Nothing pleases a hypochondriac more than a diagnosis. It’s justification for all those years of medical research and vague complaints. And the more serious the diagnosis, the greater is that satisfying feeling of justification.
I just got my diagnosis, and it’s very serious. Hooray! I’m proud to announce that I have Atrial Fibrillation, otherwise known as AFib. I won’t go into all the details, except to say it could kill me. And that’s a prognosis any hypochondriac can sport with pride.
I spent a few nights in emergency rooms last month, where they told me I probably had AFib. But last week a nice, kind cardiologist confirmed that diagnosis and made it official.
It appears I’ve had AFib most of my life. Basically, this is a disease that makes your heart lose rhythm and race like an IndyCar with a flat tire. Usually this disease starts in middle age or old age, but not for me. I’m one of the rare few who started to have AFib attacks in my teen years.
I just didn’t realize what they were. And that’s because they’ve always been short-lived, sort of like Whitman’s Sampler AFib attacks. Or previews of coming attractions for my old age. They’ve usually lasted only a few seconds, and never longer than a minute. But last month they must have gone on steroids, because they started lasting for hours.
When an attack comes on, my heart suddenly starts pumping wildly, without any warning. There’s also a fluttering or churning sensation in the middle of my chest, as if it’s full of butterflies, or as if there’s a garden hose turned to full blast. It’s a weird sensation, and actually kind of fun to experience as long as it only lasts a few seconds. It’s like getting a rush from drugs without actually shooting up.
I never thought much of these attacks, due to their short duration, and never told a doctor. It’s a good thing too, or I might have been misdiagnosed with panic attacks and sent to a shrink. Hell, I could be living in a rubber room by now.
This has happened to some AFibbers. They get misdiagnosed with mental illness. It’s true that anxiety can sometimes trigger an AFib attack, but usually they come out of nowhere. They’re bolts from the blue, with no rhyme, reason, or pattern to them.
They happen to me at odd times. I could be busy with a chore, or shopping in a store. I could be cleaning my email of spam, or I could be eating a plate of green eggs and ham. I just never know when AFib will strike.
However, a study of AFib patients in 2015 showed that yoga can reduce the attacks by up to 40 percent. So maybe I really am crazy and need to spend some time in a rubber room. Or at least a yoga studio.
AFib is impossible to diagnose, except by EKG while you’re in the process of having an attack. This is why I’ve gone so much of my life without a diagnosis. Some AFibbers, like me, may go many years having short-lived, undiagnosed minor attacks. But others begin their AFib with a major attack that is immediately diagnosed. Lucky bastards.
Those of us with short-lived attacks eventually have our day of reckoning. One day an attack occurs that doesn’t quickly go away. And that’s when we head to the emergency room, get hooked up to an EKG, and get our elusive diagnosis. From that day on we are vulnerable to having more of these long-lasting, major attacks. It’s the major attacks that can kill.
My cardiologist said there was no known reason for me to have AFib, as I have an otherwise strong heart, and am in overall good health. This is a terrible thing to say to a hypochondriac. No hypochondriac wants to hear that they’re in good health.
However, what he meant was that in many AFib patients the cause can be traced to an underlying condition, such as hypertension, a damaged heart, or obesity. But in patients like me the cause is a mystery. We’re an anomaly, and are sometimes termed Lone AFibbers. And I’m not lying about that.
My diagnosis of AFib has come as a surprise to me. It’s a pleasant surprise in one regard, as I now have the justification all hypochondriacs seek for the complaints we make. But it’s unpleasant when I consider the ramifications of having such a serious heart condition.
One of the unpleasant ramifications is having to pop pills several times a day. These mutherfucking pills have side effects, such as dizziness, depression, memory loss, lazy eye, swivel neck, molting of skin, chrysalis, and spontaneous limb detachment. I’m adjusting to them though, so I should be getting back to my regular routine soon. Which includes lots of naps.
The drugs don’t guarantee I’ll never have another major attack. In fact my cardiologist indicated that I probably will have another major attack. He indicated this by nervously having me sign a waiver promising not to sue him. Apparently, the drugs only postpone the inevitable. The best I can hope is that they’ll keep me out of the emergency room for a very long time.
I also hope the drugs will help me to live longer than Mother Nature says I should live. I know it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, but I don’t like the alternative. But if one day, in spite of the pharmaceuticals, I succumb to AFib, don’t worry. I’ll be very happy on the Other Side.
For then I will possess the fullest justification any hypochondriac could ever own.