Nobody Panic

I write this to you today with a heavy heart. Literally. Mainly because I have a giant ice pack strapped across my chest. What’s with my truly avant-garde fashion choice, you might ask? To get the Reader’s Digest version, I’ll just tell you that for the past couple of days, I have had this pain in my chest eerily close to my heart. Couple that with the shortness of breath I experienced for a few hours yesterday evening, and you’ve got a nervous wreck named Sam. Which, ironically, as this story will prove, only exacerbated my existing issues.

Confession time. I am a full-blown hypochondriac. A true believer in Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And the wrong will happen to me. Maybe it stems from my progress with scoliosis (and my eventual surgery a few years ago) or maybe it’s because of an array of freakish medical things that have happened to me in the past. Weird shit happens to me. Nothing life threatening, but bizarre things that doctors end up shrugging about. “It’ll pass, Sam.” I might as well tote that gem around as my new life motto. I mean, why all of a sudden did I start getting migraines a couple of years ago? Migraines that were so bad that they were actually making me physically sick (aka I’d hurl up my breakfast/lunch/dinner). Why do my lymph nodes swell up when I’m not sick? What was that lump that they found in my abdomen? Just to be clear, all of these things turned out to be nothing, but it’s almost like my body is training me to expect the unexplainable.

Which leads me to a few nights ago when I started suffering from chest pains. Now, Hypochondriac Sam was simply waiting for the pain in my left arm to start and then holy shit, Mom, Dad, your daughter is having a heart attack. But Rational Sam tried to brush these negative thoughts off with a much more reasonable explanation. You probably just overexerted yourself, you pulled a muscle, I kept telling myself over and over. I mean, I’m into my third week of Insanity, and in the middle of developing a massive crush on Shaun T., I’ve also been busting my ass through these workouts. And refraining from taking those supremely annoying “gym/workout selfies,” but I won’t rant about that now.

Anyway, when the pain didn’t subside, and when I couldn’t breathe at work yesterday, I freaked myself out. What in God’s name is happening to me? I literally sat at my desk for a good 30 minutes focusing on taking one breath in after the other. During that time, it also occurred to me that my office really needs to start stocking up on brown, paper bags for times like these. I was a damsel in distress. Calling Hercules, where are you?

And when my fictional Disney “prince” (Hercules was part deity) never showed, I channeled my inner Megara and did the next best thing: called my doctor. They always have all the answers, don’t they? Well, except in my case. But maybe this time would be different. Maybe this time the medical practitioners would have a solution to my body’s ridiculous reactions. After visiting with the doc this morning, the verdict was twofold: I have pulled some muscles in my chest and evidently, I’ve been suffering from minor anxiety/panic attacks…without even knowing it. Oh…kay? I’ve just been going about, not being able to breathe and all that, and thinking everything was hunky-dory. Clearly, it’s time for me to get my shit together.

So what exactly is causing these anxiety attacks? We can blame that thing that is the cause for so much other crap in our lives: stress. My doctor asked about my daily schedule, and she agreed that it is fairly maddening. I love being in school, and I love where I work, I also have a great family and a great relationship and wonderful friends, but my daily routine is a tad ridic. Essentially what my doctor told me was this: if I’m going to keep on pursuing school as well as a fulltime job, putting enough time into keeping my bod tight and all around sexy (my words, not hers), commuting, committing to my long-distance relationship, and maintaining my friendships, I’m going to need to take a step back and de-stress every once in a while. Follow a detox of sorts. People can only go full speed ahead for so long. We all remember what happened to the Titanic. As if the iceberg wasn’t enough, we had to lose Leo, too.

And I know I’m not the only one living a hectic day-to-day. Most people I know have a lot going on, but those same people are the ones that never stop, either. It’s always push forward, work your ass off to get promoted, live to work (rather than work to live – speaking of, someone move to Europe with me. Like now.) It’s amazing what our priorities have become. I’m all for working hard and getting ahead, but at what cost? What do we lose in the process? Relationships, friendships, memories that don’t involve a cubicle and a desktop computer. I’m not ready to sacrifice those things just yet. And I don’t think I ever will be.

It’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed, and not just in our twenties – at any age. I’ve seen my dad work way too hard at a company that gives its employees zero credit for their efforts, I’ve listened to my mom complain about how there’s always so much to do, and all I want to say is just stop. Any job isn’t worth your sanity, your health, your life. Something will always need to be cleaned in your house, there will always be traffic, there will always be things to worry about, and for most of us, our To Do lists will never end. But in the midst of all of this craziness, we need to remember that we have the ability to control how we react to these situations. Sometimes the dishes can wait, it’s okay to take a personal day – or even better, a vacation – from work, the carpets don’t always need vacuuming, and it’s okay to admit that some nights, take out is just the easier option rather than cooking. Those things will always be there. But we won’t be. We are the impermanent. And so are our loved ones, our friends, our families. Our health should come first, not our jobs. I shouldn’t concern myself with my boss berating me for taking an hour or two to attend a doctor’s appointment to ensure my innards are all good. That’s what sick leave is for. I’m not advocating we all constantly play hooky from our lives, but I am advocating that sometimes, we need to remember what our priorities really are. What we are working for and towards in the first place. Because I guarantee you many of us aren’t going through these routines because we absolutely love them, but we are doing them to support others, to ensure our family has a good life, to build a better future for ourselves and the ones that mean the most to us. What it comes down to are people, not things. Not chores, not tasks, not projects. People. And we are no good to others when our health and sanity are not fully intact. So remember to love yourself (literally or figuratively – or both, your choice), love others, and let the rest just be.

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