STOP Your Anxiety

A lot of people ask me, “Do you ever worry about another clot?” Sometimes, but not daily, and only if I have a reason to worry. So then they ask, “How do you not worry?” It’s not that I don’t worry – I do – but what I don’t do is let the worry consume me, or stop me from living my normal life. Read on to discover the tools I use to help stop your anxiety, especially about blood clot recurrence.

On my list of things to worry about, a recurrent blood clot is not near the top of the list, surprisingly. While I do struggle with health-related anxiety, it stems from the next unexpected thing that might take me off guard. My blood clots came out of nowhere – nearly ending my life – and I worry more about something else like that happening. Still, there are some times when I worry that I have a blood clot again, and I wonder what that means for me if that were the case: Is my blood thinner suddenly not working? Or, is the disease that caused my blood clots – antiphospholipid syndrome – causing another problem? In this way, I don’t worry about another clot, but I do worry about what one might mean. I won’t know until (or if) it happens, and I can’t control that any more than I already am by taking my medication, going to follow-up doctor appointments, and managing my INR with a healthy lifestyle and regular checks. What I can control is what I do if I think I might have another blood clot.

Occasionally, if my left leg hurts my immediate thought is “blood clot.” This doesn’t happen every time I notice something different with my leg, but once in awhile if I have a pain that feels like a pulled muscle, because that is what my blood clot felt like at first.

Not too long ago, I felt this type of pain in the care on my way to run an errand. All the way to the UPS store and back I thought, “This is it, what if I don’t make it through this one?” Then, I remembered what I learned in counseling: Anxiety is a never-ending race track, I’m the race car, and I need to put on the brakes – before I crash. I pushed the brake pedal and put it in park – figuratively and literally as I returned home and pulled into my garage.

I have a very specific checklist that I go through if I’m worried about a blood clot. It helps me stay calm and act accordingly. In this example, I didn’t think it was a blood clot, and below is the checklist I go through to put my worry in park. I also included my answers to myself.

  • Is this pain the the same exact blood clot spot? No, it’s not.
  • Does it feel like a blood clot with regard to pain? No, not even close, it just feels like a cramp.
  • Have you done anything different with your treatment that’s worked for you this far? No, I took my warfarin last night and at last check, my INR was in range.
  • Could anything else have caused this pain? Yes, I did not get up from my desk enough times to move around today.
  • Does anything help it to feel better? Yes, stretching and moving around helps.
  • Did stretching and moving help your blood clot? No, not even a little. It made it worse.
  • Could it also be a blood clot? It could, but so far, it’s not feeling like it. If it does, you know what to do, or where to go.

There are also some very clear things that would lead me to seek medical attention without further questioning:

  • Pain in my leg and in my lung that doesn’t go away with rest
  • Pain in my leg that interferes with my inability to walk
  • Difficulty breathing or being unable to talk in full sentences
  • Being unable to lay down flat

This is not to say that coming to this conclusion is easy or that it happens overnight. I have to work really hard to think about these very clear questions and answers, rather than panic first. Sometimes it even takes a visual to remind me to get off the track, like a STOP sign or parked race car.

Your questions and answers might be different, and as always, if you can’t decide if you have a blood clot or not – or if you suspect that you do – seek medical attention right away.

Blood clots can happen to anyone, even people who are younger, active and healthy. Learning the signs and symptoms can help you avoid a potentially life-ending situation. You can read about them, and about what I felt, here. It’s also a good idea to see if you have any known risk factors for blood clots. You can read more about those here. And, just about anyone can take steps to help prevent blood clots before they become a problem. Here are some of my thoughts about that.

There is hope for healing from blood clots, and you are not alone.

Reader Writes In: Do you worry about a repeat blood clot? How do you handle your worry? Have you experienced a repeat blood clot?

Share your story in the comments below.

 

Comments

  1. Debbie Griffiths says

    hi, im Debbie and am from Australia, I suffered a PE in June 2020, i am 6 weeks post PE and have a great local GP, hospital is useless, i suffer from the chest pains some days and shortness of breath as well as tiredness and anxiety big time, i am seeing a physcologist for the anxiety so thats good, i also go for a walk everyday as well as a swim once or twice a week, i am 52 years old and guess im still in shock over the diagnosis but have no choice but to accept it. being an unprovoked PE means i am most likely going to be on blood thinners the rest of my life, i have good days and i have bad days, i am hoping for good recovery and hoping i can lead a somewhat normal life once recovered, i do know i will never take life for granted and will enjoy all the little things life has to offer, i am determined to beat this and not let it consume me, well thats what i am hoping anyway, i am glad to have found this page, helps to know i am not alone.

    • Hi Debbie, my name is Luis and I too suffered through a bi-lateral PE 1 year ago. I still get very anxious especially when I feel any chest, rib or back pain that is unprovoked. I also had an unprovoked PE and like you, I’m still in shock (I’m 51 yrs old). I’ve seen a really good hematologist, pulmonary specialist and cardiologist. I’ve been on Eliquis this whole time and would imagine that I will continue to be. I’ve felt better lately than I have in a very long time but in this last week alone I felt the same exact pains and discomfort I felt when I was first diagnosed, it really sends the anxiety through the roof. My faith, and the medical follow ups are the most important things for me. I know its new, shocking and scary but it will get better. I’m glad that you have a good team and that you’re on this blog, its really been a huge blessing for me.
      God bless you and remember, you’re not alone…

  2. Kyle Kurosky says

    I was diagnosed with a massive saddle PE after I had passed out and fell down the stairs at home. I had a thrombectomy to remove it, but after 4 weeks, still feel the after effects. I’ve been told it will take time. I try not to worry, but find myself worrying more than normal. Always thinking about a heart attack or stroke. I have been doing some walking for exercise and improving on stamina. I am glad I found this site as it is reassuring to know that not everything is the worst. Hopefully with time we will all recover. Thoughts and prayers for everyone.

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