Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “stress”

Stress Kills

Please be warned, this post is definitely not recommended for younger readers.

The following pictures are just one example of what an impending death looks like.  To be more specific, my death.  The top photo was taken after my treadmill was stopped suddenly.  Some event showed up on the EKG leads after just a couple of minutes.  What you see is my heart not getting enough blood.  The question is where and why?

My Death 1

Less than 15 hours later, my cardiologist attempted catheterization, stints, but upon realizing that it was not plaque blocking this artery, but rather scarring from radiation received eighteen years earlier for my cancer.

My Death 2

My Death 3

The last picture, a sketch of the heart, and where my three blockages were.  Another 15 hours later, I was in the operating room, having emergency bypass surgery.

This was only discovered because anytime that I did something fairly physical, anytime I let my emotions get worked up, or let someone upset me and stress me (which happened alot back then), this is what happened to my heart every time.  A blockage of the LAD (the artery on the right side), this is referred to as a “widowmaker”.  The name says it all.  According to my cardiologist, it was not a question of “if ” I would have a fatal heart attack, but “when.”  These pictures are what stress looks like, and what stress can do.

Learning To Relax

I have three main sources of my visible stress, only one of which I make public, though the other two are known by select few.  The other sources of my stress end up internalized.  Given a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst, my stress level is easily at 10 nearly 85% of the time.  The other 15% of the time, if I can get to sleep, there is a reduction in my stress.  I am not sure, because it probably depends on how long I sleep, if I get into a deep enough sleep, and what I am waking up to.

My doctors are more than concerned with this, because stress is not good.  There are any number of maladies that I could be facing from stroke to heart attack.  I am on several prescriptions all meant to help keep my stress down.  I see a therapist regularly for my stress (as well as survivor guilt issues).  Medically I do what I can to relax, but it is not enough.  And since I am not willing to give up my living, a job that I actually enjoy doing, I must find other ways to decompress.

There are common ways to relax such as meditation, yoga, and even jogging.  For me, I get through my work day with music.  I plug in the old ear buds, turn my Ipod up as loud as it will go, and I am off.  Yes, it is very loud.  But you know what?  I do not hear anything.  I do not hear gossip.  I do not hear complaining.  I do not hear bad news.  I am able to place myself in another totally different situation mentally.  This was huge during chemotherapy, during convalescing from my heart surgery, and many other medical times.  But at work, I need it to get through my day.

Norman Vincent Peale wrote about “positive imaging”.  This was a concept where you simply took your mind to the place that you hoped to be in the future.  In terms of a cancer patient, for me, I was done with chemo, hair had grown back, weight lost, and life had been back to normal.  I think that any time you take your mind away from your present stress, it can be relaxing. 

Deep breathing.  You want to talk about feeling differently without even moving?  I have seen the directions written differently, but the concept is to change your pattern of breathing which I believe would change your brain’s thinking.  Some exercises have you inhaling through your nose for a count of five, holding for five, then exhaling from the mouth for a count of five.  You could do 5-4-4 or 4-5-5, I would imagine any formula would work.  I do around ten sets of this breathing  technique which often helps to calm me down.

Exercising can do wonders.  Any movement with your legs, walking even with a quick gait, breathing in through the nose, and out from the mouth, will provide immediate results of relaxation. 

I recently did a post on how much my golden retriever means to me.  Simply all pets are capable of providing stress relief.  And with cats, even comic relief when a laser pen is involved.

Psychotherapy.  Unfortunately, seeing a “shrink” has such a negative connotation or stigma attached to it.  But I can admit that I see one.  I have a major issues with Survivor’s Guilt (from many incidents in my life), but she is also crucial for stress management.  I am not crazy.  I am not depressed.  But I am thankful to have her as part of my survival care.

Prescription drugs.  For me personally, this will be a last resort.  I have had the ocassional anxiety attack prior to a medical procedure, where I was encouraged to take something, but refused.  In general, I do not believe taking prescription drugs accomplish anything with eliminating the stress, as I say, “only hiding from it”.

Finally, I have found a new form of relaxation, martial arts.  I have certain limitations due to my physical survivor issues, so I believe that I am only going at half speed.  But the relaxtion comes as I am on the floor, concentrating one hundred percent on the techniques and forms.  If I do not pay attention, I will get waffled in the face.  My partners tell me that I do not seem as limited as I believe, and am fairly accurate with my moves.  But for at least that hour, I accomplish something that I have not been able to do to this point, relax.  I have totally eliminated the stress for that our, without medication, and hopefully enough that when the next day comes, my stress is at a lower level than when I left it the prior day.

I must reduce my stress.  If you doubt what stress can do, stay tuned.  I am going to show you what stress actually looks like and what it does to the body.

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