The Me Expedition Part 2

Lesson #1-Stress cannot be ignored, it must be faced and properly handled. 

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

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The Cardiologist had a look of concern on his face, “Your tests are showing normal parameters, but your heart rate is too fast, your blood count keeps decreasing and your blood pressure has dropped extremely low.”

“It’s Thanksgiving doctor, I promise to lie down at home. I would really like to celebrate my most favorite day of the year with my family,” I was determined to get out of that hospital.

Then he gave me that look again. It was kind of like the looks I’ve given my children when I gave them the permission to do something I really didn’t want them to do, “If I let you go home, you will have to come to my office immediately for a heart monitor,” he gave me a stern eye, “and you must take it easy until we get to the bottom of this. We aren’t done with all of your testing.”

It was as if his words went into one ear and quickly flew out of the other. I purposely held back the drive I’d have to take for my son’s upcoming wedding in Texas. I didn’t even let my family know how bad I was feeling.

Stress had now become a close acquaintance that was slowing tearing me down. 

Our finances were strained. Ensuring the care of the children at our centers, providing for our churches and property had now become a burden we could no longer carry. Misunderstandings with old friends had literally broken my heart. On top of it all, Ruben was also dealing with a a major health challenge.

I really tried my best to carry it all. I wanted to shoulder it the best I could, but I was dropping the ball. One ball at a time began to slip out of my hands and I responded by telling myself to keep trying. “You can do this Vicki. Don’t stop. Don’t slow down. Never let them see you weak.” Those lies guided me, along with the belief that I could do it all alone. “I don’t need help. People don’t understand me anyway. I’d rather be alone than with people who misinterpret me,” I thought this way daily.

So I told myself and everyone else that I was fine. But I wasn’t. Sadness crept in. I isolated myself. I made excuses to stay home from church. I backed away from people who tried their best to love me. I found refuge in my bed with the remote and the Hallmark channel.

Now I sat in my hospital bed, choosing to hold on to that lie. Not willing to face my shame, guilt and pain. I made a conscious choice to not accept what my body screamed at me.

I went home that day. I couldn’t balance myself well with my new crutches and fell again. This time I fell on the hard cement. I really wanted to cry, instead I laughed as Ruben nervously helped me up, “I’m fine honey,” I smiled. He wasn’t laughing.

I still couldn’t beat the exhaustion. My chest kept hurting. My blood pressure was now rising. Yet, I told myself that I was fine.

Our support wasn’t coming in as usual, but our centers still needed to continue. We were behind on our payments in the states too. On top of that stress, my son was about to get married practically on the other side of the country and I had to ensure that his rehearsal dinner was superb.

I felt horrible, but I easily hid the heart monitor and rode in the van on the 24 hour drive to Texas. A friend from Dallas drove down to the wedding venue to help me with the rehearsal dinner. Praise God for friends!

I was so sick, but no one knew how bad I felt. I laughed, I danced, I smiled and I posed all while hiding my heart monitor. Plus, I kept cramping. By now my breast were so tender, it hurt to wear my bra.

I wasn’t about to give in. I was sick so many times before. The torment that my family faces when I’m ill is way too emotionally taxing for me, so I decided that I was fine. “I’ll get through this, just keep moving,” I told myself.

I had so many plans for my trip to Texas. I would meet with some folks and try to work out an understanding of our recent disagreements. I would take the kids to visit our old home in Lancaster, Texas. I would go downtown Dallas and Fort Worth to show the girls the sights they weren’t able to enjoy as small children. I would take Starr to the Dallas Zoo to reminisce her childhood and the great memories we shared there.

But my body shut down. 

After the wedding, we drove to Grand Prairie to stay with my lifelong friends. All I could I do was to curl up on their couch. I moved from one sofa to another, then back to my bed during my entire visit!

We drove back to Virginia as I slept the entire trip, only to wake up at each stop to take a picture of myself in each state we crossed. I kept pushing and my body kept reacting.

“Your heart has premature contractions, your heart rate is too fast and now your blood pressure is too high,” the cardiologist looked bewildered. “We will have to try new medications and take a few more tests.” By now I was submissive.

Still not feeling well.

Sill cramping.

Still not balanced. I fell again coming down the stairs at my mom’s house.

My Primary Care Physician who happens to be an Internist and a Psychiatrist looked me in my eyes, “Mrs. Dominguez, we need to talk about stress,” she had my attention.

By now, all of my hair was gone and my nails were brittle. I had no energy. The headaches, neck pains, cramping and lower back pain had taken over. I couldn’t pretend anymore. She elaborated as to how stress has to express itself somehow and many times it does so in our physical health. She wouldn’t let me leave until I agreed to set up an appointment with a mental health provider to specifically deal with stress.

I wanted to cry, but I would not let myself do that in front of her. I waited until I was in the car.

To be continued…..

The ME Expedition Part 1

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Expedition:A journey or excursion undertaken for a specific purpose. Merriam Webster

I emerged from bed as usual that morning. As I grabbed my Bible and journal from the night stand, I felt a little weird. Exhaustion set in. I just wanted to get back in bed, but the fighter in me kept moving.

I made it to the kitchen where the puppies greeted me from their cage. My normal routine was to simply bend down to let them out into the yard every morning, but leaning over felt like a chore.

I dragged myself over to my imitation Keurig and slid my mug underneath. I thanked God there was already water in the pot because I really didn’t feel like walking over to the sink. Now, coffee in hand, my Bible, journal and iPhone (for music); I was on my way to my daily morning meeting with God.

I literally creeped up the stairs in search of a quiet spot. I sat and thanked God, still not understanding why I was exhausted. I felt a little cramping, but figured it was nothing. I had a partial hysterectomy, but my ovaries constantly let me know they still work fine! I assumed the cramping was just a normal part of ovulation.

I played my worship playlist and entered into His glorious presence as I fought sleep. I dove into His word and found hope, peace and encouragement for the moments of difficulty I was facing. The obstacles I had been dealt had now stretched into a long season whose purpose was to make my soul weary.

But God filled me with joy that morning. I felt a peace that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I was so glad to bask in His love. 

Once I was done with my special time with God, I quickly jumped up from my recliner, grabbed my items and headed towards the stairs full of gratefulness for my newfound energy. I quickly moved towards the stairs, took a few steps down, then woke up to an aching pain in my left ankle.

I felt confused. How did I end up fallen on the stairs? I noticed my spilled coffee. My journals and bible were scattered. More confusion set in. I couldn’t stop sweating. I was nauseous, more than I had ever been. My head pounded. My chest felt like a ton of bricks suddenly landed on it. My nightgown was drenched in sweat at this point. I wanted to get up, but I couldn’t. I tried to cry out, but the words wouldn’t come out. My ankle hurt. Finally the words formed, “Honey, help, I fell. Someone help.”

Within seconds, my family surrounded me. Everyone with a phone. One calling my other children. Another calling 911. Another calling grandma.

“Do I look that bad?” I thought, “I only sprang my ankle.”

“I’m going to vomit,” Jojo held a bucket in my lap.

“Mom, you are drenched in sweat,” Selina fanned me and helped me with my robe as she spoke with the paramedics.

“I’m fine,” I whispered, “just help me up.”

Ruben ran to get dressed, “Don’t move her,” he yelled from the bedroom.

My baby girls, Starr and Soli sat at the top of the stairs and gazed in silence. I tried to reach out to them, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.”

Starr forced a smile, “I know mom.”

Solimar remained silent. She secured her face with her hands, but slowly moved them to caress mine.

The paramedics arrived. “I’m fine,” the words came out like whispers.

“We need to make sure ma’am,” the leader of the group demanded. “Hold on to my shoulder as my friend pulls you up, we need to get you on the gurney,” he was bossy and I didn’t like his tone.

I didn’t want to go to the hospital for a sprained ankle, so I deliberately resisted. “Ma’am, please let us help you,” he firmly pulled me up as his colleague grabbed me. Together, they somehow got me onto the gurney.

I began to feel better on the ride to the hospital. Selina sat near me as the paramedics checked my vital signs and asked me way too many questions. I just wanted to go back home to change. I realized that I was wearing my favorite nightgown-the one with holes all over! It was a moment of sheer embarrassment.

My chest began to hurt again, but I kept it to myself. I was sure it was nothing. I decided they would put a splint on my hurting ankle and I would be home in no time!

As I was rolled into the emergency room, the sweet nurse helped me into a new bed, then began to ask me all of the same questions I had just answered! I was tired again, “Can’t you ask them, they know the answers,” I referred to the paramedics.

“Your blood pressure is high, its it usually high?’

“My ankle hurts. Can you help my ankle? Yes, I’m on blood pressure meds. I don’t know why it’s hight now.”

My mom arrived. She took over. She is way more commanding than that bossy EMC! I knew that I was in trouble now! “Vicki, you need to tell the nurse everything. How did you fall? Why did you fall?” She was determined to get to the bottom of this. My mom knows how I don’t usually tell the doctor everything. She wasn’t about to let me get away with that.

“I don’t remember falling, I only remember waking up on the steps with spilled coffee on my robe-and a HURT ankle,” I just wanted them to take away the pain from my foot!

The nurse quickly hooked me up to an EKG. She and my mom talked as I prayed for some pain relief!

“Why are you hooking me up to an EKG for a sprained ankle?”

“You are telling me things that cause concern. The doctor will be in to explain.”

The nurse walked out and the counselor that dwells within my mom began to speak, “Vicki, why didn’t you tell the nurse that you didn’t remember falling?”

“Because I didn’t think that it mattered.”

She gave me one of those familiar, my-daughter-needs-psychotherapy-looks and rubbed my head.

The doctor stepped in, “Mrs. Dominguez, do you know what a heart attack means?”

I looked at Ruben’s face. He had been quiet throughout the entire ordeal. He usually processes in silence, but now his face began to speak volumes. I recognized that look. We’ve been down this road before. I wasn’t about to go there again.

“Sure doctor, but that’s not what happened to me,” I wanted him to understand that my Google medical education far outweighs the years he had spent in medical school.

He had a serious look on his face, “We will be keeping you here for a few more days for further testing. We are admitting you now.”

“But, my ankle hurts!”

“The X-Ray shows that your ankle is fine. I’m not the least bit concerned about your ankle,” he was not amused by my childish behavior.

The atmosphere was stiff. Ruben’s face. The doctor’s tone. My denial. 

My mom chimed in, “Funny how you wore your favorite night gown today!”

We needed the laugh, though I could feel Ruben’s concern through his smile.

Thus, began an expedition with Jesus that led me to a place within myself that needed to arise.

To be continued….