When it rains it pours and you don’t want to be outside when it happens. In our day and age, jobs, even though safer than ever, still carry certain risks, some more than others.
Even a desk job, such as mine, has its downfalls. I may not have to worry about machines pinching my hand, or chemicals burning my flesh, but, like most, I’m prone to stress and far from immune to it. Well aware of the fact that stress- related diseases range from high blood pressure to heart attack and many in between, I didn’t heed the warning signs; I blatantly ignored them. After all, these things happen to others, not to me. But that’s not how the story continues.
The First Signs
When I got up too fast, which is my modus operandi, I started getting dizzy more and more often. I explained it away as “oh I didn’t eat”, or “I should have some water.” I attributed it to anything that would keep me from admitting to myself that my body was crying out for help. Lying in bed at night, my heart would pound in my ears as if I’d run around the block instead of lying still in my bed. My excuse: “oh I should stop having coffee so late in the afternoon.” Can you tell where this is heading? Then the frequent headaches, which I took care of with an asprin, only to need another a few hours later. I did this until that day in September, when I was getting in to my car and suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. It seemed like my blood was rushing through my ears- I could actually hear it travel -and my heart was pounding so hard I could see my sweater move to the rhythm. I was scared to death and thought “this is it, I’m a goner”. Fortunately for me a colleague was leaving the office just then. She saw my panicked look and how I was flayed across the car seat and called 911.
I don’t remember much of that ride except the noise, the hectic and the pure fear of dying. I was very lucky that things happened as they did. I had suffered a mild stroke. During my stay in the hospital, I found out that I suffered from extreme high blood pressure and was lucky to be alive. When resting, my values were higher, than that of people running, 160/100.
I was immediately put on medication to lower my blood pressure and had to continuously monitor it. Stress, I was told, had to be avoided at all cost or what had happened to me with a mild stroke might turn into a more debilitating stroke or even cause a heart attack. I realized I wanted to live and I had to make some changes. Forced to quit my job, my meager savings quickly trickled away, giving way to another form of stress, financial distress. I didn’t know where I’d get the money to pay my bills and, on doctor’s orders, wasn’t able to go to work at that time. I was devastated. I had worked all my life and never depended on anybody else and now, here I was having to ask my mother for money to pay my bills. I was so ashamed. I can still remember that feeling of shame and worthlessness. If I had known then, what I know now, it would have never come to this dilemma. If I had covered my “invincible” bases with an income protection insurance plan like the one I have from Suncorp now, it would have been smooth sailing, at least financially. What’s the saying? Hindsight is always 20/20.
Having come to terms with the fact that blood pressure medication will be a part of the rest of my life, I have also made a conscious effort to live as healthily as I can and make sure that those parts of my body that are still healthy remain that way. Back to work, stress is back in my life, but it’s different now because I am compensating by relaxing after work. I don’t rush to cook or do the dishes, I don’t HAVE to do this or that. I kick off my shoes, light a few candles, put on something comfortable and meditate for 20 minutes, which includes breathing exercises. At home I can just let it all go, or as Terri Guillemets so eloquently put it “Give your stress wings and let it fly away”.
I’ve opened my umbrella and I’ve shared my story with you, so you can open yours before it pours. Remember; “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” Etty Hillesum
The author is Arlene Chandler who worked for a real estate firm in Seattle for 8 years, gathering her knowledge on career management and income protection and now writes for Suncorp Income Protection Insurance.