Because my friend is notoriously cheap, he elected to call me up rather than pay to sit on anyone's couch. I told him that I could not treat him, of course, but could only respond as a friend. I suggested that he could start by examining his life to note if there were any significant changes or new developments that may be at the root of his anxiety.
Like the cardiologist, I assumed that because no organic cause could be found for his symptoms, the heart palpitations must indeed be due to stress and/or anxiety. And truly, walk into any emergency department of any hospital and you will find a slew of people who swear to God they are having a heart attack and are about to die, but for whom the eventual (and dare I say, life-saving) diagnosis will be an anxiety or panic attack. After submitting to a gazillion expensive tests, such patients are then told that they should consider seeking psychological treatment. This of course after having already forked over a fortune on EEGs and other tricks of the cardiologic trade.
My friend duly noted experiencing some job stressors related to a competitive co-worker whom he felt was always trying to show him up. This in addition to the stress of dating a seriously crazy woman to whom he appears to be hopelessly addicted.
Because he is my friend, I know better than to do anything other than suggest that maybe he should be patient, maybe he may have misunderstood her, maybe he can do better but if this is where he's at right now, I'm fully supportive. And so on. You know the drill. We've all been there.
So I strongly urged my friend to set aside his cheapness and find the money to spring for a psychologist, one who was not his friend and could therefore confront him honestly on his history of messed-up relationship choices that clearly indicated serious commitment issues that he sorely needed to address. Not that I said any of that. I'm too much his friend to be that honest.
What I said instead was that he should stop being such a cheap-assed Scrooge and dip into his damn pocket and spend some of his fricking money on a real shrink instead of trying to get me to advise him on my off-time when I would rather be watching the 2012 US Open, pissed as I am over not actually being there, thank you very much much. You know, like a true friend.
Thank goodness he had the sense to completely ignore me. Instead he talked to his mother. She, being a woman grounded in common sense, suggested that it did not make any sense that he was having heart palpitations just like that out of the blue. She pointed out that if it was anxiety, then why hadn't he had heart palpitations when his brother died five years ago? And why didn't he have heart palpitations when she finally worked up the courage to leave his father after years of abuse? Surely there must be another explanation? Was he by any chance taking any new medications?
The answer was yes. The only recent change was that he had decided finally to take medication for the foot fungus that had haunted him since his NCAA days.
This being the age of Google, mom instantly got on the internet and did a search on heart palpitations and foot fungal treatment. And guess what? It turned out that they were an uncommon but possible side effect of the drug he was using to treat his foot fungus. My friend immediately stopped taking the medication. The palpitations started becoming less and less frequent as the drug gradually dissipated from his body. A month later, his heart has completely settled down. No more palpitations. Problem solved.
So, after hearing that Fish had withdrawn from the US Open on the advice of his doctor, my friend calls me tonight to ask if I have any suggestions about how he might get in touch with Mardy Fish. My friend believes that as a professional tennis player, Mardy must be dealing with his own foot fungus issues. Heck didn't Brad Gilbert admit (in “Winning Ugly”) that he had an entire toenail removed in response to its constant reinfection?
Surely Mardy needed to quit it with the ablations and other invasive procedures on his poor heart? Surely there was a way for him to tell Mardy that there was nothing wrong with his heart that stopping (assumed) foot fungal treatment would not cure? Did I have any suggestions on how he might get in touch with Fish? Or with that fine-looking wife of his? Either would be fine but preferably the wife.
I told my friend that maybe Fish just panicked when he thought about facing my darling Federer who has been playing tennis with the energy of a spring chicken. Maybe his problem was anxiety after all. Or a deep fear over facing my Fed. My friend called me a cynical biyatch and hung up the phone.