Chapter 73: “Anxiety Resurgence”
Jump to a Chapter:
“I could sure use a drink right about now” is something I should have told myself during all of 2007. The year was not kind to me in the slightest. It all began in the first desolate few months of the year as the winter winds howled on well into April. I had purchased a Little Caesar’s pizza kit from one of my managers at work and as we cooked it while watching The Prestige, I realized that my memory isn’t what it used to be. As a matter of fact, my memory in regards to numbers, names, faces, and more was exponentially stronger the year before I was diagnosed with Leukemia. It’s ironic that I would remember the moment I realized my memory was faulty but worry about remembering specific things properly. Wait; was it The Prestige or The Illusionist? Great.
I wondered how much of this memory loss was my own undoing? Were my several attempts at making peace with weed my mental downfall or was it the chemotherapy? And by the same token, was I really to blame for my hair loss by pulling out clump after clump while under the initial effects of the same chemo or was it merely my family’s genetics?
2007 was one of the worst years of my life. I was more anxious than ever before despite losing my virginity and starting a better-paying job. But money only made it worse as financial strife exacerbated my anxiety and the subsequent ER visits only propelled that issue to new heights. I hadn’t smoked in over a year and yet, I was slowly but surely returning to my old ways; in both anxiety and smoking weed.
The panic attacks of 2007 were fierce. It got so ruthless that I resumed my old bit of emergency room visits. I didn’t need to go to the ER every time I had a panic attack, no, those trips were reserved for the worst of the worst. I had my first ER visit at EMMC before I worked there. Late one night in early February, I sped down to the hospital and admitted myself. I told them I was high and needed help and they just let me sit there and sweat it out. Again – just like before – I knew I was going to die that night; I felt it. Still, I paced in the waiting room until the Triage nurse checked me in.
Soon after, I was able to control my breathing and my heart rate returned to a somewhat reasonable level. The nursing staff asked me if I had someone to drive me home. I lied and said yes and just drove the half-mile back to my apartment.
I received the bill for these services later in the month. It was over $1,000. It was yet another pile atop the pile that I had to figure out how to pay.
The second ER visit of the year was in May, a month after I began to work there. I worried that these people would recognize me this time around as I would occasionally deliver food trays down to their unit. Luckily, I didn’t recognize anyone. I went through the same process. I went in thinking I was going to die, waited for what seemed like an eternity in the waiting room then left the ER hours later utterly embarrassed. I worked the next day, exhausted from the ordeal and sure enough, I had to deliver more trays to the emergency department.
It was early enough that the very same workers who treated me were finishing up their twelve-hour shifts. I saw one of the nurses who checked on me throughout the night and turned the corner to avoid coming face to face with her. As I turned around, the secretary that checked me in the night before was the one at the desk and I looked down at the tray as if I was “checking it over” and set the trays down, avoiding eye contact.
“Thank you,” she offered.
“You’re welcome,” I blurted as fast as possible. I turned on my heel and booked it out of there.
But the anxiety attacks only grew fiercer as the months went on. By July, I had experienced the worst one yet. This one felt different than the last. I really KNEW this time I was dead. I went through the same ordeal once more but this time my heart rate wasn’t slowed by the admission and the comfort of the hospital bed. No, in fact, the staff was baffled by my blood pressure and heart rate. The blood pressure had climbed to 150/110 and my beats per minute quickly surpassed the two hundred mark. I was dangerously close to having a heart attack or stroke.
They gave me some Ativan and I finally calmed down. Actually, I crashed for a few hours. I awoke to the nurses “checking up on me.” They needed more room and surely wanted to kick me out. This wasn’t a place for an anxiety-raddled young man to sleep off an episode. I again wore my embarrassment on my face and climbed out of the bed and into my car to drive home.
Because of these frequent visits, my debt to the hospital grew to unnecessary levels. I let some of them get too far behind and off they went to collections. My credit score dropped to a paltry number and I worked more and more overtime to pay them back as best as I could.
Between the bills and the anxiety, my only solace came in the form of photography. This was a year of extreme growth in my passion and talent. It’s funny; I could see the worst in myself: pain, fear, hopelessness, and yet, I could still find beauty in the mundane, in the minute.
But it didn’t stop my anxiety or my ER visits. I took one last trip for the year to Eastern Maine Medical Center’s emergency services on December 1st. Thankfully, it couldn’t hold a candle to the previous experience but it was bad enough (in my mind) to spend more wasteful money.
2007 was undoubtedly one of my most impactful years. I should have seen this coming. During my final weeks of college at the University of Maine, I made a “one-minute” video for my Computer Graphics course and based it on the anxious side of my personality. It was about a man who experiences a panic attack and blames it on his homework assignments. It was rather “dickish” in hindsight.
I knew that I had to stop smoking weed and get my hysteria under control and so, I retrained myself to utilize the old breathing techniques I had perfected a few years ago during my last difficult period. Slowly, but surely, they began to work but I knew that the war wasn’t over.
Not by a longshot.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.
Jump to a Chapter: