through breathwork. This is a practice known by yoga experts, but it was all new to me.What did I have to lose? Breathing is free and I have to do it anyway; so, I began dedicating a few minutes each day to relaxation breathing and practicing the techniques prescribed by Dr. Weil to make every breath a more conscious and deliberate action that improves focus, general overall health and well-being. Each one of these steps is a small one (yet, some just seem very large to me!) but, combined, they do seem to be making a positive difference. I feel good, very good; this isn't something that I would have (or could have) said over the last few months. You may have noticed periods of blog absence from me and a marked reduction of comments and visits to your blogs, for that I apologize; I simply haven't been up to it. As of today, I seem to have turned a corner. I am keeping a journal now on what I eat/drink and jotting down any activity or emotional stress that could possibly promote more of the symptoms, I am quite familiar with the early onset twinges and so far being aware of those and taking corrective action ( relaxation breathing) by  has worked in averting another full-fleged attack. Keep your fingers crossed along with me. I don't know if this is the end of all of this for me or not, but one thing that I do know is that I am working to effect change and I've never felt better with the adjustments that I have made. Time will tell. I know this has been a long post, if you've hung in for all of this you're to be commended; or, maybe, you've been suffering from something similar and are interested in practicing your own preventative cure. I do firmly believe that we can be our own best health advocates by taking better care of ourselves, reading the signs posted by our own bodies and paying attention to them. After all it's our life and our life alone... and, as I keep telling you:
Life is Good!
...it really, really, is!

25 comments:

Janet O. said...

What scary things have been happening to you! I am so sorry you have had to deal with all of this. I applaud your efforts to make a difference in your well being. I am not a coffee drinker, but I know how hard it can be to give up. Good for you. I will keep you in my prayers and hope that the steps you are taking continue to make a difference!

KaHolly said...

Sounds as though you are on the right track. So sorry you are having this medical challenge. It IS scary! Will be thinking of you.

straythreads said...

I'm a coffee addict too and sometimes I think about what it would be like to quit I guess I'll get on the eliptcal too cold to walk -6 and dropping

Ancestor Collector said...

Back in February and March, I had weeks of tachycardia (racing heart), elevated blood pressure, a strange sensation of pressure and fluttering in my neck and chest, and heartburn. I had a full cardiac work-up, an endoscopy, and a lot of bloodwork all of which turned out to be normal. Diagnosis: ANXIETY! I didn't feel anxious or depressed, I'm not a coffee drinker or consumer of much caffeine, and life was good but I do tend to be a worrier. After much consideration and investigation, I finally agreed to start taking Celexa, an antidepressant with an anti-anxiety component. I also made life-style changes like ramping up exercise and making healthier eating choices my routine. After a while, I realized I was sleeping so much better, my symptoms lessened, and I discovered I wasn't worrying about the small stuff anymore. Amazing! I was also told by two physicians that around the age of 60 (yup, that's us!!), women can start to contemplate their own mortality. That magic number makes us much more concerned about our health. For some, it brings positive health changes, for others, like me, it brought on the fear of dying young. I was my own worst enemy! Now I'm much more relaxed, healthier, and my worries don't consume me. You're smart to listen to your body and make positive changes. Good for you! Prayers for continued good health, my friend!

Ancestor Collector said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen Newman Fridy said...

Goodness I didn't realize you had been going through all this! That had to have been so scary!! Glad it was not heart related and that you are taking steps to clear your plate a bit (says the person who blow-torches the candle...but I'm learning to say no too :)

There is a lot to fill your plate with: grandchildren, church, friends, quilting...but the most important thing to put on your plate is taking good care of yourself. Thanks for sharing your story <3

Janet said...

Very Interesting! I believe I might have had something similar a few years ago and at a time when stress was high and the consumption of coffee and diet Pepsi was a crutch. On my own, I learned to do some deep breathing and cut back on the caffeine. Now if I feel the least bit anxious, I do those things again for several days and I feel better.

It is scary stuff, and my heart goes out to you that you've been dealing with this. I'm happy you seem to have gotten things under control! And it is nice to know I'm in good company !

Paula, the quilter said...

Oh dear. Now I understand your comment when I said I had to give up dairy. Isn't it funny how we need to be our own medical detective at times? You take care of yourself now.

Nancy, Near Philadelphia said...

Oh, sweetie, you have been through a TIME! Years ago I had a bout of costochondritis brought on by the intense coughing produced by my bronchitis. I didn't like it one bit. I am glad you are on the mend.

Mama Spark said...

Wowsa, so sorry to hear you have been dealing with this! I am happy to hear that you are finding ways to deal with it. I wish I could sleep in longer!! Only a few more years. Take care my friend!

45th Parallel Quilter said...

Take care of yourself ... you have lots of family and friends who love you and who you are important to. Do what the doctors order ... moving you up my prayer list for a quick recovery! God bless you. Linda

MARCIE said...

Sounds like you have really had a scare and your plans for changes are good ones. I sure hope these attacks stop. So sorry you have been hurting. The process of aging really stinks. But at least you look really good!
Hugs!

Kelly said...

I had to scale back on coffee due to insomnia. I also gave up caffeinated tea. A small step, but once made, I feel better too! So glad you are feeling better!

Marilyn said...

Great news that you are feeling better with the changes you have made. Take care of yourself
and everything else will fall into place. Prayers
that you continue to improve.

Quiltdivajulie said...

GOOD for you for being proactive going forward - sending you an e-mail shortly. HUGS!

regan said...

I so glad you've found the solutions, and they are doable! And I'm going to check out that dvd of Weil's.....sounds good!

Needled Mom said...

That had to be terrifying! I'm glad there was a solution to it. I drink decaf after some irregular heartbeats and I really have gotten used to it now. It was a major adjustment at first though so I feel for you!

Patricia said...

I've never heard of this but I'm glad you've been able to solve the problem or ID the causes. I'm dealing with an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure that started around Thanksgiving. Have ECG coming up and not looking forward to the results.

stitchinpenny said...

Please continue to respond now before permanent damage is done. I speak from the wrong side of the problem. I have a different problem that I always thought I would take care of properly when I had time, but when I had time the solution no longer exists.

CarlaHR said...

So sorry to hear that you have had to o through this but good to know that it is a harmless condition (not enjoyable while it is happening I am sure). You have taken the necessary steps to deal with it and with a bit more thinking about yourself and turning down requests for help from others hopefully it is now a thing of the past.
I will try to follow your excellent example and eliminate the things which I know (all too well)are not good for me.

jude's page said...

Hope you are doing well, very interesting post, lots to think about, sometimes it is hard to take the time to think about ourselves.

Impera Magna said...

Thanks for sharing this scary and eye-opening experience with us. Reminds me that I need to think about ways to slow down and relax in 2014...

Hope all continues to go well for you!


Brenda Hanes said...

I'm so glad you're taking steps to feel better - and that it was not a heart attack. That had to be very frightening. Take care!

LizA. said...

oh my! I can't even BEGIN to imagine life without coffee--yes, I'm a coffee addict and a coffee snob to boot. I can only imagine how scary all this has been. Was giving up coffee a suggestion made by your doctor?

I hope that 2014 brings you nothing but good health.

Laura Davies said...

Wow! Good luck with all of your changes. Hope things work out well for you:)