Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chest Pains

Every year a lot of people go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital complaining of pain in the chest. After some tests (expensive ones, it goes without saying), nothing shows up on the EKG. It's an anxiety attack, which to those of us who haven't had a heart attack, feels a lot like what we expect a real heart attack to feel like.

I did the emergency room thing 15 years ago, but the doctors then just said, "It's a mystery. See your family doc," which I did. My family doc told me, "That's not a heart attack. Don't worry about it."

Don't worry about it?
Jeeee-zus, Doc. I have an elephant standing on my chest and I'm not supposed to worry about it?
It wasn't until a couple of years later I found out my symptoms were classic for a garden variety anxiety attack. Eventually my doctor caught up to her literature and gave me a prescription for Valium. I went home and with a little pill cutter I bought at a local dollar store, I cut the Valiums in half. When I feel an anxiety attack coming on I usually take one of the half-Valiums and the symptoms go away.

Of course they come right back when the pill wears off, so next is to find the source of my anxiety. It usually comes from some sort of disruption to my life. I am best when I am a sailor on a calm sea. I don't like waves, don't like to feel the boat rocking. The usual culprit is my boss, a Captain Queeg who sails through choppier waters than I like. Before I met this paranoid bozo I'd never had an anxiety attack.

Like a lot of other people who work, I don't have the luxury of quitting. I take some small comfort in knowing that my boss does this to his other employees, too. Some days we have a bunch of guys walking around clutching their chests. Guys being what and who they are, no one says anything, just toughing it out. Who wants to admit that they are having a physical reaction to a psychological problem? Well, me, but then I've always been told I'm "different."


It doesn't help when local and national news add to the generalized feelings of anxiety. News of the latest school shooting, the killings in the Amish school in Pennsylvania, raise everyone's personal anxiety level. Almost everyone has something to do with a school, whether it's kids or grandkids going to school, or especially those of us who work in them.

Because of the news media, though, it makes the risk look a lot worse than it is. We're all worried about e coli, school shootings and terrorists, when the highest risks we run every day are driving out of the driveway in our cars. Any time you're on the road you have about a one-in-25 chance of an accident, or even death. So remember that next time you're on the freeway doing 75 mph, cellphone in one hand, Starbucks in the other, steering with your elbow.


I was in the thrift store last Saturday, looking for the usual books to resell, when I was lucky enough to find an old school reader from 1947, with this picture.

Looks like the kids have built a bomb on their Radio Flyer. A suicide little red wagon!

Click on picture for larger image.

Ciao for now, El Postino

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