Frozen In Fear

hi, just found this support group and am looking forward to interacting. i had a single heart stent 2 years ago, no heart attack, just various symptoms that led to discovery. my situation is mild compared to so many others. yet, i have been frozen in fear as a result. i am just now admitting to myself and others that for the past two years i have been in an anxiety cycle with periods of panic attacks. when the anxiety occurs my mind immediately says heart. when full blown panic hits i'm bombarded with thoughts of dying. i have inappropriate reactions to body sensations like upset stomach or a painful twinge. i've looked for help at panic attack websites/forums since this started. took lexapro awhile and that helped, but all i wanted to do was sleep. getting off that stuff was pure misery.

my lightbulb came on tonight when i realized my anxiety was related to my heart stent so i should be looking for support from people in a like situation. so here i am. ready to meet new friends.

thanks for listening.

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I don't have anxiety or panic attacks but I had a heart attack, we are here.


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I don't think you have to actually have the heart attack to be hit with the emotional impact of living with heart disease. Certainly having a heart attack is a big thing, but I notice the people in my cardiac rehab group were experiencing the same kinds of things emotionally and mentally whether they had the HA or not. Sounds like you have not had the support you needed to deal with this and instead of dealing with the issues surrounding heart disease, your helping has not yet begun. Welcome, there are many here with experiences which may be of great help to you. I know they have helped me.

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Welcome to our site! As someone who has reacted to my heart disease in similar ways, I really recognize your symptoms.
For me- anxiety attacks and anxious preoccupations turned out to be post traumatic stress disorder. Once I figured that out, with the help of my psychotherapist, I started specific talk therapy aimed at getting to the roots of the problem, by learning how to deal with the anxiety, how to feel it all without going completely nuts, and how to develop resources that help me under all kinds of circumstances. The therapy is called EMDR, and involves an eye movement component that is directed by the therapist.
You might want to check it out online. It is NOT a fly-by-night operation. EMDR is one of the most effective treatments for PTSD and other anxiety related disorders. Many insurance companies cover the treatment, and many therapists, in my experience, offer discounts for people who have no or inadequate insurance.
Besides EMDR, it is important to TALK about your experiences-- so I'm very glad that you've arrived here at Inspire. Your problems are not unusual here-- you are in good company, and there IS hope.
(You can check out previous conversations about all this by entering Anxiety or EMDR or PTSD in the "find it" box at the top of this page.)
My best of wishes to you as you enter this realm!

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I, too, have anxiety and panick attacks from my heart condition and the first thing i think of is it's my heart. I'm very new to this, as having only been diagnosed just this past August, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. I just came out of a huge depression with the help of many of the lovely women on this site. This site has been such a lifeline and I hope it is for you, too. Feel free to call on us if you need some uplifting words of encouragement.


Margaret Ann

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thank you so much for the feedback and words of encouragement. i can feel i'm in the right place. just writing and putting into words my feelings without fear of judgement is very refreshing. frykwoman, yes, i know the anxiety stems from issues other than getting a stent. my sister has gone through 3 episodes in 17 years and doesn't have the anxiety i do. i appreciate the info on EMDR and will look into it. i have had counseling in the past. learning how to deal with anxiety? i smile.... and hope i can. this is a beginning and thanks all for the help.

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My anxiety was and is caused by family and doctors dismissing my symptoms as "imaginary." I went through that for 9 months--having chest pain, shortness of breath, my heart and nerves from heart vibrating, racing, palpitating whenever I exercised over 15 minutes--just to be told it was anxiety. Only when I self-referred to a cardiologist was it discovered that I had 99% blockage in my LAD.

I am continuing to have problems. Guess what? Even though doctors and family know that I had the blockage and subsequent stent, they still dismiss it as anxiety.

There seems to be a denial among family that I have heart disease. And, a denial among doctors that they missed something or did something that has caused these symptoms.

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I am new also, this is my first post. I too had a single heart stent last April no heart attack. Two years before that I lost my husband - he had a massive heart attack. The day after he service would have been our 39th anniversay. The stent was my wake up call. This last year I have revamped my diet and started to move more. After reading all of your posts I now realize I have spent this last year fighting my own depression. I am on several new medicines since my stent. I really want to get off them. I do well with my eating and exercising and then it's like I sabotage all of my efforts. I really appreciate all of your posts. I am so glad I found this website. Hbjw1951 thank you for your post - my lightbulb came on this morning!

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I have suffered with panic and anxiety attacks since i was a very small child of 5. The thing with panic attacks is there make your heart race and your mind race which automatically gives the feeling of impending doom. In Nov of 2012 I was diagnosed with an electrical problem that can sometimes be linked to heart disease. I automatically assumed i have heart disease and the panic attacks were on in full force. Its the way our bodies respond to super stress. Mine come on at night while im sleeping and they are sudden. I think that this is it! This is the attack that is going to take me and i envision the paremedics coming and my family seeing this etc. Its a vicious roller coaster. I still have not been completely diagnosed with a heart problem per say but it does not matter for most if there was a heart attack or a heart glitch. It all brings us closer to our own mortality because we all no that the heart is a major organ that we need to be in good shape to live. And if we have a family history of heart problems it adds fuel to the fire. I know it is hard to accept but try to understand that you/we are human and we all know that being faced with a heart issue is worsse then most other ailments. Hang in there and try to relax. God is the only one who really knows our fate and I for one pray alot for me and you.
Hugs and prayers

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I agree with you, Deb. You sound a lot like me. I have suffered since a child, but am just now educating myself about anxiety and panic. Opening up and talking about it is new to me, too. My rational mind knows that my heart is as my doctor put it "strong," but my emotional self is relentless in striking chords of fear. I'm working hard to learn. You guys have really uplifted me today. I am absolutely grateful. I've never been one to ask for help. I think God is telling me I need to and that's why I'm here. From a 60's child... PeACe!

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Yes, we do experience depression from fear of the same happening again, (heart attack patients) and from fear of not being able to do what we are used to doing (congestive heart failure patients). The same emotions may cause us to experience undue panic and may heighten the sensations that lead to the "fear or flight" syndrome.

Heart malfunction can also cause hormonal/chemical changes that chemically cause the body to experience panic and depression, both. I have seen it described, in particular in relation to congestive heart failure, and I have experienced both, as a congestive heart failure patient. So what seem to be emotional issues may also have a very organic cause - describing your feelings of panic or of depression may alert your doctor to a further heart issue of which those may be a symptom.

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Oh yes and I to have been taking zoloft for many years and it is horrible trying to get off.. I get about half way there and WOW!! The panic really hightens. If you are having real bad episodes you may need to talk to your doc again. I found a group that is helpful. When seeing and hearing that you are not the only one who suffers these horrible attacks, it really lightens the load. Sleep gets better and just quality of life. My doctor has said the same thing to me and i am totally dragging my feet. I need to have an angiogram to really see if there is blockages or the start of one or some. I to have been told that a stent would be placed right then and there if needed. I am horrified!!!! I did the c.t. angiogram and it could not be read do to high heart rate. I did Lexiscan which showed a mild abnormality in the LAD. Thats what is now prompting the angiogram concern. I have had many many symptoms that are weird and come and go. I always blame them on panic and anxiety which is the worst thing i can do for my own health. I have a great cardiologist and that helps to. TALK TALK TALK!!! This helps the most. It will set your mind at ease. What ive learned though is that if you need a stent and you did not wait for a heart attack to hit first, it is the best way of longevity that you can ask for given a heart condition. So your one up on alot of unfortunate ones that have had the attack first. I say get on line and get into a panic group or go to an actual panic group and you will feel so much better sooner then you think. :> Your in a good place here to! These ladies are the best and they have been through alot and have lots of experience that will give you ideas and ways to deal with sooooo much. :> Hang in and breathe... People with anxiety tend to hold there breath alot. I for one didnt notice i do it until another panic person told me. I realized.. Omg i hold my breath alot! :0 LOL!! You will be ok... I say pray and breath and ask ask ask!
hugs! Deb

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I was diagosed with heart failure, tho' I have a family history of heart attacks and stents. On top of that, my treatment -- high dosage of Lasix, a contrast CAT scan (the dye is hard on the kidneys) and my over-zealous reaction to "limit fluids" -- landed me back in the hospital 3 days later with kidney failure. So I added fear of my reaction to treatment and confusion (from the kidney failure) to my general anxiety reacting to the my initial diagnosis. For a period of about 3-4 weeks, I was deemed a "fragile patient" with weekly (or more) doctor visits for blood work, home health visits/calls to keep track in between, plus some physical therapy help due to my general weakness.

When I finally admitted my anxiety to my primary doctor, she offered me 10 anxiety pills -- and said that just having them in my purse may help. I refused and she agreed -- with the stipulation that I see a counselor --- otherwise, she would give the prescription anyway. My doctor also reminded me on several occasions that I needed to quit pushing myself so hard while I healed. I really needed that permission to relax a bit.

For me, the combo of short-term counseling, increased strength and confidence from cardiac rehab, lowering my expectations of myself got me through a rough patch. But it took months for me to really start to heal emotionally.

Two books I recommend:
Dr. Wayne Sotile's book "Thriving with Heart Disease" which has a chapter subtitled "85% of heart disease patients are depressed. Why do you think you are different?"

Kathy Kastan's book "From The Heart: A Woman's Guide To Living Well with Heart Disease". Kathy is heavily involved with the WomenHeart organization.


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I do believe you are ahead of the curve in many ways - by that I mean you realize the anxiety and panic are from the heart condition, then the stent! I reached out to a heart group in my area when i was facing getting a stent and was told by the "old guy who had a heart attack" dont worry little lady - you can walk out the next day and nothing will be different.

Finding this group to spill all has been a life saver for me. I feel as if I am finally heard and that has helped a great deal.

I am a mother and grandmother - we ladies pretty much are the caregivers and I find, at least for me, I worry about that part. And, my family sees me as very strong and not really having a health condition...

Glad you found this group.


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Thank you to everyone for these postings. I've just come through 2 weeks of major setbacks every few days. During this time I also just melted down in anxiety. My husband withdrew, my daughter kept talking about focusing on her 3 year old as a reason to live, which made me cry even more. The doctor, while highly skilled in the technical aspects of his job, acted like nothing was going on emotionally. Three doctors pushed me to take drugs which I protested vigorously and then took with disasterous consequences. When one can't breathe, I think anixiety either before/during/after is part of the response.

I've since talked with my husband a lot. His thoughts were: "this guy is good, you're in good hands, what's the big deal, you will be fine" I think he gets it now. I was completely unprepared for 2 cardioversions, 2 drug reactions, 2 major ablation/AV node/PM procedures, and 9 hours under general anesthesia. They pumped the biggest bag of IV fluid into me I've ever seen in my life, gave me Lasix and when immediately out of the procedure a male nurse just told me to "hold it". They started talking to me asking for a response and when I couldn't see, touched my eye, now also have a droopy eyelid and possible corneal damage.

Today is one week and 2 days after recieving a Bi-V PM, I am breathing better, sore as hell (from both groin/leg incisions, neck cathether, wrist cahtether, and more than a 8 IV sites put in me. ) They also took blood 3 times a night most nights. And people just ignored my meltdown as strange. I'm a lapsed Catholic and I asked for a priest and last rites. That helped. My family couldn't believe me.

Now, because this was all out of network, taking place while on a trip, I will get a really big bill for it that may take my retirement savings.

Someone mentioned PTSD, yeah, I think so. Our heart is the seat of our emotions, and my poor baby was very battered. I will get into a rehab program soon, walk a lot and adjust to my more limited life.

In 1996 I had OH surgery, I was prepared and still grieved a lot. I did get beyond the anxiety and stress. It's really important to understand that grief and loss are a big part of what we are dealing with. I wish you well and urge you to do all the things you can to take good care of yourself. The prayer I have is for peace in my heart and for all of you also.

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Hi M'Liz,
You sure have been through a big heart storm! I'd just like you to know that i have a lot of empathy for you in this time of disruption. None of us deserve it. Your reality is YOUR reality. I hear you.

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I hear ya! You've been through the wringer. I give you an A+ for being strong and courageous. Knowing I am more limited now in things I do is okay as that is a part of life. Mentally and emotionally I have to keep going and that's my struggle. Does anyone drink chamomille tea to soothe nerves? I've been reading that its an age old remedy.

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Sounds like you have been through a lot and had people more or less tell you to "get on with it." It isn't that easy. I compare it to the death of a loved one--the stages one goes through are the same: Shock, Denial, Anger, Sorrow, and finally Acceptance. We have just lost our beloved healthy hearts.

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Hi BJ -- Regardless of the causes of panic/anxiety attacks, there are specific techniques you can LEARN to minimize the effects and even (dare I say) cure them. In the 80s I had an ongoing series of panic attacks which I think now were linked to incorrect dieting and the stress of a new, very challenging career. Later, in the early 2000s I again began having these. I too tried various Rx with only very temporary relief. Tried extensive professional counseling, etc.

The one thing that finally helped me was ordering a book by Howard Liebgold, MD, called "Curing anxiety, phobias, shyness and obsessive compulsive disorder". Liebgold suffered through most of his career with these symptoms. I'm not sure if this is still available (you might try or Freedom from Fear (on I hope it is. His book gives a step-by-step understanding of how panic attacks work, why we tend to unknowingly make them worse, and how to apply techniques to manage/minimize them. It's some work....but these techniques work. I hope you can find a copy of this book. (It's also written in a very easy, loving way!). Good luck. Hugs, laurali

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If you really want to get off anti-depressants, there are a lot of websites that offer online support for that. Here are some:

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Hi Heart Sis,

The most effective treatment for PTSD is EMDR. It's a form of therapy and it is used with war veterans, too. It's about re-arousing your fear and body sensations and emotions in therapy, and the therapist leads you through bi-lateral eye movements, bi-lateral hand buzzers or a bi-lateral light bar while "processing" the emotions. What happens is they are usually reduced, the "stuck" fear in the brain is dissipated, and you repeat this process until your symptoms are reduced. Then, positive associations that you choose and define are in a sense "installed" during the same process. This process can completely remove your bodily arousal, emotions and unplessant sensations. It is actually very healthy for your body and your mind to do this - as your body does not thrive better with recurrent or just medicated anxiety and trauma. If you are interested, search EMDR in the white field. You will see that some of us have used it. Some found it very effective and a couple didn't. I would hope that the reason for this is maybe it was a less than able therapist/practitioner who didn't do the full protocols.

All the best, Mary

PS - the title FROZEN IN FEAR pretty much describes PTSD. That is why I responded.

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The information provided by this online support network through WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and Inspire is for general informational purposes only. The information is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you are ill, or suspect that you are ill, see a doctor immediately. In an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease never recommends or endorses any specific physicians, products or treatments for any condition.