A hefty 40s-something guy walked into my office a few summers ago. He eased himself into a chair and began by telling me how he’d seen two homeopaths in his life; the first one went to jail twice and the second one barely listened to him and told him to get a few remedies before dismissing him. He loved the jailbird, and the bad listener had completely turned him off to homeopathy for a decade, so I immediately gave the guy credit for seeking out homeopathy again.
I have thirteen single spaced pages from this man’s intake alone – loquacious! I won’t subject you to it, but his manner and language was colorful, and, as in any case, best depicted his state; I’ve interspersed some verbatim paragraphs throughout my 3 page edit of his case.
Patient: I used to be a workout freak – I ate really healthy, natural – and about 4 years ago, something just burned out in me and I’m on a pure beer and chocolate diet. Got a cold, working in crappy place where afraid to take off time, and coughing non-stop. I hit zero in January and went to a doctor who asked how long had I been been out of work. Zero I said. He couldn’t believe I didn’t have pneumonia or bronchitis. Every six months like clockwork, in December, I’m not able to do anything. Not as bad this year, but I always get something this time of year. Always 3-4 weeks, June 12th or 14th when I first got it, start off, regular cold, bad sore throat, eventually turns into cough, lingers (fist at chest). Pretty good during the day, a little worse if I move at all, even a walk around the corner, then at night, really bad. Even coming here, 2 blocks to subway, I was starting to cough.
At night, I feel it. (fist) There’s a tickling in my throat, as if tickling is back deeper and cough only goes here (throat) and when I lay down, it feels as if it’s getting deeper. Almost as if liquid is going down to my lungs. When it gets real bad, keep coughing and coughing, and sometimes spit up phlegm.
I asked him about the phlegm. Clear, only at night. 6-8pm, in that range.
He went on to describe GI issues, he’d get heartburn, even when “healthy” in his working out days. It has intensified since his diet moved to chocolate, beer and pizza. He’d also had instances of meat getting stuck in his throat, once received the Heimlich Maneuver, and once went to the ER where they dilated and biopsied his esophagus, at which point he was diagnosed with esoniphilic esophagitis. He also suffered from chronic back pain.
How this is affecting your life? When it happens, can’t go anywhere or do anything. On the subway, coughing like crazy. I can’t work out, I’m unemployed right now so work isn’t an issue or obviously it would be.
When I was healthy, weighed 185, pretty much all muscle. After my ex left me back in 99, I didn’t take care of myself. Got up to 200 lbs. I’d be very happy with 200 now (he is considerably heavier.) First time I ever saw a stomach on myself. Eating habits were, Chinese food, crap, drinking hard alcohol. Slowly over time, my willpower waned, I moved back to NY from Boston. A lot more stress in my life when I came back to NY. There’s no such thing as paying attention to what I’m eating. No such thing as 2-3 oreos, a whole sleeve. A lot of pizza, a lot of eating out. Got to point where wasn’t working out at all.
He went on to describe that moving to NY was a mistake, he lived with his parents, cared for his brother who has a mitochondrial disorder, got fired from his job as an accountant, for which he believed he was a scapegoat and this made him incredibly angry, in his words. I (makes fists) NEED TO DO something physical. I lifted for a long time, every weekend, played softball, soccer or flag football until 40 years old. I now study martial arts, which is without question the highlight of my week. Not good at biting my tongue, not – just a lot of anger and I ram down. Always on edge (fists) as much as it’s horrible to be unemployed, my now wife is much happier that I’m unemployed. “You were always ready”, she says, “at the slightest thing. What’s wrong with you!?!” Turned into vicious cycle. I don’t even want to work out, then didn’t have physical outlet. Instead I’ll ram this sleeve of Oreos down my throat, angry eating.
Physically feel like I have to stop myself otherwise it just has to come out! That’s the great thing about how lucky the grand master of dojo is. If you’re not doing it right, he’ll scream in your face. Outlet! Angry energy, couldn’t let it out, it would just turn back in. After my ex left me, such a bad point of depression. Started getting this agitated depression, couldn’t stay in my apt. closing in on me. 3am walks, job I had at the time, leave at 4am so I could walk to work. All this energy and breathing issues. I’d be laying in bed at night and feel like I couldn’t breathe. When I’m really stressed out, I can’t lay down, my breathing is starting to catch, my throat is closing up, have to get up and walk, go outside or something. During this period, only way I could relax, focusing on my breath. My breath is only coming own here instead of to here. (Middle of chest). In some ways that was the beginning of everything.
When she first left, it was just…. I do not cry. I cried 16 days in a row. I remember day 17, I’m not crying. I would walk to work. The darkness at night, it got so much worse. I needed the day and it was the winter. I’d walk to work and I’d walk home from work. At time, office had a big window, sitting there and try to do my work. At 3pm, started getting dark. Feel it in me, oh no the darkness is coming. I remember being when Blair Witch Project was out. Suddenly got afraid of sleeping in my apt. is that Blair witch? I know no such thing as witches. Close my door, had to close my bedroom door. Convinced I’ll wake up, somebody will be around the door. Logic, if it’s a human being, I’ll get up and kick their ass. If a ghost, well, then…
Door is locked. I unlock the door, open it, with feeling of, will I see something there that scares me? Then if I go into the kitchen, light is all the way around the corner, walk through the dark kitchen don’t like to do, flip on light in bathroom so some light. Door to backyard and window, have to look out both because expect to see something in there that’s gonna make me jump. Have to look around that corner before go in the bathroom. If in bathroom, standing up, have to turn and look over my shoulder to see if someone’s back there. Home a lot during day, not working, never get spooked during day. Never ever, except if in the bathroom taking a shower, have to close and lock the door. When get out, open the door, always that initial, something could be right there.
Death, not being able to breathe. Not being able to move. Confined places. Probably about it.
Dying process and again the BREATHING and the fear. So much fear around breathing. Then what happens, I go and choke on that thing, my greatest fear would be realized.
Sometimes get deep. Feels as if tickles here (throat pit) and then cough here (neck). When turns into involuntary cough – can’t stop it until phlegm comes up. Feels so completely unproductive.
Involuntary cough – how long does it last?
Measured in seconds probably, uncontrollable, again, can’t breath because so busy coughing. Then ends with one big one, sometimes stuff comes out, sometimes doesn’t. Whole body wracks with it. (spasmodic, paroxysmal).
Horrible burning – solar plexus – like where valve is at bottom of esophagus. If really bad, feel it up here (throat). No ulcers in esophagus. Said scarring there from acid.
Foods you crave?
Pizza. Chocolate. Chocolate definitely, go stir crazy sometimes. If I put that in me, affect me, almost on a cellular level. Now all I think of is with my mouth, taste buds, that would be good! Boy I could go for some chocolate, thought gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Cookies – chips ahoy, Oreos, any Pepperidge Farm stuff. Sometimes candy bar, but not big candy bar person. Sometime sugar. Chocolate ice cream. Summer thing. Big culprit without question is chocolate.