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February 22, 2016

Eight Heart Attacks in One Month

One of the biggest life lessons and challenges I had to face in life was overcoming Anxiety and PTSD.  I can’t cover everything in one article so there will be several regarding Anxiety and PTSD.

I believe due to the abuse I suffered, I always had anxiety but I didn’t recognize it for what it was.  I chalked it up to inheriting my mother’s nervous nature.  It was an event when I was 32 that caused the equivalent of a head on collision between two trains in my mind.

As you will learn from my story, I developed an abnormal fear of death as a child.  I was faced with my worst fear on a normal Monday morning going to work. 

I took the train to work as I had for the past 14 years.  The trains go underground as they near downtown.  I remember the train stopped in the tunnel between two stations.  I didn’t think anything about it, because the trains often stall during rush hour.

I was reading a book when the woman next to me asked if I smelled smoke.  Before I had a chance to answer her the car we were in, which happened to be the first car, was filling up with black some.  I remember the conductor coming out of his booth and saying he would be right back and left.  

I never understood why he closed the doors when he left when he knew the car was filling up with smoke and we had no other way out.

The conductor never came back.  We heard an explosion which sounded like it had come from the car behind us.  People started to panic.  Thankfully two larger men pried the doors open and we started to slowly leave the car.  Some people jumped down and were walking by the tracks.  I decided to stay on the very narrow walkway in the tunnel.  I was shaking like a leaf.

We could see there was a fire behind us, so we started walking ahead to the next station which had to be at least half a mile.  It was pitch black.  My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to explode.

Once we got to the next station I took the stairs to get to street level.  There were fire trucks everywhere, and when I walked back I could see people were being pulled through an emergency exit ladder from the tunnel.  I remember thinking that I could never have climbed up that far to get out.  I was thankful that we were able to walk to the next station.

I looked at my watch and realized that I was going to be late for work.  I had left my coffee on the train and saw a coffee shop across the street.  I was about to start walking to get another cup of coffee when a firefighter walked up to me and asked if I had just come from the train.  I guess it was obvious since I had black soot on my coat from walking closely to the tunnel wall to get out.

The firefighter asked if I wanted to get checked out, or go to the emergency room.  That’s when I made the biggest mistake of my life.  I told him I was fine and had to get to work. 

I had started a new job only a few weeks earlier and I didn’t want to get in trouble.  As I began walking to the coffee shop I called my boss and told him I would be half an hour late and explained what had happened.  He told me to take my time.

The next day I took the train to work.  When the train stalled in the tunnel pure terror washed over me and my heart was pounding so hard I was convinced I was having a heart attack.  As soon as the train arrived at the next station I got in a cab and went to the emergency room.  They found nothing wrong.

I stopped taking the train to work.  I thought that had cured whatever was going on with me, except two days later the same thing happened when I was on the express bus and it had stopped on the expressway.

I was having “heart attacks” about two to three times a week.  I began to feel like I was losing my mind.  Having healed from horrible mental and emotional abuse, the idea of losing my mind was more terrifying than death.

It took about two months for an emergency room doctor to admit me for observation and diagnose me with post traumatic stress syndrome.  I had no idea what that was, and when the doctor explained that it was psychological, I looked at him like he had lost his mind.

This doctor had to be some kind of kook, I had healed myself psychologically and emotionally, there was nothing wrong my mind buddy.

After several months of constant visits to the emergency room, I had to ask myself if what was happening and how I was behaving was normal.  I resisted, but eventually I accepted that something was wrong inside my mind.  I was scared that it was going to be permanent.

I began to do research and learned that it was like a light switch that got stuck in the “On” position.  

Once I learned through all my research that it was something I could fix, I began to feel better.  If I could fix all the damage my mother and sister had done, I could fix this too.  Easy Japanesey.

My hope gave me a false sense of how easy it would be.  It was far from easy.  It was a ten year journey.