How did this happen?
There are so many cliche analogies comparing life to something else that either tangible or intangible within our realm of reality. One of my favorites is comparing life to seasons. Meaning, when you live where I do, life changes like the seasonal weather patterns…by the minute.
I tried to prepare myself on how to write all of this, but naturally it all came out in a simple, “Meh.” response in my own head. The seasons have changed drastically for me a of late. By no means is any of the following meant to be dramatic, but merely a glimpse of my own mind over the past few months.
I can finally say that after 30 years on this planet I managed to finally scare myself…
Like all good things in my life, in relation to this previous post, major events tend to revolve around panic attacks. It’s kind of becoming my M.O. in life. A few weeks ago, running on a crazy hot night, I decided to run the final mile of my run. For myself that would mean going from a 16 minute mile to a 10 minute mile. Anything that rapid cannot be considered safe under any circumstance. After I finished I noticed this knot that has formed in my chest. I tried to shake it off and walk away, but like any good obsessive brain, that knot did not go away.
It did not go away from 24 hours.
After yoga on Tuesday I was standing next to a friend who happens to be in the medical pharmaceutical field. I made the note, jokingly, of having this pain in my chest for over 24 hours. She did not find it humorous in the slightest.
I wound up in the emergency room three blocks away from the yoga studio for the next four and half hours. There I went through multiple EKG tests, blood tests, and my blood pressure (167/138) was frequently monitored. Inside the blood work they found a protein in my blood stream that is only in there when the heart has been in extreme stress. They ruled out a heart attack because the protein went away after an IV of fluids, because I was dehydrated. Three doctors came in, the final one being the head of the department, he made it clear that in June I had not taken a day of actual rest. Between mountain climbing, running, and traveling I never stopped. Factor that in with being perpetually dehydrated and to no surprise my body was in a rather serious state. They told me to rest (NO RUNNING) for a week and a half, and visit with a cardiologist for a follow up just to be sure nothing was amiss.
A week and a half of resting left my stir crazy and anxious to get back on my feet. Notably back out onto the dirt. However, prior to that event, I had to first visit with a cardiologist.
Note: I am a 30 year old visiting with a cardiologist. This is not normal.
When I stepped into the cardiology unit (being the youngest by at least 50 years) I was directed back. The concept was simple; check blood pressure, go through some tests, and call it a day with a “be careful” on the side. A great lesson, no harm, no foul, and life continues.
The nurse took my blood pressure, at 8:30 AM, it was 160/105. I had been awake for approximately an hour at that point. She attempted to make some small talk, and then she disappeared to grab the cardiologist. I sat in the room alone, pondering what was going on. Why was I here? How did this happen? Everything about the situation felt ‘off’ compared to what I was expecting.
Dr. Rachel came into the room and sat down in front of me. She didn’t mention a word about my heart, aside from a quick rundown of what got me into this mess to begin with. Instead she started with this…
Has anyone talked to you about your blood pressure? Looking at these numbers and from your ER visit, you’re on the cusp of being at high risk for a stroke.
Once again, I am 30 years old.
Most things in life I don’t take well. I laugh, chuckle, make a quick joke and then dwell on it later. This was not one of those most things. It hit hard, and frankly it scared me to death. My diet isn’t awful, my weight is alright, and I’m extremely active. Nothing made sense (aside from my dad going on blood pressure medication at age 25). The doctor gave me a minute to digest the information, and started talking about blood pressure medication.
I’m too young for this. This isn’t happening. I’m going to never run again. I am alone. I am scared. What is going on? Is this is?
She told me in the end it was completely my choice. I informed her that if left to my own devices I would find a way to die at an early age (translation: I wouldn’t take the medicine because I’m scared of change). Because of that I placed her best judgement at the top of the priority list. She left, after stating that we needed to schedule an echocardiogram, stress test, and a full blood panel for July 20th. After that, she slipped away very doctor…isc.
Again, alone in the room with nothing but my thoughts trying to piece together how this easy process fragmented into shards of chaos. Another person stepped into the room with some papers:
Here’s your prescription. You can pick it up on your way home. Read the instructions. Take one tablet a day.
…and he to was gone.
Walking out of the building, after scheduling more tests, grams, and blood stuff I was shaking by the time I got to my car. I sat in the car, and life got really messy…
WHY AM I BROKEN!
I wound up at the gym that I train at throughout the week. The owner was in a private session with a client. She came to see me, told me I wasn’t broken, and I was this close to turning into a blubbering mess in the gym. It was so ugly. I sat on a couch and waited for her to finish.
She started talking to me about being positive. The idea that I’ve ran all those races and distances with high blood pressure, what will it be like to run without high blood pressure? This could be a huge break for my running career.
The lady that brought to the emergency room started texting me about the medication I was prescribed, potential side effects, and why it is a good drug. A buddy I ran with in Omaha sent me information on what the drug does, and how runners are able to handle it very well within their systems after they acclimate. People started pouring in information to calm me down, remind me that I am not broken, and focused solely on the positive idea of catching this early.
After an hour of being a spastic mess I bid farewell from the gym and drove home to grab the prescription.
This is the first medication I’ve ever been given via a doctor.
I started my blood pressure medication at 9:15 PM July 9th, 2018 after a 4.5 mile run/hike with friends. I take a tablet at 9:00 PM every night, no matter what. With the help of a few friends and my cousin, I redesigned my daily food intake. Most notable was realizing I was cutting myself short 700-1000 calories, and I removed 95% meat (my choice), added in whole wheat, fruits, and vegetables. I’m not saying that it has made a huge difference, but it is a positive first step with the blood pressure thing and also as a runner.
The side effects sadly have been real. My heart fluttered last night in the middle of getting a tattoo, absolutely terrifying me and keeping me awake until 4:00 AM this morning. The fatigue comes in waves and just wipes me out. Hopefully these things will balance out over time. Outside of that it’s been keeping my mind under control, and frequently defusing the fear that I am having a heart attack or a stroke.
Interestingly enough, the doctor was quite surprised that I climbed a mountain and ran a mountain 32 mile race in the previous month without any health complications. I won’t ask any questions, and just take the evident blessing.
Death, divorce, and all other random acts of insanity of my life really haven’t taken a huge toll on my faith. Yes, I’ve lost faith in humanity on multiple occasions, but I never felt isolated from God in those instances.
This was a struggle.
This was the first time personally that I recall being angry with God. Everything felt (feels) out of control, and the sensation of being lost in it all is very overwhelming. Does He still love me? Yes, I know that. Does knowing that make any of this any easier? No. I’m scared, this is new territory for me, and it is nerve-racking. I’ve been so out of control that I haven’t slept some nights for fear of something happening in my sleep. I almost lost it last night because of the fear of driving down the interstate. It is not easy to find God in these moments. Sure, a wishlist of “please make this go away” would be nice, but that is not necessarily how life works. I’m still working on that ‘blind faith’ concept, and this is pushing that threshold.
With that said; there is something to be said about friendships. I do believe that God puts people in our lives when we don’t even know that we need them. I absolutely hate relying on other people for my own life; I feel guilt with it. Frequently. However, there are times, as God showed me recently, where you have to lean on those around you in order to get through whatever the situation is.
*trying not to cry*
I have been blessed with incredible individuals that have answered my freak out text messages at midnight, talked my heart rate down at 4:00 AM, and even just allowed me to sit in their gym and completely flip out for a while.
That’s what kept me from not completely hating God.
For pure transparency (and a final entertaining note) all of these medical events have happened two months since “accidentally” getting a diagnoses for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. To date I have been the only person within my own world of friends that was actually surprised.
It’s 9:00 PM; I’ll end this piece here and locate the orange pill bottle…