They say that you’re only as old as you feel. It’s a bit of a silly saying, but also true in a lot of ways. I personally feel that my love of toys, video games, YA books, and so on keeps me young. After all, if you’re not having fun in life, you’re just spiraling inexorably toward the end of it.
That said, from a purely chronological and biological standpoint, I can’t deny the fact that I am, indeed, growing older. Oh, I’m not making plans for my inevitable stay at the old folk’s home or anything. Thirty-four is still plenty young. But it’s old enough to realize that, at least from that biological standpoint, you’re definitely not a kid anymore. In the mid-thirties things start to happen that force you to look in the mirror, cringe a little, and admit, “Dammit, I’m getting old.”
One such moment occurred for me this past week, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t at least a little bit scary.
I’ve always had excellent blood pressure (we’re talking an average of 125/70), but in the past few years, without me really realizing it, it had started to sneak upward. I didn’t test it often, but every now and then there would be a doctor’s appointment or a medical for a job that would inform me that I’d crawled up into 135/75 territory, and eventually into the 140s/80s range. I never worried about it too much because I felt fine. End of thought process. Stubborn, “I’m too young for this shit” nonsense.
But in the past several months in particular, I found that I’d worked up into the 150s/90s area, and that started to bother me a bit. More bothersome, though, was the fact that I started to feel very random little flutters in my chest. To this day I can’t really describe exactly what they feel like. It’s not pain, not tightness, just….flutters. The best way I can put it into words is that it feels a bit like I’ve lost my breath for just a moment, but simultaneously it feels like my chest is as full of air as it can be. They were just tiny little flutters at first, enough to be noticed but not enough to be particularly concerned about.
But then, a few days ago while I was at work, the flutters seemed like they were coming all at once. I felt a bit like there was a hand on my breastbone, pressing in; not enough to call it “tightness”, but definitely a “this isn’t right” kind of feeling. I tested my blood pressure (there’s a machine where I work) and it was higher than I’d ever seen it, at about 162/91. I checked it again an hour later and it had gone up to about 173/93. That definitely concerned me, but my coworker told me to sit down, take some deep breaths, and take it easy for a bit before trying again. I did, and sure enough when I tested it again it had gone back down into the 160s, and then eventually back down into the 150s. Even still, it was freaky, so I made an appointment with my doctor for the following week.
However, the following day I decided that I couldn’t wait for that appointment. I’d gone the day at work with little to no incident, checking my pressure every so often and finding that it stayed in the 150s, but that evening at home things got scary. We’d just finished supper, and Jason, Adrianna, and I were relaxing in the living room, playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate together. I was having fun, and had no reason to be worked up or stressed out, but after a few matches I began to feel very off. I was getting flutters, and that hand-on-my-breastbone feeling again. Adrianna’s yelling at the game started to feel like physical punches to my ribs, and my heart felt like it was beating way too fast, even though a pulse check told me it wasn’t much higher than 80 bpm. I decided to take the chance at looking foolish and head to outpatients at our local hospital.
I’m quite certain that the triage nurse who saw me first thought that I was overreacting, and perhaps a little bit of a hypochondriac. She asked tons of questions before actually checking my blood pressure, including asking if I was in any pain and getting a bit of a look on her face when I said no. But then she finally did check my blood pressure. Twice.
For those of you who don’t really understand blood pressure measurements, that reading is just shy of “if I cut you, your blood will gush out like in a Quentin Tarantino movie”.
I was immediately brought into the back for an EKG, a bunch of blood work, and a chest X-ray, and after a few more questions from the doctor on hand I was given two different blood pressure medications as well as an anti-anxiety med and told to lay down and rest until they gave me the okay to leave.
If that’s not a scary situation to find yourself in, I really don’t know what is. I tossed out a few messages to friends and coworkers, and tweeted about the incident on the YouTube channel account, and if you asked the people who saw those things they’d probably say that I seemed pretty calm about it all, but I can’t lie and say that I was. I was pretty freaked out. I’d always assumed that my blood pressure would get bad eventually, since the entirety of both sides of my family suffer from it, but I didn’t expect it to happen in my mid-30s, and I definitely didn’t expect it to go so high all at once. When I saw that 193/112 pop up on the monitor screen, I seriously thought I was taking a heart attack or something.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case. All of the other tests came back fine, I was deemed to be perfectly healthy aside from the blood pressure itself, and whatever that anti-anxiety med was it worked so well that I actually passed out and slept in the hospital bed for nearly two hours. When I awoke my blood pressure had dropped down into the 140s/90s area, and I was given a shiny new prescription for a daily blood pressure med and told that I could go home.
In the end, the experience came down to one very small pill that I have to take every morning to keep my pipes open enough for the pressure to stay down (which it has: my blood pressure actually dropped to 129/80 yesterday for the first time in goodness knows how long). But the experience as a whole was definitely life-changing in other ways. For instance, I’ve concerned myself with what goes in my body before, but generally only because I was looking to lose weight or avoid things that bother my stomach. Now I find myself looking for heart-healthy solutions and keeping track of the amount of salt I take in.
But the even bigger one? Stress. Definitely stress. For years I denied the very concept that I could possibly be depressed, until I very nearly broke down completely, and luckily had a life-changing moment that worked out for the best. Stress is a very similar deal with me. Even now, as I sit here writing this, I’d swear to you that I don’t feel stressed. Maybe a little concerned about finances, maybe a little annoyed with current situations, maybe even a little PO’ed at some things…but stressed? Psh. I’m not stressed.
Except I absolutely am. I hate to admit it – to the point that I rarely ever do admit it out loud – but I definitely qualify as a stressed-out person. Going on my antidepressants has changed a lot in the level of damns I give about some things (mean comment on my YouTube video? Psh. I don’t know you and couldn’t give two shakes of a rat’s arse-hairs), but other things are a lot more deep-rooted. In particular, I have this constant voice in the back of my head screaming about all the things that need doing that I’ve failed to get done. And the thing is, most of them aren’t even important things – like, at all – but they’re still on that list that my inner-stress-monkey shrieks at me non-stop. Even at this moment, while admitting that they’re totally unimportant things that don’t NEED to be done, the voice is reminding me that I went three days this week without writing anything, and I haven’t shared any toy-pics on the YT Instagram account in ages, and I’ve got a pile of comics and books that I haven’t scanned into my tracker yet, and oh man, it’s getting close to supper and I haven’t decided what I’m making yet, and Jesus, woman, you let your damn tea get cold again, why don’t you just fucking drink it?!
Stress, you guys. Stupid, pointless stress as it may be, but stress none-the-less.
So I guess the moral of this post comes down to the fact that I have to learn to control that pointless stress. Obviously there are things that are worth getting stressed about, and obviously there are things that I can’t just give up on in the name of staying stress-free, but there are a lot of things in my life that stress me out that just shouldn’t. Who cares if I didn’t tweet anything today? Who cares if the laundry stays unfolded for another day? Who cares if I got caught up in reading a book and forgot about writing one for a day or two? In the end all that really matters enough to get stressed over is my family, making enough of a living to keep us all alive, and our general happiness. And if I have all that, I shouldn’t really be stressed at all, now should I?
Well, I’m still gonna be anyway, but all those other smaller things can just kiss my ass.