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
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.
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…..