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Stress-induced heart trouble... how can I control this?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
As some of you know from another thread, we just found out that my 86-year-old father probably has a large cancer in his liver, and we're caught up now in the series of tests and meetings that will lead us to whatever can be done about that. So we're all under terrible tension right now.

I'm the one who has to handle all this for my folks, so I've absolutely GOT to stay clear-headed and competent. But ever since we got this news, I've been having intense heart palpitations -- nothing really different from what I sometimes have normally, so I don't think they're life-threatening or anything, but now they're so strong and so near-constant that I often feel weak and shaky and disoriented.

I can't think or focus, I have no short-term memory at all... and here I am on the site at this hour, unable to sleep, even though I have to take Papa in for his biopsy early in the morning. This anxiety is making it impossible for me to keep up with the life-and-death issues I'm trying to deal with here, and I can't afford to make a mistake!

Does anyone have any ideas for getting this under control? I was taught to tense up and hold my breath when my heart starts thumping this way, and that used to work -- but now it has no effect at all. Are there any other tricks for this kind of trouble?
post #2 of 21
if they have changed, you need to see a doc
normaly i would suggest something to work out the stress. but in your case,i really think you need to see someone .
post #3 of 21
I'm sure this is probably not what you want to hear right now....but I have to agree with Bruce on this one. If your heart symptoms have changed, or what used to work is no longer working for you, you really need to have it checked out by a medical professional. I could be something as simple as taking a mild tranquilizer before bed, to assure you get a good night's sleep. I know when I'm stressed to the max, the first thing to go is my sleep. Everything is like a house of cards for me when my sleep is affected. Your parents need you very much right now, so you need to take care of yourself! You are in my prayers Carol...I know you must be worried sick, both about your father and about your own health. ~~~Hugs~~~
post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolPetunia View Post
now they're so strong and so near-constant that I often feel weak and shaky and disoriented.

I can't think or focus, I have no short-term memory at all... and here I am on the site at this hour, unable to sleep, even though I have to take Papa in for his biopsy early in the morning. This anxiety
Go see your doctor!

Anxiety and stress do horrible things to our body and obviously you have more on your plate than you can physically and mentally deal with and your body is telling you that and starting to "break".

Go see your doctor. He may put you on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication for a period of time. That is not a bad thing given the fact that you have so much stress going on right now that you can't even function properly. That's no way to live Please.... go see your doctor.
post #5 of 21
I agree - get yourself to a doctor. I'm also the "go to" person in my family and that by itself causes a tremendous amount of stress. I've had to force myself to let go and let others help me. As hard as it will be for you, reach out right now and ask for help. If you are ill, you will be absolutely no use to anyone around you. Your first priority has to be yourself right now. When you are well, you can take over again.

Have you contacted a home hospice group in your area? They provide a tremendous amount of support in situations like this. And they will be the first to tell you that the caretakers have to take care of themselves first.

Healing to you Carol!!
post #6 of 21
Carol, I'm with everyone else on this one. You need to go see your doctor. Now. I know how difficult it is to find time for yourself at a time like this, but you absolutely have to make time to do it. If not for yourself, then so you can make sure you're healthy enough to care for your dad.

Momofmany has a very good idea in contacting your area hospice group. They have a wealth of resources that can be invaluable at times like these. Hospice helped us get through the illness, and eventual passing, of my FIL about two years ago. I don't know how the family would have done it without them, especially my SIL, who was his primary caregiver.

Hang in there, Carol. We're all praying for you.
post #7 of 21
That's what I've been getting post heart surgery, it's called atrial fibrillation. Things like stress set it off, and your heart starts beating a little irregularly, which means it's not working as efficiently. Then because your heart isn't working as efficiently, you'll be getting tired, light headed, your heart possibly feels as though it's beating so strong it's going to beat out of your chest and you'll just generally feel unwell.

It's not life threatening - in my case they didn't do anything about it, since it's just a post surgery symptom, and it's already feeling much better.

In your case, try to find a way to calm yourself down. Put on some music you like, and just sit down with your eyes closed, and concentrate on your favourite place - the beach, garden, whatever it is that relaxes you. If you start to feel the anxiety coming on, do something else to take your mind off it. You need to be strong for your dad, and worrying about it isn't going to change a thing, except make you more tired. This may be the end for your father, and it sounds like you need to find a way to accept that. Sit down with a friend or family member and just get it all off your chest.

If that doesn't work, talk to a doctor about anti-anxiety meds - I think it's best to deal with the cause first though.
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Natalie_ca View Post
Go see your doctor!
Please.... go see your doctor.
...this is the best advice.......I don´t have that experience my friend and would be nice that you go to the Doctor...
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahp View Post
That's what I've been getting post heart surgery, it's called atrial fibrillation. Things like stress set it off, and your heart starts beating a little irregularly, which means it's not working as efficiently. Then because your heart isn't working as efficiently, you'll be getting tired, light headed, your heart possibly feels as though it's beating so strong it's going to beat out of your chest and you'll just generally feel unwell.
It's not necessarily AFib, it could also be SVT. Definately go see your Dr. Their the one's that can tell you whats going on.
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your advice... I'm sorry I disappeared last night, but my father woke up and called for me and I just never made it back.

I think these symptoms are probably just what Sarah said... or maybe it's just an ongoing panic attack that comes and goes all day. Whatever it is, it's pretty scary.

But I had an EKG just a couple of weeks ago, in preparation for my lap-band surgery on February 1st, and it didn't show anything wrong. I hate to bring it up with the doctor -- what if they cancel my surgery? I'm convinced that this surgery is my only real hope of a normal life... and I've got to get healthy so I can take care of my father, and so I can support my mom if, heaven forbid, Papa goes away.

I feel quite a bit better tonight -- my father's liver biopsy went fine today, and that was a relief. We won't know any more until Tuesday, when we meet with the oncologist again. Maybe between now and then, I can calm down. But if this continues... okay, I'll take your advice.

Thank you all so much... it's so nice to have people to just TELL about it sometimes.
post #11 of 21
My EKG was normal as well, if it is A Fib, you'd have to wear a 24 hour monitor to pick it up - they didn't even bother with me, since they wouldn't do anything anyway.

It sounds like it's just stress, especially since you've been feeling better today after the biopsy went fine. Definitely tell your doctor about it, it's not something you should keep from them if you're going in for surgery, no matter how much you want the surgery. They'll probably agree that it's just stress induced, but they need to know.

Take care of yourself
post #12 of 21
I would definitely tell the doctor. Wasn't there some famous person whose mother just died because she had a surgery she probably shouldn't have?

It's very possible they are panic attacks, but ANYTHING with your heart...especially in a woman...needs to be checked out.

Even if you just do it for your Dad & kitties...
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolPetunia View Post
I think these symptoms are probably just what Sarah said... or maybe it's just an ongoing panic attack that comes and goes all day. Whatever it is, it's pretty scary.

But I had an EKG just a couple of weeks ago, in preparation for my lap-band surgery on February 1st, and it didn't show anything wrong. I hate to bring it up with the doctor -- what if they cancel my surgery?
So what if something bad happens during the lap-banned? then what?
just be safe, and tell the doc, what you have been feeling

I know and understand how bad you want to lose the extra weight.
But you really need to make sure its ok for you to do it. The doc may very well tell you panic attacks or what ever. So the doc does another EKG to check , no big deal, a few extra min in the office.

small trade off to make sure.
post #14 of 21
I've been having the same problems as you're describing, Carol, and in my case, it's all stress-related too. My doc put me on a mild dose of Xanaxx, and it does help. Some days are worse than others and I need to take an extra dose.

I agree with the others - get into see your doc. Your stress (if that's what's indeed causing your problems) can be treated & controlled. You want to nip it in the bud, before it gets out of control and causes more damage...

I'm sorry you're having to deal with all of this. You need to take care of yourself first, before you can help others.

~KK~
post #15 of 21
You might want to ask your doctor about being put on anti-anxiety meds (like xanax or klonopin). I'm on klonopin and they really do help calm you down...without making you feel sleepy or buzzed like xanax.

I hope you can get it under control soon.
post #16 of 21
Carol, ditto to what the others have said. You've got to let your doctor know before you have the surgery. If you're right and it's not a big deal, it won't delay the surgery. If it is a problem, though, it's better to be overweight and alive.

I understand that you're worried about being healthy to take of your parents, but just imagine how much worse things will be for them if, heaven forbid, you have surgical complications. Imagine how awful it would be for your mother to have to face losing both you and your dad. Imagine how much we'd all miss you! This really isn't something you want to take any chances with.

And to really beat a dead horse...if it IS stress induced it's likely that your stress level will go up even more after the surgery. I have friends who've had the lap-band surgery and there is an adjustment period as you get used to a whole new life style and a whole new way of eating. Better to discuss it with the doctor and work together to find some solutions to manage the stress.

I'm glad you're feeling better. I'm keeping you and your dad in my prayers.
post #17 of 21
Another thought: if you are indeed having heart problems (stress related or otherwise) the docs need to be made aware of this before they proceed with any surgery. If your heart is weak or anything, it could cause problems when they put you under, PLEASE discuss this with your docs before you have the surgery!!


~KK~
post #18 of 21
Honey, I agree you need to see a doctor. Most likely it is just stress and they will be able to help you with that, but you need to make sure it isn't something more serious.

Sarah is absolutely right about taking time for yourself to regulate your stress. I took care of my mom when she had cancer for 14 months, and it was 24/7, bedpans, sponge baths, the works. I made sure I got out of the house once a day, if only to walk around the block or drive to the market (the long way) to get away from the situation. I also had an hour or so at night that I said was my time. I normally got on the computer with a glass of wine, lit a scented candle...and just breathed. Even if I just surfed and didn't really do anything, it was relaxing, and it helped coping with the rest of the 23 hours better. You need to regroup in order to keep sane.

My heart goes out to you. You have a hard and demanding road ahead of you, but you need to make sure YOU are healthy first. Go to the doctor, make sure it is just stress, and get something to help you calm down. And if you need to talk, vent, cry....we are here.
post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 
I love you guys, I really do. Thank you for caring so much.

I wish I'd read all this before I met my surgeon today... I think I would have brought it up with him. Because reading what you all wrote, I know you're right.

But I didn't mention it. He spent over an hour with me, and his surgical assistant spent another hour, going over all sorts of details I hadn't learned about anywhere else, despite all my research. They were thorough and caring and just great, and I came away feeling so good about the surgery... so good, in fact, that I then started feeling guilty for being happy about anything while my father is in such a crisis. Riding the rollercoaster.

The doctor did tell me that if I thought of more questions and needed another meeting before the surgery, he would make time for that, which is just amazing to me. So I could go see him again.

He was very upbeat about my condition, though -- he said "I don't anticipate any trouble accessing the area, because you're so skinny," and I almost fell off my chair. It's been twenty years since anyone called me skinny! But most of his patients weigh up around 400 or 500 pounds, so I guess to him, I'm tiny.

But you're right, I do need to tell him. Since he operates exclusively on morbidly obese people, I imagine most of his patients have some degree of heart disease, so that's probably not a deal-breaker, anyway. Most likely it would just be a matter of precaution. So you're right... I'll tell him.

And you're right about Xanax, too -- even before this horrible news, Mom and I had talked about asking our doctor (we both go to the same one) if we could have a low dose of Xanax around for times when the situation with Papa overwhelms us. We've both taken it before in times of trouble... never for long, though, because it's so addictive. So I'll call our doctor Monday.

Thank you all so much for your counsel. I promise I'll do the right thing.
post #20 of 21
Carol, I'm so glad to hear that you are gonna talk to your docs about this, before you go ahead with the surgery! You'll be glad you did, and I think a lot of your stress will be reduced to some extent b/c you won't need to worry about something "bad" happening b/c the docs will be aware of the situation prior to putting you under.

You shouldn't feel "guilty" for feeling good, either. You have done more than most people would already for your parents, and for that you should feel proud!

I hope all goes well with everything. We here if you need us.

~KK~
post #21 of 21
Carol, I'm so glad to see that you're going to talk to your doctor. I've been worrying about you. (Funny how worried you can get about somebody you've never acctually met.) And you're right...they probably are used to patients having some degree of heart problems so I doubt it will delay the surgery and they'll know to keep an eye on it.

Don't feel at all guilty for having a little happiness. Your dad wouldn't want that, and keeping as positive an outlook as possible is very healthy for ALL of you.

Hang in there, and know that there are a bunch of us who are here for you.
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