The Power of Hormones
Hormones can be hell. Hormones can be sexy. Hormones can be anxiety provoking. Hormones can be depressing. Hormones can be calming. Hormones run your entire bodily functions. Hormones can make you feel like you are having a heart attack.
Yesterday was my DAY 14 – which if you recall is usually the time of ovulation and when progesterone should be spiking. Here’s the chart:
Yesterday was the day that progesterone spike you see in the chart should have been happening for me. I wish it had but I believe it didn’t. There’s no real way to know what was happening with my progesterone but do you think it is coincidental that when my progesterone should have been spiking, instead My Beloved was calling 9-1-1. My Beloved and I thought I was having a heart attack. It was scary and real and physiological. One minute laughing at a hilarious comedy the next minute a heart attack. This is the Power of Hormones.
My Toes and My Nose – Here’s what happened:
We were having a relaxing, hang-out-in-your-pj’s New Years Day kind of a day. While watching a movie I suddenly noticed that my feet were completely devoid of color. I called to My Beloved – “Oh my God look at my feet! They look like dead-guy feet!” It was gross and creepy – I’ve never seen my skin that color. I jumped up and started bouncing around to get circulation moving. It bugged me but the color came back and we had a bit of brunch and went back to watching our comedy.
All of a sudden I sat up and reached for my nose, “Oh my God, I’m not feeling well! Call 9-1-1”, I called to My Beloved who was sitting right beside me. My nose went completely numb, my fingers and toes quickly followed. My Beloved took one look at me and to him it was no longer just my feet that looked like a “dead-guy” – I had no color. I started to shake and my heart went crazy. As he searched for his phone, I told him “I’m having a heart attack”. I just sat still holding my heart trying to breathe normally but I couldn’t. I tried to remember from my first aid training what to do when you think you’re having a heart attack. I was overhearing the phone conversation with the dispatcher and My Beloved. When my heart raced hard, I called to him “Tell them to “put a rush” on the ambulance. The dispatcher would know what I meant – I needed those paramedics fast. My ears were straining for the slightest sound of sirens. I thought they wouldn’t get there soon enough – any second I was going to fall down dead.
As sure as I’m sitting here writing this, they did arrive. And as swiftly as anything those paramedics, Michael and I wish I’d gotten the beautiful woman’s name – she was like a angel – had my heart hooked up and were relaying to me the information I needed. As it turns out – there was no heart attack at all – my heart had the most beautiful rhythm they’d ever seen! They showed me and my vital signs were normal. I was in absolute shock and so was My Beloved – I looked like a dead-guy and I felt like a dying heart attack patient – how could that be? Well here’s the proof:
My body went into fight-or-flight response. This excerpt from the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Centre of Los Angeles explains what was happening in my body. “The cardiovascular activation by the sympathetic nervous system produces an increase in heart rate and strength of the heartbeat. This is crucial in preparation for fight or flight because it pumps blood more rapidly to the needed areas of the body. The vital areas blood is immediately sent to are, the thighs, biceps and other muscles, which assist in preparing for action. Blood is taken away from areas like the fingers and toes because if the organism is gravely injured, it is less likely to bleed to death. This is the reason why individuals experiencing a panic attack often report having cold, clammy hands and tingling sensations in their feet and toes.
The respiratory effect produced by the sympathetic nervous system also has a pertinent function. The deep, accelerated breathing helps in the preparation for fight or flight by getting the tissues of the human body more needed oxygen. The side effects of this action are of course, choking sensations, smothering, tightness in the chest and most importantly, because the blood to the head is decreased by heavy breathing, feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness. It can also cause what was described earlier as a sense of derealization –a feeling of unreality and confusion.”
Here are the list of symptoms of a Panic Attack:
Criteria for Panic Attacks according to the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders):
- palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- trembling or shaking
- sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- feeling of choking
- chest pain or discomfort
- nausea or abdominal distress
- feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
- derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself)
- fear of losing control or going crazy
- fear of dying
- parasthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
- chills or hot flashes
My day ending being discharged from the hospital 6 hours later with a clear bill of health and a little Ativan under the tongue to reduce my anxiety. I went home and My Beloved, who stayed by my side the entire time, offered to give me a bath in Progesterone. Talk about temptation! But as tempting as that idea was, instead he made me a cup of tea and my “good old” dose of progesterone.
Here’s the thing – a doctor that doesn’t know me in emergency probably believes I have a Panic Disorder. My own doctor KNOWS that going off my hormones has created this entire roller coaster ride. When I call my doctor today he will not offer me more Ativan (though I may ask for some to keep on hand until my hormones are straightened out). So Panic Disorder is listed as a Mental Illness in the DSM-IV and it may very well need to be exactly there. But where’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Endocrine Disorders? Stigma-schmigma I don’t have a Panic Disorder I have an endocrine disorder….but that’s another post for another day. We’ll talk about my feelings on that soon.
If you know someone who suffers from Panic disorder please let them know about a culprit they may never have considered: their hormones.