When mental becomes physical

Years ago I rushed myself to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. Although I’m relatively young, I am overweight, female, and Black. Years of drinking and drugging put me at an increased risk for heart problems… so off to the hospital I went.
My heart was racing, my chest tightened more and more every few minutes. I was sure I was dying as I had felt a few sharp pains in my heart. I was scared and murmuring prayers as the doctors hooked me up to their monitors.
After some time had passed, I started to feel better as my chest opened up, and I could breathe freely again. A young male doctor with a kind face, and gentle disposition came and sat on the end of my bed. He surprised me by saying that I had not just suffered from a heart attack, but a panic attack…also known as an anxiety attack. I was shocked because I had never dealt with anything mental health related, but I was confused. How could something that is supposed to be mental mimic the physical symptoms of a heart attack?
The doctor told me that the body tenses during these attacks as a response to stress in order to protect you from danger. These things happen as your body misinterprets anxiety and responds with its flight or fight response of physical changes like the shallow breathing. Your body does this so it can take in more oxygen. The doctor told me that these attacks last about 20 minutes and that I could beat these attacks and learn my triggers with therapy, and by learning coping skills, as well as taking some medication.
This is one of my first memories of dealing with mental health and realizing that it’s not all in my head. Mind, body, spirit­ — they are all connected and deserve your attention.
I still suffer from these attacks, but now they happen a couple of times a year. I work with a psychiatrist to guide me through my ever-changing mental health. If you have anxiety I urge you to research and try coping skills such as breathing exercises and meditation to manage your stress levels. If it worked for me, it can definitely help you too.

Issues |Addiction|Health, Mental

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