I have always worried about my blood pressure. I have struggled with handling stress ever since I was a young child and I can admit I’m still not good at managing it. High blood pressure runs on both sides of the family so it has always seemed unavoidable to me.
Several years ago I had a lithotripsy procedure for a large kidney stone and since then have had what they call “borderline high blood pressure” and sometimes high blood pressure. At the time I was working a job that I truly hated. So much so that some mornings instead of go to work, I’d veer off into another direction, stop at a park, and trembling, stare at the birds and the trees. I was suffering panic attacks. I had been having them for years but, had eventually managed to get a good grip on them except for some days while on my way to work.
After five years I escaped that job (more on that later) and went to another one that stressed me out too, only it paid well and was a challenging learning experience. After 30 days and a few more panic attacks I managed to launch myself into a different job that not only was I unqualified for but, paid well, and agreed to pay for the remainder of my college education (including masters degree) and allowed me to travel to new places. (Like I said, more on that in another post)
I noticed that during my time of job transitions, my blood pressure remained borderline high and just plain high, which sincerely worried me. Then I got married and less than two months later became pregnant. Throughout the pregnancy my blood pressure was stable but, carrying twins is not an easy task. In 7 months I about doubled the quantity of blood in my body and towards the end I could feel my blood pressure rising. Frequent doctor visits confirmed this and by the time my babies were born by c-section my blood pressure was 188/85. I felt like my heart was in my throat and my head might explode. I truly sympathized with anyone who suffers from high blood pressure-it feels awful. The only reason my babies were born 4 weeks early is because of my blood pressure so I didn’t take the issue lightly. During the c-section that I was awake for, I remember praying that my babies would be healthy and that my eyes and kidneys would just hang on for the bumpy ride.
Six weeks after I gave birth my blood pressure was still a little high so I felt like my borderline era was over and I’d now have high blood pressure to deal with for the rest of my life.
Funny thing happened, though, and this is what I want to share with you.
I stayed home with my babies and still do, a year and a half later. I quickly discovered that two premature newborn babies is the highest form of stress I’ve personally ever experienced. My heart skipped a beat any time it seemed like their breathing missed a beat, I fought tooth and nail to breastfeed them (and gloriously failed), I used a breast pump every three hours for months despite painful nipple and breast infections, I struggled with adjusting my new insulin needs, and I did all this with little sleep. You know how mothers of a newborn child sleep about 5 hours a night? New mothers of twins sleep about 2.5 hours a night.. I felt like between all of the above and my blood pressure, I just wasn’t going to make it. In fact, I said that every day for the first 8 months, I believe.
Oh yes, I haven’t told you the funny thing that happened. After a few months I started feeling healthier. My attitude changed. I no longer saw a 200 blood sugar reading as a tragedy. When my husband got laid off, I was like, “Ohh we’ll be FINE!” And this wasn’t like me at all, the whole “see the cup as half full” type of thing. I felt like nothing could knock me down anymore. At least not as easily as before. Over the months my blood pressure began lowering. When my kids turned a year old just after my 27th birthday my doctor mentioned the possibility of me taking blood pressure medication. But then we took my blood pressure which was 124/78 so no medication was needed. I started going to the gym more and taking the kids out to the playground several times a week . I drank less coffee and more peppermint tea.
Then my blood pressure lowered to 115/74. Then 113/70. And last week, 112/70.
Am I saying that having twins helped my blood pressure? No. I don’t know if having children helps blood pressure. To me, it wouldn’t make sense to say so. Several things helped my blood pressure, I think. For one, surviving the most difficult year of my entire life helped because when you survive something you think might end you, it makes the usual challenges look more scalable. It really has been rough, looking back. I’ve not once hired a babysitter and I never leave my kids for more than an hour or two. There has been a lot of physical pain and injury from holding two children so much (which I have stubbornly insisted to do-especially if they’re the only ones I ever have). And I’m not saying I recommend this. Why, it’s all kind of nutty. And it makes me loopy, for sure. And yet, choosing to let go of a huge work opportunity and forego great money for something I’m more passionate about has been one of the most empowering thing I’ve experienced. By doing this I’ve taken a break from the outside world and it has helped me recoup and focus on what really matters. I don’t regret losing that great job because even though the perks were enormous, I enjoy more, the perks of staying home with my kids and writing about diabetes. And who knows what the future brings? I feel like a ton of bricks has been lifted off of my shoulders and not only is diabetes management easier, I’m having great health benefits, too.
You might have heard before that one of the greatest obstacles to diabetes management is how the disease affects someone emotionally and psychologically. Personally, when I’ve been happy, I’ve done well with diabetes discipline and have maintained good diabetes management. When I’ve been unhappy or stressed, my diabetes has directly suffered as a result. I do hope doctors take note.
Who knows, maybe my blood pressure lowering is due to healthy eating, plentiful exercise, two cute, funny babies that keep me on my toes, and a husband that is beside me on every difficult journey. And perhaps also my willingness to sacrifice the type of opportunity people call you crazy for sacrificing in turn for doing what I feel is best for my family and following my dreams. It was never a difficult decision but, it sure took a lot of guts to carry out.
I don’t know how things will play out in life. Maybe I’ll have to get a job, maybe my blood pressure will go up, soon. I think I’ve learned however, that just when I think something isn’t possible, with hard work and the right choices, it is.