Oh..my..lanta (as D.J. would say on Fuller House)! Last week was one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a very, VERY long time. I will give you a short back story.
I was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse when I was 24 years old. My heart would start racing out of nowhere when I turned 23. I went to the doctor who said it was “anxiety” and she put me on Paxil (antidepressant). I was confused because I did not feel depressed. Sure my heart racing made me feel anxious, but not full blown depression. Needless to say, I did not take the Paxil very long. I had all the necessary tests (EKG and Echocardiogram), but never really heard what might be wrong except that I suffered from anxiety. I did get married at 23 and have my first baby shortly after.
At age 24, I went back to the doctor for chest pain. This time I saw Dr. Scott who told me “Well, you do know you have Mitral Valve Prolapse.” I was like, “no actually I don’t.” So from that day forward, I finally started to understand what was really going on the year before. It was not anxiety, it was a heart valve that wasn’t closing properly.
It has been 15 long years living with MVP. 15 years of on and off scary symptoms. Here are some of the things that I’ve experienced over the last decade or so.
Mitral Valve Prolapse Symptoms
Palpitations–the feeling of fluttering or my heart skipping a beat.
Chest pain–this is what really can be scary for me. Sometimes it feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest. Sometimes it feels like stabbing or tight contractions.
Low Blood Pressure–always had low BP.
Fatigue–this is happens when my palpitations are awful and happening every day.
Migraines–I had headaches every day for months a couple of years ago when I had another really bad flare up from symptoms. I no longer have headaches since my partial hysterectomy (praise the Lord).
Other symptoms include, syncope (passing out) and I’m thankful that had never happened to me. I have bought several books and there is something called Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome or Dysautonomia. This explains that patients who have MVP have a problem with their autonomic nervous system and are prone to anxiety, panic attacks, easily startled and upset stomach. This is ultimately what happened to me two years ago which sent me to the ER, more doctors, more antidepressants (which only made me more anxious), more tests (wearing a Holter monitor) that didn’t show anything was wrong, and eventually I had a complete nervous breakdown. I was down to 114 pounds and I was a MESS.
After my ER visit, I hit rock bottom and finally got into see my cardiologist May 31, 2016. He prescribed me a medication that I like to call a “nerve pill.” It has helped me a lot for my anxiety. I’ve come close to having panic attacks, but nothing like what I was experiencing in March of 2016. For that, I am very thankful. It took me months to even feel comfortable taking my three children somewhere alone. There was always this fear in the back of my mind that I would have a panic attack in front of my kids. Thankfully, I’ve learned to control those feelings on my own through prayer and deep breathing techniques. I also stopped taking the Beta Blockers two years ago because I realized they made me feel worse and sometimes made my palpitations worse. My blood pressure is already low and Beta Blockers made it drop even lower (80/50).
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for Mitral Valve Prolapse. I still struggle with symptoms on and off especially this time of year. I noticed I was having palpitations after I would finish running two weeks ago. I was trying to pick up my pace in fairly humid conditions. I ran 5 miles in the heat, Friday April 13, and noticed my palpitations were worse.
Saturday, we had severe weather come through which didn’t help my stress level with 3 kids and 2 dogs stuck indoors all day.
By Sunday the 15th, I got up to get ready for church and the palpitations started immediately. I ended up resting most of the day. They would not go away. I even tried to run up and down the stairs to get my heart rate up. If my HR drops below 60 BPM, that can knock my heart out of rhythm. My cardiologist said that was normal (trust me, I’ve asked so many questions) and since I run, this happens all the time. But Sunday, I didn’t feel like running. I was exhausted. Later that night, I had crushing chest pain which forced me to lay back down around 7 pm.
Monday: Boston Marathon–This was the best I felt all week. I ran 4 miles that morning and watched the Boston Marathon. My palpitations were better. I still had palpitations after I ran, but throughout the day, I felt much better than Sunday. I had even signed up for my first 25k trail run, but my brother was also getting married that same day. Not the smartest idea, but I had been so stressed out, I thought I “needed” to sign up for a race. Boy, was I wrong.
Tuesday: I ran 6 miles of hills trying to prepare for the trail race. I did not feel well for the rest of the day. I think I got too hot and ran too long. Probably the best I felt all day was running and playing with my dogs.
My son had an away baseball game that same evening. I felt terrible. I was having palpitations every few minutes. Being around a crowd and loud noise like at the ball field makes me feel pretty rough. I tried so hard to stick it out and suck it up so I could be there for my family. It is so hard for me to say “no” and rest.
Wednesday: I decided to start doing yoga again. I thought surely this would help with whatever was going on. Namaste. It helped but not for long.
We got a phone call that my Father-in-law had collapsed at work. I became hysterical. I think it was because I had felt so badly all week, that something happening to my dear FIL sent me over the edge. I immediately sent out a prayer chain for him. Mr. John Wayne is one of the best men I know. He loves our family dearly, but he has his own heart problem which are much more serious. I am always afraid of something happening to him. Thankfully, he had gotten too hot working on a fan in the attic of the restaurant he and my husband own. Needless to say, he scared me and my husband so badly. My nerves were completely shot, but I was so thankful he was okay.
Thursday: rest and more yoga that evening. Palpitations on and off, but not the worst day of the week.
Friday: this was the day I felt like I could possibly have a panic attack. My palpitations were horrible. Cayne had a baseball game and I almost didn’t go. I made it, but I felt really bad the whole time. I tried my best to cover it up and act like I was okay. My husband coaches and figured I would feel better getting out of the house. I was glad I went, but I did run when I got home. It was almost dark but I was desperate to see if it would help my palpitations. They were so bad, my chest felt heavy and I felt dizzy. I ended up deciding not to go to my trail race, but rest instead and get ready for my brother’s wedding.
Saturday: Caroline and Caleb’s wedding day!
They got married in Summit, MS which was about 2 and a half hours away. It was absolutely beautiful. I felt much better that day even though I still had palpitations on and off. Caroline and Caleb The oldest and the youngest! I am so blessed to have 4 brothers and 1 sister. Caleb was 4 years old when his Daddy married my mom. I feel like I’ve known him almost his whole life and now he’s married!
Sunday: my husband left to go out of town for a few days fishing with his family and friends. Maybe this is why I was so stressed out. Being left alone to take care of kids and dogs especially when I felt so badly. But hey, he wasn’t going to cancel his trip just because I was having a flare up. Christopher and I have been married 15 years. He has seen me at my worst and I guess he knew this spell would pass. For me, I wish he would be a little more patient and understanding, but men have a hard time with that. Sunday it rained and the kids and I stayed home to rest. I had to get up early and do my daughter’s hair and makeup for dance pictures which were at 9 o’clock (seriously on a Sunday??). I went on to the grocery store after I got her ready to go.
Thankfully, I have felt much better this week. I still wish I knew the how’s and why’s of Mitral Valve Prolapse, but I don’t. I have an appointment with another doctor who specializes in the electrical part of the heart on May 14. I did call my doctor last week to ask some questions, but the nurse I spoke with could not answer any of them. Instead they made me an appointment with this other doctor. I asked if maybe the palpitations could be worse because of my partial hysterectomy? Because I no longer have a period, could it be hormone related? She didn’t know. I also asked about maybe some natural remedies such as vitamins or supplements I could take to ease my palpitation symptoms? She had no idea. 🙄 Maybe I can get some answers from this new doctor. I love my cardiologist, but he is very hard to see in an emergency situation. When I feel bad, it seems like an emergency situation because so many people depend on me! I don’t have time to feel horrible.
I am very thankful I’m feeling better and have been able to do all the things since my husband left. I learned on my own to try to run a little to get my heart rate up. Distance running is not my friend during a flare up, but yoga is. I also learned to try my best to stay calm and not panic when the palpitations just won’t stop. Some days I failed miserably, but I tried. That’s all I can do!
I would like to thank everyone who prayed for me. I could definitely feel all of your prayers last week. I sure hope to get more answers and pray I will be more prepared when this happens again. I do believe it was stress related. I wish I could just be stressed and it not affect me physically. I am linking up with Holly and Wendy for the Weekly Wrap!