Jimmy's Story My name is Jim Durante. I'm Bonnie Durante's son. She is the founder of our support group. I've struggled with MVP Syndrome my whole life, really. As far back as I can remember I had symptoms such as chest pain, palpitations, lightheadedness, fatigue, irritable bowel, severe anxiety, and phobias. I was able to live with most of the symptoms without them interfering too much in my life. The weakness and fatigue and the pounding and racing heart were everyday occurrences to me. They never concerned or scared me, because I thought that they were normal feeling that everyone had. Irritable bowel, though, was tough for me to deal with, physically, as well as mentally. I don't know which was worse, worrying about going out and having an attack or the actual attack itself.
The one symptom that did severely interfere with my life was anxiety. Anxiety was my worst enemy, living inside of me, directing and controlling my life. I was pretty much anxious most of the time, especially when engaging in new activities. It seemed that I had a new fear or phobia every month throughout my childhood. I was scared of just about everything that I thought could harm me, like learning how to ride a bike and how to swim, as well as learning how to drive. Actually, driving was my greatest phobia of all. My hands used to start sweating profusely before I even got in the car. Once I got in the driver's seat, my heart started pounding, my body stated shaking, and my stomach started gurgling. Some of my other phobias included: Calling people on the telephone, social situations, oral speeches, being alone at night, and dogs.
Being a very observant person I was always full of envy and amazement when I saw how others actually enjoyed taking part in the very same activities that I feared. I was constantly asking myself, "Why am I different? Why aren't I normal?" Most people looked at what kind of fun or challenge could come out of trying something new. I thought of what harm could come to me in most situations. This was the irrational side of me always coming to the forefront. What happened after years of thinking like this was that I developed what may be the worst fear of all: The fear of fear.
Unfortunately, years of anxiety finally took its toll on me, robbing me of my passions, as well as my self-esteem. I became slightly agoraphobic and avoided most outside activities. My thinking was very narrow-minded in that my main goal was to avoid engaging in anxiety-provoking situations. Instead of going after life, I avoided it. My anxiety didn't allow me to look or prepare for the future; instead, it forced me to live day to day. Hindsight allows me to understand how I merely existed, not lived, day to day.
You'll be happy to know that I'm doing very well these days. Along with educating myself about MVPS, I also had to work on my self-esteem. Although it was hard at first, changing my diet, as well as starting to exercise regularly, helped me immensely. Probably the most important thing that I had to do in order to ensure that I'd get better was to learn how to unlearn. I had to, for instance, unlearn the ridiculous lessons that we all learned as youngsters, especially males, such as not admitting or talking about problems. We have always thought that anxiety, panic attacks, and depression are weaknesses. I also had to unlearn the stigma of going to a psychiatrist and taking medicine. It always amazed me how for a lot of people the fear of talking about their problems outweighs the problem itself.
After everything I've been through, it is so gratifying to be part of The Society for MVPS. I will continue to help others with this disorder for as long as I possibly can. Jim