Today is February 1st. It feels very much like February in Western Pennsylvania. There is a Nor'easter blowing about, schools are canceled, and it feels like winter. February is also National Heart Month. I touch on this because I have a very personal tie to this topic. I have debated whether to share my experience, but I feel like there are no coincidences, and timing is everything. Last week, I had an appointment with a cardiologist. It was a sobering appointment and not at all what I was expecting. Words like heart disease, silent killer, and imminent heart attack were spoken. It was frightening.
I have been fighting high blood pressure for several years. It runs in my family, and I wasn't that concerned until last week. My blood pressure has been through the roof for the past year or so, and I can't seem to get it under control. There have been medication changes with no effect. I have started to be very cautious with my sodium intake, diet, and daily exercise. However, nothing seems to help lower it. I am not sure what caused the change. We have had a very stress filled two years, but things have started to improve in the last six months or so. The doctor attributes some of it to the pandemic, but to be truthful, I feel like we just roll with what is going on around us. The Bibbed Wonder, The Bean, and those I love are all healthy and well; I could not ask for more.
When we were in the throes of a personal family crisis, I began having these headaches that were so severe; I would be taken down almost instantly. It was as if someone were driving a knife into my skull. The pain and pressure were so intense and severe I thought I was experiencing migraines. I have come to realize; these were blood pressure spikes. I have had chest pain episodes, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, but I assumed it was anxiety. I experience fatigue, but I attributed it to my Lupus. I never thought I had heart issues. I'm forty-eight; I had the attitude it only happened to older people. I was disillusioned.
I must admit, last week was a rough one for me. I experienced fear, anger, self-loathing, and mortality. I cried, internally railed, and blamed myself for creating this situation. I thought about having to leave The Bibbed Wonder and The Bean. I thought about what life would look like without me around. I imagined my beautiful baby depressed with a mullet and only bib overalls to wear. I envisioned her walking around with bed head, body odor, and no socks because she can usually cajole her dad into cutting back on her hygiene routine. When I cried and told Eric this, he laughed and told me I had better not die and leave him or he would take up with women of questionable moral character. He was then indignant about my visualization of his care of my bean. Seriously, bibs are not really a fashion statement for a forty-year-old man, let alone a young teenager...sigh. However, this roller coaster of emotion soon passed, and I became determined.
I have decided to change the trajectory of this onset. I have vowed to lose a considerable amount of weight, created a plan and a schedule. I am following the DASH diet. I have extended my daily walks with the big B-dog and included yoga. I was advised not to begin any intense exercise regimens until my blood pressure is under control. For once, I am taking myself and my health seriously. I am a terrible patient. I'm not particularly eager to go to the doctor, so I don't. I usually end up going once a year or so, and then I have a list of ailments I need to have addressed. Last week was a wake-up call for me. I have to change my ways, or I will not be happy with the outcome. I have to take my health seriously. I still feel frightened when I think about it, but I can do things to improve. It is early; the damage is not irreparable.
I believe we tend to make excuses for not taking care of ourselves. We assume it won't happen to us. We place the care and well-being of those we love at the top tier of our concerns. We ignore the signs and symptoms that something is wrong. On this first day of February, my advice is don't ignore, assume, excuse, or invalidate. What you feel is real. You are not weak or a hypochondriac for going to the doctor. The family schedule will not fall apart if you take an afternoon and see your medical professional. Those you love can do without you for a day, don't make them do without you for the rest of their lives.
I apologize for the serious tone, the gloom and doom, and the lack of laughter. I feel like I am not alone in my behavior, my excuse-making. In this month of heart health, take the time, make a few small changes, take care of yourself. As always, dear reader, stay safe, stay smart, take care of yourself, and wash your hands.