so i went to the doctor on tuesday for a follow up on a minor issue from earlier in the month. and my blood pressure was high. even for me. who has high blood pressure. i was instructed to keep an eye on it for a few days and make a follow up appointment.
i was appropriately nervous, but figured the sinus headache, lengthy cold, minor issue from earlier in the month, all in the last month and lack of exercise from all those all in the last month and oh yeah, the last few years just was rolling all together, and contributed to the reading and i just needed to take it easier.
so i went for a walk after the doctor to clear my head and get some fresh air.
now, the walking trail we've been going to for years is 4 or 5 miles from our house. it's a bike trail, too. one big loop, flat and wide, a boardwalk over the wetlands. it's pretty and quiet. you go through trees and meadows and wetlands. there is a little creek. and in the fall you can even see salmon.
so i'm walking along and i'm thinking about what i can do to get healthier, but sort of on the abstract. despite all evidence to the contrary, i feel like a pretty healthy person. i eat well, i exercise, i like my body. all the things you're supposed to do. sure, maybe i could do more of this and less of that, and not every curve is the one i want to flaunt. but all in all, i feel like i'm doing what i'm supposed to.
at this point i get to the spot on the walk where the trail cuts through a tall meadow. and at the edge of the meadow there is a stand of trees, and beyond the trees is the highway.
some time ago i was walking along with my family and right there at the edge of the meadow where it meets the trees there was a giraffe. just out of the blue. just standing there. and yes, at first i thought it was real.
oh, there's a giraffe!
and that's when wingman said
it was here last time, mama.
oh. i honestly did not remember it being there last time. and then every time after that i would see it and it would shock me. this life size giraffe just standing there. and i would wonder, is it flat? or a real lifelike replica? part of a drama set? who put it there? and then as time went it shocked me less and less and i would look forward to coming upon it. and i would register it and keep walking.
and then one day i noticed someone had mowed a path through the meadow to the giraffe. you could walk right up to the giraffe and check it out.
oh, there's a path!
and i didn't take it. not when i first noticed it. not the next time. and not tuesday when i was walking after my doctor's appointment. i can't say why, i just never did. i registered the giraffe and the path and kept walking. i felt good, i ended my walk, and i went home.
and the next morning, yesterday morning, i went to the emergency room with all the symptoms of a heart attack.
i got put in a wheelchair and saw my kids' faces in the waiting room as i was taken back through those double doors.
i got put on a bed and hooked up to a bunch of machines and saw my husband's face as he stood next to me.
they put in an IV for blood draws and took my blood and my blood pressure and stuck stickers with snaps all over my chest and snapped me in and measured my heart rate and asked me all the questions you ask someone who comes in with shortness of breath, chest pains, shooting pain down the arm, all the questions. they put me in a gown. i knew then it would be a long day.
'have you been under any stress, lately?'
and that's when i started to cry.
obviously, they don't read my blog.
and my blood pressure? 193/116.
they ran the tests one runs to check for a heart attack. they watched the monitors. i held my husband's hand. i held my breath.
the first tests came back negative for a heart attack. but they cautioned about a false positive. they would do another test in three hours, that would give them a better estimate.
my blood pressure came down. still high, but way way down. my heart monitor and oxygen saturation and respiration and heart rate looked good.
my lab work was excellent. i am, apparently a healthy young woman. (i put in young, the doctor never said young. ;) )
i sent my family home to eat lunch and come back for the next blood test.
and i just rested in the hospital bed and listened to the beeps and the commotion around me and wondered how in the hell i got there. not that i didn't know. but life seems to become a bit more transparent and beg for a bit more self examination, WITHOUT all the bullshit, when you're confined to a bed and can't move because you are hooked up to machines that are there to measure your life. and what you may have left of it.
funny how that works.
the second test came back negative. my blood pressure was still down. no heart attack. it was chalked up to blood pressure and stress. i am to monitor, talk to my doctor, and only change my blood pressure medication if it doesn't stay level through the weekend. come back with anymore symptoms.
and then they unhooked me and took out the IV and gave me my clothes and i took off the stickers all over my chest and i got sent home.
my family was scared, it was traumatic. i'm only now realizing how much harder it is to be the one in the waiting room. the one standing by the bed, rather than the one in it. harder still when you're 9 and 13 and that's your mama. or you're 45 and that's your whole life.
i have known that i have high blood pressure. hell i take medication every single day for it. it's not some big surprise. it's not like it hasn't been there a few years. it's a family curse, one of them anyway. i'll take the sharp wit and the gallows humor. the blood pressure sucks, though.
but i can't just blame that. i'm right where i am because of me. i know what i need to do and i don't do enough of it. the bottom line is while i am happy with who i am, my heart is not. my frame is simply just too damned small for the weight on it. i'm not supposed to be a size 2, but i'm not supposed to be as 'curvy' as i am.
and it's been such a stressful long stretch and i can be as positive as i want, and i am, but that stress finds a home somewhere. i did NOT do enough to give it an outlet. stress builds. and it kills. i know this, and i could have done more.
but even when you know something it's easy to disregard it. like the giraffe at the edge of the meadow it's easy to become accustomed to seeing it. even when a clear path is created, we are content still to just see it at the edge of the meadow. no need to get closer, we know it's there, manageable. and look at me! look how i manage!
but that's not how we get healthy. by managing. we get healthy by doing. less of this, more of that. it's never been rocket science.
i am not a stupid person. i know this. what the fuck.
and all of us has a giraffe. whether it's related to health or relationships or finances or addictions or whatever, we all have some thing somewhere we know is there and needs to be addressed. and we don't, or we do very minimally. enough to convince ourselves we've got it covered. and even when we do see a path to it, we just walk by. and we keep going on the loop. seeing the giraffe, registering it, ignoring the path, moving along the loop. lather, rinse, repeat.
it's so easy.
but i will tell you what, and you know where i'm going with this, lying on a hospital bed bargaining with god is NOT the time to start dealing with the giraffe. your odds, at that point, are not very good.
so there you have it. i could go on and on about changes and plans and preciousness of life and all that. but unless you're on oprah and she's touching your knee and handing you a tissue that's just boring. and, i think you get the gist.
i am still the luckiest girl in the world. but i know now that luck can and does run out.
and when atlas shrugs it's a big fucking deal. so secure your goods and find your hard hat before this happens.
above all, take care of you. and quit ignoring the parts that need the most attention. life is too goddamn short. and it's only getting shorter every day.