I remember vaguely, that it was a cold day, I believe it was in February and our sliding doors were being replaced in the apartment I was living it at the time. The smell of the caulking they used became very noxious to me and for some reason sent me into a panic attack. To me, that is the moment that stuck out the most as the beginning of my nightmare. I had never had a panic attack before, and forgive me if this was not the first point at which it happened but it’s the first point of which I remember feeling complete dread.
My throat seemed to have this feeling that felt like I was breathing through a heavy fabric, it felt like I had to control my breathing. So much so, that it became a complex. I felt like I had to control my breathing, or else, I wouldn’t breathe. The sensation was perplexing, disconcerting and freaked me the hell out. I wish I could describe it better. At this time, I still didn’t have a general physician.
You would think your bed would provide you comfort, but now going to bed became nothing but fear. Because of this sensation in my throat, I couldn’t stop focusing on it, I started to do something called over-breathing. I couldn’t catch my breath, I was getting pain all over, wasn’t sure at times if I was having a heart attack or I was just in a panic. During this time, it was my relationship breaking down as well, but at that time, between being panicked I was also depressed, so mentally I was very broken in every way. I personally felt that what was happening to me was not being taken seriously by my spouse at the time.
Thankfully I didn’t live far away from the hospital, but going to the hospital was tough mentally for me as I hate being there, waiting forever to see anyone, knowing I’d have a billion needles to deal with as they were trying to figure out what was wrong with me. They ended up setting me up with a counselor as ‘they’ were convinced that it was the breakdown of my relationship that was causing the problem. This is where I see there is a major issue in getting appropriate healthcare, they automatically think that when women have stuff going wrong they believe it to be mental. This bias also exists with female doctors/nurses, not just male doctors.
What became of that hospital visit wasn’t much, I don’t think they gave my anything that I can remember. They said I either had very high or very low potassium at the time. I convinced myself that maybe it was just in my head, how my throat felt. At some point though, I found myself calling a crisis line because I had a panic attack that literally didn’t let up for 12 hours, possibly almost 24. I didn’t get any relief until I was given some lorazepam (Ativan) while I was at urgent care. Soon after taking it, I was able to sleep, finally without worrying about not being able to breathe or worry about that sensation in my throat.
Let it be known that it was the feeling in my throat that caused this, my reaction to it, not knowing what was wrong was what worried me extremely. Then sensation caused me to try to breathe differently to try and avoid the odd sensation in my throat. They tried to diagnose me with ‘Globus Hystaricus’ another assumption that it was in my head. The amount of time I had to spend trying to get my doctors to actually send me to a specialist was mind boggling. I was eventually set up with seeing a Gastroenterologist. Even when I had the appointment set up, it still took quite some time to be able to see her.
I had a way to somewhat manage the panic attacks, but I did have trouble getting my hands on Lorazepam due to restrictions. But, let me tell you every night that I went to bed it was a fight, I had to learn to control my panic attacks. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes I wasn’t. Somewhere I remember reading that increasing your carbon dioxide intake helped to slow you down. So there would be times I would fall asleep with my face in a pillow, or at an odd position. The pillow would be used to diffuse my breathing and increase the amount of carbon dioxide in my blood stream. This corrects the over breathing, at least for me. It’s similar to using a paper bag, but I find this more comforting.
A few months down the road, I ended up having my upper endoscopy by the Gastroenterologist. They found out I had something called eosinophils in my throat and said I had Eosinophilic Esophagitis, and it sounded freaky as shit. They prescribed me some stomach medication and a steroid that was meant for being breathed in, but I had to swallow it to coat my throat. I was also given an inhaler. It was all part of the plan to heal my throat, but they didn’t know if the eosinophils in my throat were temporary or it was now something that was going to be a lifelong condition. My throat was one step away from getting Barrett’s Esophagus.
My throat did get better, as I had a follow-up endoscopy and my eosinophil count had gone down. But this whole fiasco basically left me with a hyped up nervous system. Prior to actually having my problems addressed, I was given anxiety medication to deal with the problem that nobody thought I was having. So now I was on these medications, I hated being on them. Something about my body’s ability to cope finally broke away. It wasn’t the initial treatment for the issue that I had, it was what I was given because there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with me before.
I will say that I always had a propensity to worry about my health, probably because I knew that drinking pop was very bad for me, but every time I tried to get away from drinking it I failed badly. I mentally broke down, I couldn’t handle it and the best I can tell, it’s what I’ve been using to deal with pretty much any issue in my life, it was (and still is) my nicotine. I’ve been able to get away without having the caffeine, but it seems the sugar and the fact that I hate drinking anything else made it difficult to quit.
There was an overall theory that the eosinophilic esophagitis was caused by LPR (laryngopharyngeal reflux) which is an extension of GERD. It’s where the acid reaches the esophagus. Truthfully, I’m not sure the doctors knew exactly how or why and until there is more research done we’ll just all keep getting fed medication that has long term issues. In my case though, I think it was probably due to having my gallbladder removed a few years earlier and that in fact it was bile that was causing the problem. But at this point I don’t think I’ll ever know.