February 23, 2018, Friday, 7:30 pm. Finally after 6 weeks working in Michigan, my husband came home and I prepared a very special dinner to welcome him back. The boys (our 2 children) and I were very curious to hear about what life was like in “Uncle Sam's land”, as this would be our next destination as soon as the school year was over - after 4 wonderful and challenging years in Paris, we were on the move again.
For a few days I was feeling my heart beat in a different way. Faster. And that caught my attention, even though I didn’t lose sleep over it. However, after dinner, in addition to my heart racing, I had a spike in blood pressure and I felt like, unless I acted quickly, I was about to have a heart attack right there, in the middle of the dining room! In 5 minutes we were in the car, rushing to the hospital.
Once there, my blood pressure was already much lower and my heart rate was within normal limits. The doctors investigated the possible causes, did some blood tests, an electrocardiogram and, after getting normal results, said I was free to go. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep as soon as we got home.
When I woke up the next day, the symptoms came back. Without a second thought I rushed to the hospital again! Luckily, the doctor who saw me last night was still there. But this time, my blood pressure was even higher, so he called the cardiologist on duty and from then on it was 4 months of coming and going to the hospital, dozens of exams, blood pressure spikes, tachycardia and many attempts to figure out what was going on.
Although my family genetics did not exactly help (my father suffered from heart disease and my brother had 3 bypasses placed when he was only 43), thank God, I did not have any heart problems, which was the doctor’s main concern. After running out of possibilities, the neurologist who had been accompanying me for the past few months decided to prescribe me an anxiety medication.
I immediately disagreed with the diagnosis! I could not identify any characteristic of anxiety in me. Okay, I was in a hell of a rush, but I don't remember my life being very different. And, honestly, that was never a problem - I have always been a very energetic person and used to a more hectic pace of life.
I grudgingly agreed to undergo the treatment because I could not stand the discomfort caused by the increase in my blood pressure. I took the medication for some time and 1 month after moving to Michigan, the symptoms disappeared and the treatment ended.
Moving to another country, adapting to a new culture, creating a network is not an easy task. But it was our choice. My husband's routine has changed little. And what little change came, was actually for the better! For the first time in his life he was working close to home. Soccer opened the doors for our children and when classes started, it was much easier for them to make friends. But how about me? Of course, I had to reinvent myself and organize the house quickly so as not to impact our family routine. As life in Michigan is very peaceful (unlike Paris and Salvador), I concentrated my efforts on finding alternatives for leisure and entertainment for our sons. I wanted them to feel like the move was worth it!
The reality is that as women we are educated to play a multifunctional role and we believe that we can do a thousand things at the same time, flawlessly, without questioning why or how. We have not analyzed the consequences of this role we assign ourselves. We turn on the autopilot and off we go. But there are times when the engine breaks down! And since our body can’t count on us to sensibly take a break, it intelligently activates survival mode and makes us stop, whether we like it or not.
Today I look back and recognize that I was living through an emotionally demanding period, which triggered stress and, consequently, anxiety, without my realizing it. And there is nothing wrong with that! If organizing the routine of the house and taking care of the children is a lot of work, imagine organizing a move to another country alone (if you’ve been there you know what I'm talking about)!
Anxiety surreptitiously came into my life and that’s why I decided to dedicate some time to learn more about it. Do you know what I found out? Anxiety despises an active lifestyle, deep breathing, meditation, physical activity, positive thoughts, purpose, focus, organization, healthy diet, self-confidence and close friends. So, I invited them all to live within me - I bet anxiety won’t dare rearing its ugly head here anytime soon.
How about you, what are you doing to keep anxiety at bay?
Credit photo - Ryan McGuire by Pixabay