As I sat at my desk in my classroom, I wondered,
“Why does my chest feel heavy? Where am I? DUDE…why do my feet tingle??”
Recognizing that this couldn’t be normal, I walked to the school clinic and the nurse took my blood pressure. “151/114…wow that’s too high,” she informed me, then proceeded to ask if I’d ever had issues with my blood pressure. “I had hypertension when I was pregnant,” I told her, “but it’s been fine since.” Once I told her that I’d been feeling strangely for a couple of days, she gave me two options: either be taken to the ER by the school’s parent liason (I’m positive I spelled that wrong), or go in an ambulance. Clearly, I chose the former (the idea of an ambulance bill made my head spin even more).
When we get to the ER, I’m seen right away. The nurses do an EKG (fancy-speak for a machine that monitors your heart rhythm) and then rush me back to an exam room, where they do a chest X-ray. Less than 20 minutes later, the doctor comes i and tells me that everything “looks normal.” So, with the exception of the high blood pressure, chest pain, dizziness and tingling, I’m totally fine.
…I know. WTF, right?
The doctor was very sweet (and cute, I might add) and told me that I did the right thing by coming in. “Obviously something was wrong, but by the time you got here, you were feeling better.” He went on to explain that these things can be “hard to capture in a 30-second EKG or snapshot X-Ray,” (wise with words and handsome, that doctor) and recommended that I go see my primary care doctor to get started on blood pressure medication and a cardiologist to get an ultrasound of my heart, just to rule out any complications.
Clear answer, right? Wrong. See, I’ve been down this road before. Never so severely that I ended up in the ER (THAT was new….and embarrassing) but I’ve dealt with my blood pressure since my first pregnancy. I’ve been on medication, I’ve seen the cardiologist, I’ve done all the tests and spent ALL the money, and wanna know how that story turns out? I bet you can guess…”everything looks fine.”
So in all my years of experience with doctors, medicines and tests, I have found that when the exams yield normal results, doctors turn to the only possible culprit: stress. I should preface what I’m about to say by telling you that my body is extra delicate and does NOT handle stress well (think migraines, eczema, etc.) Long story short, I’m a delicate f*ing flower. I used to get annoyed when doctors would point to stress as the root of my troubles, but the fact is that they may be onto something. The fact is that when I’m eating well, working out, and taking plenty of time to rest, I don’t have any concerns with my health.
The point that I’m making is that I take very good care of myself and I still ended up in the ER with inexplicable chest pain and high blood pressure. Stress is a scary, silent killer and this “episode,” as the doctor referred to it, has got me contemplating my life choices. Life is always hectic, but lately things have been beyond stressful. My job feels impossible, for starters, and I’m juggling that with school and two tiny, demanding humans. What happened felt like a giant warning sign to make a change “or else.” I’ll be damned if I keel over before I’m 30, and at work, of all places.
Sometimes it’s OK, and even necessary, to fill your plate and push through the stressful times, but if your body is yelling at you, slow down, pay attention, and listen.