I had a friend from the blog message me yesterday asking about my heart attacks because she has been having chest pains and shortness of breath, so I thought it was time I did another post warning about the danger of heart attack after domestic abuse. Don’t let anyone “pooh pooh” you when you say you are having heart pains. People tend to think the victim is being melodramatic and not take them seriously when they complain about chest pains.
Do not ignore the signs you could be having a heart attack.
Victims need to be aware of something called Broken Heart Syndrome
Broken Heart Syndrome is a very real condition caused by severe stress and is 7-9 times more likely to affect women than men. Women who have been in an abusive relationship are 70% more likely to suffer from heart disease.
* FACT: When we hear the statistics that say a woman dies every day at the hands of her significant other, they are not including the women who commit suicide, die in an “accident” or fall over and die with a heart attack.
A report done by the Mayo Clinic says it can be brought on by surge of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which temporarily enlarges part of the heart so it doesn’t pump well while the rest of the heart pumps normally or even more forcefully. It was originally called takotsubo cardiomyopathy. The symptoms are treatable and usually reverse themselves within a few weeks. (in my case the symptoms did reverse themselves and I thought I was in the clear and ignored all the advice of the doctors,
No one said to me, “If you don’t take care of yourself you WILL die!”
* Typical stressful events that may bring on Broken Heart Syndrome are;
– sudden death of a loved one
– big financial loss
– domestic abuse
– sudden job loss etc
* The symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome are:
– Chest pain
– Shortness of breath
– An irregular heartbeat
– A generalized weakness
– Back up of fluid in the lungs
Although it is reversible in most cases it does damage the heart and it makes sense then that prolonged stress can do permanent damage and in some cases can be fatal, as in my case.
*FACT: You can be having a heart attack and not know it; especially women, because they do not have the same symptoms as men.
When I had the first heart attack in November 2011, almost a year after leaving JC; I had been working very hard that day and loaded a big load on my truck.
That night I was very tired and had pain between my shoulder blades, I assumed I had just pulled a muscle or was coming down with something. You know when you are getting sick with a cold often times your neck will feel stiff and achy? I sat down on the couch and promptly fell asleep. I woke up 12 hours later with my coat still on. It was Saturday and I had to get the load off my truck so I forced myself to get up. I unloaded my truck, feeling worse as the day wore on and by 2 I decided to just go home to rest. I had indigestion all day, bad gas and generally felt I might have the stomach flu and I still had this pain between my shoulders so I thought maybe a soak in a hot tub would help, but the hot bath only intensified the pain. I was sitting on the couch, the pain between my shoulders radiated to the middle of my chest like a hot poker, then my right arm went numb and soon felt like dead weight. I knew then that I was in trouble, so I Googled “Signs you are having a heart attack” and found out I was right. I took the dogs for a pee and fed them, then got dressed and drove myself to the hospital, still thinking it was probably nothing and they would send me home. But I called my son just in case, to tell him I loved him. He in turn called a good friend, Isaac who is a trucker and just happened to be in town at the time; Isaac rushed to the hospital.
When I got to the hospital they immediately hooked me up to machines and admitted me, indeed, I was having a heart attack. I insisted I had to go home to my dogs and they laughed at me, I wasn’t allowed out of bed at all, even to go pee for 5 days. I was taken by ambulance to New Westminster for a special dye test, where they pump dye into your veins to detect any blockages.
There were no blockages, my cholesterol levels were normal, I had none of the usual reasons for having a heart attack, I am not over weight, no high cholesterol, no blockages, I am not a drinker, I lead an active, relatively healthy life but they could see obvious damage done to my heart and asked me if I had been severely ill lately and I couldn’t think of anything.
I was released from the hospital and told to take 6 weeks off, but was back working in 2 days. Who was going to pay the bills?
Besides I felt great, the best I had felt in a long time. I had not connected it to heart disease but I had had symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome for a good year or more.
* Look out for these signs (that I ignored) you too may be suffering from Broken Heart Syndrome
– I noticed I had an irregular heart beat, I could feel that my heart would kinda skip a beat once in a while. I couldn’t remember if I had always had it, just one day I noticed, there was no pain so I didn’t concern myself with it.
– I had never had heartburn in my life but started having it on a regular basis
– I felt anxious, like a feeling of impending doom. But look who I was living with and had to deal with after we split, of course I felt anxious.
– I would have the sweats – I was in my late 40’s and early 50’s I chalked it up to going through menopause
– When I stood up I often felt light-headed
– I got tired quicker, but I had a physical job and was stressed a lot, stress makes a person tired and I wasn’t a kid any more. I had gotten rid of my big truck which meant I didn’t have the crane and winch so I chalked it up to having to lift more and to the fact that I was getting older. I was over 50 and humping heavy steel, I was still in better shape than most women in their 20’s or 30’s.
– As is common when people are going through a breakup; their diet suffers. Either people lose their appetite or overeat, neither of which are healthy. For me it was easier to grab a burger while working than to go home and try to think of something I wanted to eat. Even when I ate at home I quite often grabbed a TV dinner and bag of salad. I ate because I knew I had to, not because of any desire to eat.
* The weeks immediately leading up to my first heart attack I was:
– more tired than usual and had a harder time pushing past it
– dizzy almost every time I stood up but if I bent with my head down it would pass and I would carry on
– a few days before going to the hospital my neck felt stiff and sore. Considering the job I did, aches and pains were common and I have a bad neck from a car accident when I was T-boned by a big truck.
– bad heart burn and gas, feeling like I was going to have diarrhea
– nervous, anxious
After my first heart attack I actually felt better than I had in a long time so I didn’t refill my prescription for heart meds, besides; they were extremely expensive and I didn’t have medical insurance to cover prescription.
I went about a year and 1/2 with no further problems and basically forgot about it.
Then I started working at Ccon, JC had reared his ugly head and was causing problems for me, trying to get me evicted by making anonymous complaints to the management board about noise coming from my place keeping people awake. Yet none of my neighbours had complained and I had not had anyone in my place since I moved in. He was coming in the blog under aliases trying to slander me and had several blogs of his own discrediting me and telling horrible lies about me. He would leave one up for a week or two, take it down and put another one up. He alternated between the two blogs so there was never time to have him charged. I got legal advice. The mechanic where I worked came to me and asked if I had anyone who would be stalking me. I asked why he wanted to know and he told me he was putting a new deck on my company truck and found a tracking device under the flat deck.
I was thrilled to have my new job but was a nervous wreck at the same time waiting for the other shoe to drop. I knew JC was trying to destroy me and I didn’t know when he would strike again. I had started dating the mechanic where I was working, very cautiously and slowly, but he was insistent and so sweet (sound familiar?)
* Symptoms before my 2nd heart attack and subsequent heart failure
– I just felt exhausted all the time.
– I had noticed I had a hard time going up stairs and there was a small hill on the way out of the park and I had to park on of the park with my big truck and walking to my truck my feet felt so heavy. I would have to stop and catch my breath.
– The first time I had sex with the guy I was seeing I couldn’t breath, I was fighting for breath the whole time and by the time we finished I was gasping for air, the slightest weight on my chest made me feel like I was suffocating. I chalked it up to being nervous about having sex again for the first time in years. (I had not been with anyone but James in 14 years)The next time wasn’t as bad and it seemed to get better every time we had sex so I chalked it up to being nervous.
– I developed fluid on my lungs and would wake up in the night to cough, like when you’ve had a bad chest cold and you have to cough up the phlegm.
– My feet started to swell, my work boots became uncomfortable and I got in trouble at work for not wearing my steel toed boots.
– I had what I thought was a pulled muscle in my right shoulder, right under the shoulder-blade. It came and went but was most noticeable when I was stressed.
– I stopped seeing the guy at work and about that time I got called into the office because they had an anonymous call from a “concerned citizen” accusing me total lies. They had another call from another “anonymous” caller with another complaint. I was able to defend every accusation but they didn’t like the hassle of dealing with whoever had it in for me and we made a deal that they would finance a truck for me and work as an owner/operator out of their yard. It was a great deal for me and exactly what I wanted so I jumped at the chance. Within 2 weeks of me getting the truck I had my 2nd heart attack. No doubt the stress of my ex trying to destroy me was a contributing factor.
But my 2nd heart attack was not like the first one because I was having heart failure which is totally different, heart failure is just that; your heart is failing and you are dying if you don’t get medical attention, which I did not until it was almost too late. My feet had continued to swell and the fluid in my lungs continued to get worse. I slept with pillows propping my up because if I laid down flat I felt like I was drowning, after a while I slept sitting up on the couch. I hadn’t slept well for weeks and my shoulder was really bothering me.
When I bath I lay in the tub to wash my hair and I couldn’t breath when I did that. I had to turn the shower on and stand to rinse my hair. I had not slept for 3 days when about 5 am one morning I knew if I didn’t get to the hospital I was going to die. I was having trouble breathing sitting up.
I tried to make it until morning so my mom could drive me to the hospital but I emailed her at 5 am saying I was going to the hospital and if she didn’t hear from me that is where I was. I passed out on the way to the hospital and woke up just before hitting the concrete divider between the lanes on the highway. I pulled in and parked the car crosswise in the parking stall and stumbled into the ER. They rushed me in and I was in the middle of heart failure.
The heart surgeon didn’t beat around the bush, he came in and told me that I HAD to start taking care of myself, eating right, taking my meds and reduce my stress or I was going to die. Not just that but he made it very clear that I would have died had I not come in when I did. He compared my condition to cancer that has metastasized; my heart was failing and my organ were shutting down because they were not getting enough blood. The reason I couldn’t breath when I laid down was my lungs were filling with fluid, my feet were swelling because my kidneys were failing and the reason I had been feeling so disoriented was because my brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen. The scary part about your brain not getting enough oxygen is you aren’t thinking right and don’t know you should be going to the hospital.
The thing with victims of narcissistic abuse is they have denied their feelings for so long they stop reading their bodies accurately. They are so used to being told they are over reacting, not feeling what they think they are, and the N has ignored whenever they have been sick they just stop taking the cues from their body seriously.
Plus there is so much tension, drama and trauma all the time they chalk up a lot of their symptoms as being from stress. There is so much going on they don’t have time to be sick and try to push through any pain. In my case I just refused to admit there was a problem because I could not afford to be sick. Well, I ended up sick anyway and some how I have survived and by not taking care of myself earlier I have done permanent damage to my heart and taken years off my life.
Broken Heart Syndrome does not have to be fatal.
* What you can do to prevent heart disease:
* Reduce your stress – I know what you are thinking, easy for you to say, how do I reduce my stress when my life is falling apart? For one thing you can stop torturing yourself by having contact with your ex, his new girlfriend, his family, checking his, her and everyone else’s Facebook. You can retrain your brain to think calming thoughts and to stop thinking about him. You can stop worrying about things you have no control over and things from the past that can’t be changed. Take a yoga class or learn how to meditate, take long walks, exercise of any kind is good.
Eat right – I know your appetite sucks right now, but when you do eat put good stuff into your body. Eat salads, fresh fruit and vegetables and leave the fast food and microwave dinners alone. Start checking the sodium level in the food you eat. Did you know that one TV dinner has up to 90% of your recommended daily consumption? Throw a Big Mac on top of that and you are looking at putting a lot of extra strain on your heart. It is not just the cholesterol you have to concern yourself with, my cholesterol and blood pressure have always been fine. Do not cook with salt or add it to your food, once you cut it out it is amazing how tasty food gets. Now I can’t eat things that have added salt, they seem way to salty for me.
Exercise – Go for a long walk every day, gardening, anything that get your outdoors, moving and breathing in fresh air. It clears your head, improves your mood and self-esteem to be doing something good for yourself. It gets you out of the house and perhaps out where you might meet other people.
Pay attention to your body – Don’t ignore the signs, if you catch it soon enough it does not have to be deadly or even turn into a heart attack. Your doctor might give you some anti-depressant or anti anxiety drug to help with the stress.