Yesterday I had to do a health screening at work. I had been dreading it because as part of the screening the nurse weighs me, takes some blood, and takes a blood pressure reading. If I created a list of things I like least in the world, all three of those would be on there.

I don’t like getting my blood drawn because my veins “move” (the phlebotomist’s phrase, not mine) as soon as they put the needle in my arm. I have told every phlebotomist since I was in high school that they need to take blood out of my hand, because the veins in my arms are too hard to get too. But they ALL insist that they have been doing this for years and they can get it out of my arm. No dice. They always sigh, remark that I am really hard to get blood from and get the blood from my hand. NOW WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT??

I also don’t like to have my blood taken because I am nervous about high cholesterol ratings. I have hypercholesterolemia, which from what I understand, means my body creates its own cholestorel waaaay in excess, regardless of how much I have ingested. My grandmother had it, my mom has it, I have it. And I know I have it because the last time my cholesterol was taken I had not consumed any cholesterol for two years (vegan) and it was still on the high level. Part of that is because I am heavy and losing weight would help a lot. Because of that I dread, dread, dread the inevitable high cholesterol rating because I feel like a failure.

I don’t like to be weighed, well, for obvious reasons…

That brings us to the blood pressure. Sure, being heavy causes high blood pressure. But not universally. There are people in my family who weigh a lot, don’t ever exercise and have normal to low blood pressure readings. I always have the sort of blood pressure readings that cause peoples’ eyes to pop out when they first take it. Like really, really high.

I think I am predisposed to high blood pressure based on my family history and because I am heavy. But I also have, as my husband calls it, “White Coat Syndrome”. I don’t like to go to doctors. I really don’t. And you are thinking, “Who does??” But I really don’t. Until just a few years ago I would have major panic attacks, cry all night before I had to go to the doctor, make my mom go to the doctor with me – even into my late 20s. As I dealt with myself and grew up and put things in perspective, it has gotten slightly better, but it still is pretty bad. And sometimes the doctors don’t help. Like the time I went in for a pap smear in my late 20s and the doctor had me up in stirrups, with the business facing the door and nurses kept walking in and out of the room – with one nurse pausing to ask another nurse a question with the door open the WHOLE TIME. I whimpered “Can you please shut the door?” And then cried the rest of the doctor’s visit and insisted the nurse bring my mom into the room. I am weird, over-the-top weird.

So I rarely cry when I go to the doctor anymore, but I do get REALLY STRESSED. More stressed than I do over just about anything in my life. I try not to. I try to stay calm, put the doctor’s visit in the right perspective. I used to have a great doctor. The nurse would take the BP, and then do the requisite freak out. And then the doctor would come and ask how scared I was, reassure me that none of this would be a big deal, I could back out of the pap smear and r/s if I couldn’t handle it today, and then talk to me about other stuff – my friends, my work, dating – and while we were talking she would slip the blood pressure cuff on my arm and take another BP – almost without me noticing. And then the reading would be high, but within a normal range, one where I didn’t need to take a pill. And she would state that I don’t need to take a pill, but she is scared for me that my BP spikes at such a high level and it might be a good idea to take a pill anyway. And I would say no thanks.

AND THEN SHE MOVED AWAY!! So, basically, all of this is her fault.

So now here is how my blood pressure readings go:
1. Nurse takes blood pressure.
2. Nurse questions if she had done the reading correctly.
3. Nurse retakes blood pressure.
4. Nurse: “Do you have high blood pressure?”
5. Me: “The first reading generally is pretty bad. I get stressed about going to the doctor.”
6. Nurse registers on her face that she realizes I am insane.
7. Nurse: “Ok. Well I want you to sit here for five minutes and relax, breathe deeply. I will come in and retake your blood pressure in a bit.”
8. Me: “OK.”

Now, on step 7 of this process, here is what my brain hears: “Ok. Well I want you to sit here for five minutes and pretend to relax, breathe deeply. I will come in and set your hair on fire in a bit. SO YOU BETTER FREAK OUT!”

So, I do freak out and the second reading is just as bad as the first reading, if not worse, because I have just spent five minutes in a cold, scary room thinking about how the doctor is going to chide me for being fat and lazy and make me go on a blood pressure pill.

Which brings us to yesterday.

I get my blood pressure taken by the nurse doing the screening. The number is OBSCENELY high. So high I can’t divulge, it is so embarrassing. We repeat the above procedure not once, but twice. The second time she calls in another nurse.

Nurse 1: It still is really high, sweetie.
Nurse 2: Do you have a headache?
Me: No.
Nurse 2: Have you passed out or feel like you need to pass out?
Me: No. (And wondering what it feels like to need to pass out.)
Nurse 1: And you are sure you don’t have a headache?
Nurse 2: Or have passed out?
Me: No, I feel fine.
Nurse 2: That is why they call it the Silent Killer.

Cue tears. I bawled. Well, I held it in while they gave me the instructions that I had to go to the ER or schedule a doctor’s appointment TODAY!! And then I bawled big blubbery tears. It was just so distressing… and I don’t even know why. I don’t want to die. And I don’t want to be so physically flawed. And I don’t want to be on a pill. And did I mention I don’t want to die? I started thinking about all the problems there would be if I died – the financial burden on my family, the problems they would have at work – and TA DUM, I think we may have put our finger on one of the reasons why I have such high blood pressure.

I don’t have a doctor. I know I should, but I don’t. But I tracked one down and scheduled an appointment and then arranged for my mom to go with me. And I ended up with a prescription for a pill. I went to the doctor, who was horrible and didn’t talk to me at all and assumed I ate horribly and never exercised because I am fat. So I won’t go back to him, but I will go back to somebody. I will conquer my fear so I don’t die.

Here are my resolutions to reduce my blood pressure:

1. Take the damn pill until I can prove I can be taken off of it.
2. Try, try, try to leave work at work. Don’t spend every evening dreading what is facing me at work.
3. While at work, every hour, take ten deep breaths.
4. Stick to my walking goals and recruit my husband to go with me because it is more motivating that way.
6. Try to find complexity I can cut out of my life. I will feel guilty giving things up and saying no, but that is better than killing myself, literally.
7. Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight!
8. Watch less television.

Wish me luck. Sorry I am so weird. Like my high blood pressure and cholesterol, I think I was born that way.


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