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I am 30 years old. I have always been sporty and never had any serious health issues. In 2015, I was in the last year of my PhD, when I broke my knee. The knee surgery was not good and I was stuck in a rut of going from pillar to post to know what is going to happen. I had a girlfriend who I was about to marry, I had to go to my exchange year to Boston and all of those plans got to a halt due to this injury. I felt really bad about all of this, but I dealt with it and eventually decided to move to Belgium after my PhD.
Before moving to Belgium, I had to take a health test for the visa and that day changed my otherwise happy life. That day I had to send the medical form at all costs otherwise, I would've lost my job in Belgium and there were a lot of problems to get the test. However when they took the test the doctor took my blood pressure and it was 160/85. He asked me, why is your blood pressure high? Are you stressed? Back then I didn't even know what is high blood pressure and what it means to be in stress. I just shrugged it off.
Later I called my dad to tell him that the doctor registered this reading. My dad reacted to it in a weird way and told me, that I need to calm down. I have taken my PhD and injury way too seriously and now I have BP problems and this 160 is such a high blood pressure, my brain can get a stroke or I can get a heart attack with this blood pressure and even he has never had a BP reading so high. I hate it that my dad acted so irresponsibly. Don't get me wrong, he is a nice and caring person and he is so ashamed about this reaction after seeing what this did to me. But anyways, I got a bit hyped after listening to my dad. Next morning I woke up and decided to go buy a BP meter. I was worried that I had such a high reading yesterday and wanted to see how am I doing now. I went to buy the BP meter and walla! 160/86 again. That is when I got the first panic attack in my life.
I couldn't believe that after an entire day I still had 160/86. I thought this is it. My heart is going to fail, it is just a matter of seconds that I will get a stroke. Then the typical panic attack symptoms started to rush in. I didn't know about any of them back then. Feeling weak, feeling dizzy, heart pounding, slight chest pain. I thought that this is a heart attack. I have never felt so scared in my life. Somehow all that passed after a few minutes, leaving me completely shaken. I went to the doctor and they said its nothing. It's not even a very high blood pressure. (at that time the reading was 140/80).
I developed an obsession for BP after that. I would measure it 20 times a day. Anytime it was higher than 120, I would get stressed. Eventually, I found out, my bp goes up as soon as I put the machine on me. I saw it once in a matter of minutes, go from 120 to 170 and at that time I got into a bad panic attack. I went out and started running, I took a bath and after every activity checked my BP to see if it is back to normal again. Only to find it higher than 120. Ofcourse, I didn't know what anxiety and Panic is at that time, so I thought all of these are signs of a heart attack and I am going to die soon.
I got into the worst period of my life. I got a panic attack once more. I was inside an airplane and just a thought came to me that what if I get a heart attack here? That's it, it got so bad I was about to run off to the attendant to let me off on the taxi way. It was horrible, I cried perhaps the only time I remember in my entire adult life in that period because I felt a real pain. My body was my prison and there was extreme helplessness as to how I can get rid of this feeling of gloom and doon. I was so ashamed that I am going through this. I worried for my career, my relationships ... I was supposed to be smart. I finished my PhD in Robotics, getting the best PhD award in Engineering in entire Italy. People thought of me as a guy who things in control. And here I was battling my existence like a freak, thinking I am about to die, losing interest in everything. I was perpetually looking for symptoms of heart attack and high blood pressure.
Then I moved to Belgium and saw a proper doctor on long term basis. She told me after the exams that I have an anxiety to BP. I have no high BP, but due to anxiety and panic, it shoots up every time I measure it. I got it measured twice and the second time it was 120/80. I was happy. I decided not to check my bp again and went back to my life. 6 months I had a great time. I was able to drink, party, eat red meat in a bbq. At work, I filed a patent, did 2 publications, went to conferences, got a promotion at my new job. Got a great home, a new car ... best six months ever. Everything was back to normal and as perfect as I could want. I was so happy, I used to boast about it to myself that, this is my biggest success.
But there was this tiny little doubt in my mind, that you know, this perfect 120/80 was maybe a one-off reading and maybe I have high BP which is killing my heart and kidneys while I am enjoying and thinking everything is ok. Finally one day when I was feeling very good. I saw my BP meter lying around and decided to give it a try. BAD BAD DECISION. I said to myself if I get a nice reading then that is it. I will feel better. If not, I should do something about it, as high BP is a curable disease. I checked it and as soon as I put my bp meter on me. I felt my breath getting irregular. When I heard the sound of the bp meter inflating, my heart got racing. Anyways, I took a deep breath and acted as if I am calm. The reading came ... 160/83. I couldn't believe it. I tried to calm myself down and took another reading and this time it was even higher 168/88. I felt sick in my stomach. I tried to laugh off these readings, but the damage was done. I went out and the thought of blood pressure continuously rising kept my anxiety increasing until I got into panic. I didnt want to goto doctor, I didnt want to go inside my home. Everything felt like it would make the panic, anxiety and resulting BP worse. But this time I had read about it enough to know its a panic attack due. So I dealt with it much better. I just stayed silent on a side untill the fleeting thoughts, rush of blood, heart pounding went away. I still felt unwell and anxious all day, but not in extreme panic. Next day I went to my doctor, she told me to throw that BP meter away and said that when I am feeling better, we would measure it by the all-day meter to check if I need some meds to lower the BP.
Now, I've quit smoking completely, I don't drink, I don't take caffeine in any form, I eat minimum salt, I don't take sugar, I eat healthy, I bike 8 km every day, I swim 1 hour a day, I meditate 20 mins everyday. I know that my BP is due to my anxiety around it. I know my problem is not my BP but my anxiety around it. I am doing everything to get back to normal. But this, time it is different. I can't control my anxiety even after knowing all of that.
First, I am afraid of getting a panic attack. Then I seem to get panic/anxiety out of nowhere. For example, today a colleague told me that her cat died from a stroke. I got a rush of panic in my head for a few seconds and I wanted to leave the conversation and run. I can control it, as I know this is my mind's stupid flight or fight response. I know the trauma of BP has wired my brain for panic. But it is not nice at all to live like this. I have a surgery next month to take out the screws in my knee. I might be feeling great otherwise and then I would say to myself, oh wow, I feel so good. Finally no anxiety but then I think that for this surgery, I will be made to measure my BP and this will probably tick off my panic. I imagine being in a room with a new nurse, who won't know about my BP induced panic. She will measure the BP and it will come as 180/90. She will be alarmed and tell me this is high. She will check again and this would be above 200! at which point I would just get so anxious, nothing they do will help and my heart would simply fail . Then, I say to myself, ah eff it, I won't get my BP checked and go into the surgery. But then the very very stupid voice in my head says that my BP would raise when I am waiting for surgery. Since I would have not registered my high BP. The anesthetist won't give me a tranquilizing dose that can cater for high BP. So as they tranquilize me for surgery, My BP would rise and I would die during the surgery from a heart attack. Now even writing this makes me ashamed as to why I think like that. I know that this is not likely to happen and this is not how medical professionals will deal with my BP. But tell this to my brain in its panic mode.
I feel light headed for no reason sometimes and this could lead to feeling anxious (I dont get full blown panic attacks, but I get anxious as to what if someone comes to my desk now, how would I deal with him/her in such a state of worry). I usually get triggered with sweaty palms (a problem I have had for more than 10 years). Now I associate it with being anxious. Therefore, every time I feel sweaty on plams, I start thinking about why am I stressed now. I don't have no reason. I try to think about good things. I end up thinking about the bloody knee surgery and the BP. Then I usually feel a pulse somewhere and I say to myself, see the BP is high. All you are doing is running away. Then I feel light headed and I feel like, ok now it is high enough to give me a stroke. At this point I am quite frozen and don't want anyone to see me. But after a few deep breathing exercises and effort, I can get back to normal.
However, all this is taking a toll on me. I feel my entire day is a battle between anxiety and fighting back to being normal. I have a constant underlying fear of measuring my BP again, which is inevitable for my knee surgery. I have fear that by not measuring it, maybe my high BP is going undiagnosed. More worrying than that, any mention related to heart, stroke, kidneys can give me a more severe than normal, rush of anxiety. I am super tired and all I want is to control this anxiety and not have any panic. I don't know how to control this General Anxiety. Because I have NO REASON for that. Even if I have BP, it is controllable, so why is my brain not working rationally.
How can I win this everyday struggle. I am doing all I can. I am going to do all I can until a day comes, when I can just go back to living without this constant fear of BP, anxiety, stress and in extreme cases panic. I would really appreciate some help in getting out of it.
I wish all of you battling something similar the best of luck and health. I am also sorry for this long description.
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