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The Power of Hormones

Hormones can be hell.  Hormones can be sexy.  Hormones can be anxiety provoking. Hormones can be depressing. Hormones can be calming. Hormones run your entire bodily functions.  Hormones can make you feel like you are having a heart attack.

Yesterday was my DAY 14 – which if you recall is usually the time of ovulation and when progesterone should be spiking.  Here’s the chart:

Chart from www.sciencedirect.com

Chart from www.sciencedirect.com

Yesterday was the day that progesterone spike you see in the chart should have been happening for me.  I wish it had but I believe it didn’t.  There’s no real way to know what was happening with my progesterone but do you think it is coincidental that when my progesterone should have been spiking, instead My Beloved was calling 9-1-1.   My Beloved  and I thought I was having a heart attack. It was scary and real and physiological.  One minute laughing at a hilarious comedy the next minute a heart attack.  This is the Power of Hormones.

My Toes and My Nose – Here’s what happened:

We were having a relaxing, hang-out-in-your-pj’s New Years Day kind of a day.  While watching a movie I suddenly noticed that my feet were completely devoid of color.  I called to My Beloved – “Oh my God look at my feet!  They look like dead-guy feet!”  It was gross and creepy – I’ve never seen my skin that color.  I jumped up and started bouncing around to get circulation moving.  It bugged me but the color came back and we had a bit of brunch and went back to watching our comedy.

All of a sudden I sat up and reached for my nose, “Oh my God, I’m not feeling well!  Call 9-1-1”, I called to My Beloved who was sitting right beside me.  My nose went completely numb, my fingers and toes quickly followed.  My Beloved took one look at me and to him it was no longer just my feet that looked like a “dead-guy” – I had no color.  I started to shake and my heart went crazy.  As he searched for his phone, I told him “I’m having a heart attack”. I just sat still holding my heart trying to breathe normally but I couldn’t.  I tried to remember from my first aid training what to do when you think you’re having a heart attack.  I was overhearing the phone conversation with the dispatcher and My Beloved.  When my heart raced hard, I called to him “Tell them to “put a rush” on the ambulance. The dispatcher would know what I meant – I needed those paramedics fast.   My ears were straining for the slightest sound of sirens. I thought they wouldn’t get there soon enough – any second I was going to fall down dead.

As sure as I’m sitting here writing this, they did arrive.  And as swiftly as anything those paramedics, Michael and I wish I’d gotten the beautiful woman’s name – she was like a angel – had my heart hooked up and were relaying to me the information I needed.  As it turns out – there was no heart attack at all – my heart had the most beautiful rhythm they’d ever seen!   They showed me and my vital signs were normal.  I was in absolute shock and so was My Beloved – I looked like a dead-guy and I felt like a dying heart attack patient – how could that be?  Well here’s the proof:

Sonya's ECG

Sonya’s ECG – Jan 1/2013

My body went into fight-or-flight response.  This excerpt from the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Centre of Los Angeles explains what was happening in my body.  “The cardiovascular activation by the sympathetic nervous system produces an increase in heart rate and strength of the heartbeat. This is crucial in preparation for fight or flight because it pumps blood more rapidly to the needed areas of the body. The vital areas blood is immediately sent to are, the thighs, biceps and other muscles, which assist in preparing for action. Blood is taken away from areas like the fingers and toes because if the organism is gravely injured, it is less likely to bleed to death. This is the reason why individuals experiencing a panic attack often report having cold, clammy hands and tingling sensations in their feet and toes.

The respiratory effect produced by the sympathetic nervous system also has a pertinent function. The deep, accelerated breathing helps in the preparation for fight or flight by getting the tissues of the human body more needed oxygen. The side effects of this action are of course, choking sensations, smothering, tightness in the chest and most importantly, because the blood to the head is decreased by heavy breathing, feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness. It can also cause what was described earlier as a sense of derealization –a feeling of unreality and confusion.”

Here are the list of symptoms of a Panic Attack:

Criteria for Panic Attacks according to the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders):

  1. palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  2. sweating
  3. trembling or shaking
  4. sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  5. feeling of choking
  6. chest pain or discomfort
  7. nausea or abdominal distress
  8. feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
  9. derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself)
  10. fear of losing control or going crazy
  11. fear of dying
  12. parasthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
  13. chills or hot flashes

My day ending being discharged from the hospital 6 hours later with a clear bill of health and a little Ativan under the tongue to reduce my anxiety.   I went home and My Beloved, who stayed by my side the entire time, offered to give me a bath in Progesterone.  Talk about temptation! But as tempting as that idea was, instead he made me a cup of tea and my “good old” dose of progesterone.

Here’s the thing – a doctor that doesn’t know me in emergency probably believes I have a Panic Disorder.  My own doctor KNOWS that going off my hormones has created this entire roller coaster ride.  When I call my doctor today he will not offer me more Ativan (though I may ask for some to keep on hand until my hormones are straightened out).  So Panic Disorder is listed as a Mental Illness in the DSM-IV and it may very well need to be exactly there.  But where’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Endocrine Disorders?   Stigma-schmigma I don’t have a Panic Disorder I have an endocrine disorder….but that’s another post for another day. We’ll talk about my feelings on that soon.

If you know someone who suffers from Panic disorder please let them know about a culprit they may never have considered: their hormones.

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10 comments

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  1. thebeepea

    Oh babe, I’m so glad you’re ok!
    I had panic attacks for decades – they’re the worst feelings ever. I keep a xanex in my purse always just in case. I was diagnosed with panic disorder twice and it was actually PTSD and my hypothyroid! Oh lord…

    1. Sonya

      Thanks!! It was so scary – We BOTH thought I was having a heart attack – it just came out of the blue and my nose went completely numb! Now that my progesterone is back up I feel completely normal again! So your PTSD & hypothyroid? The endocrine system is a remarkable and powerful thing!

      Thanks for your support ((hugs)).

  2. Kim

    Your detailed story is good medicine for those who have felt so many of the symptoms but never related it to hormones! I am continually grateful that you have such passion for the subject of hormones! Especially grateful that you are feeling better!

  3. BerryRed

    I recently visited my doctor re accelerated heart and tight feeling in my chest. She knows I suffer with severe pms. She diagnosed me with stress, and although yes I have stressful things going on at the moment it’s no coincidence that my periods have almost stopped and my pms symptoms have changed. The panicky feelings did go away but have been hovering near the surface this week…..today is day 11. Severe pms is treated with anti-depressants, the pill and oestrogen therapy over here. At the moment I’m taking supplements only. Thank you for sharing this scary recent event , it really does help to read other’s experiences. Glad you are feeling better!

    1. Sonya

      Thank you for your comments. I’m sorry to hear that you are having similar troubles! I completely understand the difference from feeling “normal stress” and when something is amiss – it feels different. Severe pms here in North America is treated by most doctors with anti-depressants and birth control pills!

      A couple things I can mention that have helped me and that I will be blogging about in the near future:

      Progesterone for anxiety. If you look at symptoms of low progesterone – anxiety is at the top! I wish more doctors were in tune to the connection! There is no doubt in my mind that the panic attack I suffered was due to my lack of progesterone – now that I’ve been back on my progesterone for almost one entire cycle I am feeling back to normal. I also experienced postpartum anxiety after the birth of my 3rd baby which was again solved by bio-identical progesterone. I had terrible PMS for which I was offered anti-depressants and birth control pills – in the end balancing my hormones with progesterone completely eliminated the PMS. I have used compounded progesterone cream for years and still do but after that panic attack my doctor prescribed bio-identical progesterone capsules for me to keep on hand in case of future panic feelings (they are faster acting and are processed through the liver so have a slightly sedative affect which isn’t such a bad thing when you’re not in a “calm” state!). Watch for a future blog post.

      I have a Magnesium expert going to be guest blogging a series of articles one of which is going to be specifically about the role of Magnesium deficiency in PMS! I know that nutrition changes, supplements and exercise are enough to allow some women to achieve balance!

      Definitely charting your symptoms throughout the month will give you a really good visual picture of whether your anxiety is cyclical and gives you something tangible to take to a doctor.
      Here’s a link to a chart from Dr. John Lee’s website: Dr. John Lee’s Symptom Chart
      Here’s another link to a chart from Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research – it’s quite a bit different and has a place to put your supplements, etc. CeMCOR Symptom Chart

      If you are considering progesterone I’d first contact a compounding pharmacy – Here’s one in London England called Specialist Pharmacy and they even have a list of doctors and have links to studies regarding bioidentical progesterone. I would just pick up a phone and speak to a local compounding pharmacist – that’s what I did and they gave me a list of docs that are knowledgeable about hormone imbalance. My pharmacists have been a huge part of my care and have been so helpful in answering questions over the years – I think they are under-rated in healthcare!

      Hoping for the best hormone health for you,

      Sonya

    2. Sonya

      oops! Forgot I was going to give you this link. I have a huge respect for these doctors at womentowomen.com so here’s a link to what they have to say about anxiety and hormones:

      womentowomen.com

      I have a strong belief that women’s health issues are being painted with a mental health brush all too often.

      ((hugs))

  4. Jamie

    So how did u balance your progesterone? I suffer with the same symptoms!

    1. Sonya

      I am so sorry to hear you are suffering. I can certainly relate! My journey to healthy hormones began when I finally saw a naturopathic doctor who immediately suspected my hormones when my family doctors had only been offering me birth control pills or anti-depressants. My naturopath suggested bioidentical progesterone but due to regulatory restrictions couldn’t prescribe so I had to get my doctor to prescribe it based on her suggestion. Eventually I was able to find a medical doctor that takes an integrative approach and he continued my treatment. I would suggest you find a naturopathic doctor or integrative health doctor that specializes in women’s health – she or he will know how to help you! I wish you all the best in finding a solution! Big hugs to you, Sonya

  5. KLM

    every hear of starting B I Progesterone and THAT causing panic?

    1. Sonya

      When I first learned of Progesterone as the calming hormone I hadn’t known anyone that had it cause panic, however I have met a couple of women since then that have had the opposite effect. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like hormones delivered in pellet form. Once in you can’t get it out.

      Sorry to hear if that was your personal experience. If you’d be interested in sharing your story for other women’s benefit send me an email at sonya@hormonesoup.com

      Warm regards,

      Sonya

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