Although immortalized in John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” this quote is attributed to Allen Saunders in 1957. It was certainly true in my life last Sunday. I was driving home from a wonderful writing conference. I had spent four days with other writers, attended educational sessions, heard inspirational key-note speakers, and pitched my book to editors and agents. I received 11 requests for manuscript submissions. It was an incredible weekend. On the way out to the car, I noticed that I was experiencing what seemed to be heart burn. I hadn’t really had that before, so I thought that it was probably my lunch talking back to me.
I called Arden to report that I was on my way home. Nearing the end of our conversation as I was saying goodbye, Nick yelled in the background, “Tell her I fall down. Tell her I have a seizure.” I stopped mid-sentence. “He had a seizure?” Arden said, “Yes, it was a drop seizure and with the rescue meds and VNS magnet protocol, it didn’t progress to anything else.”
“Well that is a relief,” I said. Arden was getting Nick ready to lay down for a nap to rest, so I said that I would let him work on Nick and that I would be home soon.
My thoughts turned back to all of my experiences over the weekend and all of the things that I wanted to do in the coming days.
While planning my week ahead, I began to notice some pressure building in my chest. Then as I was driving through our little town of Carnation, the pressure rapidly turned to pain. Alarmingly, shortness of breath accompanied a tingling sensation down my left arm.
Oh no, am I having a heart attack! I called Arden and told him that I was going to a friends home in town rather than driving the additional 10 minutes to home.
My friends teenage daughter answered the door. I felt a little guilty as I blurted out, “Please call 911, I think I am having a heart attack.” She did call, the medics did come, I rode in the back of the ambulance to the hospital emergency room and I wasn’t having a heart attack. Instead the doctor said that my symptoms stemmed from a chronic overproduction of adrenaline. It is a hormone that the body releases at times of acute stress. The doctor asked if I often felt anxiety. He asked Arden and Derek who were with me, if I often ‘freaked out.’
The answer to both of those questions was no. Typically I do have a lot ‘on my plate,’ but I just plow ahead to get things done. He explained that, even having a mind full of thoughts, my body would perceive this as stress, even though real danger wasn’t actually present, and that stress would stimulate my body to release adrenaline and the other stress hormones.
I had known for a long time that I needed to reduce stress in my life. Now my body was going on strike demanding that I make some changes.
The main problem is I don’t have a clear understanding about how to make those changes. I feel responsible for so many things.
Instead of sending out query letters, writing blog posts, working on client files, updating websites and all of the other things I was going to do this week, I have been seeing doctors and having tests to gain a clearer understanding on what is happening with my body chemistry. I have been talking to my family and close friends to discover what can be changed. Asking the hard questions like, “what am I truly responsible for and what is just something that I want to do?”
Ironically (or not, since I don’t really believe in coincidence), in my email inbox this week were two articles discussing the long term stress that caregivers experience including suggested ways to manage and even eradicate that stress. I still don’t know everything I will cut out, but I am beginning to have a clearer picture. I do know that I want to still be here and be healthy.
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