I’ve been away from the office for almost two weeks now.
At one of the busiest times too (General Elections around the corner).
Oh I didn’t want to take time off. I was forced to.
You see, I’m one of those stubborn people who will keep going because ‘mind over matter’ and as long as the heart is willing then everything else should follow suit. i.e. I refuse to accept that I am merely a sack of human frailty and ought to take care of myself instead of pretending I’m a robot.
Two weeks ago we had the Samoa National Kidney Foundation team in to our office to give everyone a health check. The basics like cholesterol, sugar and blood pressure tests. I was rushing around as usual and forgot about it so I went later than everyone. I took my folder of work to do while I sat and waited to be tested. Work has been hectic and I have to take advantage of any spare moments to clear off my To Do List.
I take the first test, Diabetes.
This one makes me nervous and I wait for the gentleman testing me to drop the bomb. I’m SURE I have diabetes. It’s in my family and I know my way around insulin and the sugar pills.
So there I am, trying to joke with the man testing me but inside I’m an utter wreck. I’m expecting to hear 18 or 20.
“5.3, that’s good”
I’m gobsmacked. I don’t have a sweettooth, but neither did my Dad and he succumbed to diabetes. A feeling of elation brings me back from the darkness. I’m beaming away and boasting to my colleagues who are waiting for their checks.
I’m told to collect my own urine and await the next test.
I do it. I realise I haven’t used the bathroom all day because I’ve not drunk any water nor have I eaten. I then remember that the first pee of the morning is optimal for pregnancy tests. Not sure why that popped in to my head, but it’s there, and I eventually begin to daydream about my children and passing on my superior, non-diabetic genes to them.
I return with my jar of yellow fluid. The gentleman testing it tells me I have elevated levels of something or other. I don’t understand him and for a moment I take stupid pride in being uniquely elevated. It’s then explained to me that I have high cholesterol.
Great. My love of butter and cheese is coming back to haunt me (I’m someone who zaps a chunk of cheese in the microwave and eats it with a fork).
I am taken to the next test for blood pressure.
I’ve always had low blood pressure. Even during the years I was a heavy smoker. The doctors could never explain it, and I was told several times that it was too low.
Not this time.
This time the machine shows a reading that raises the eyebrows of the lady working the machine.
She shakes her head and resets the machine.
“Is that high?” I ask.
“Yes it’s a bit high” she says, rather kindly.
Now they want to take a reading with me standing up.
They try and fail six more times. I ask her what’s happening and she said the machine can’t read my blood pressure.
It’s so fucking high the machine can’t zero in on it.
After a few more attempts, she eventually tells me to go sit in a corner and try to relax.
At this point I am anything BUT relaxed. I’m starting to freak out a little bit. When did this high blood pressure creep in? When did my body go from invincible youth to the aches and pains of middle-agedom? When did I get OLD?? I can’t remember the transition, and I sure as hell don’t appreciate the change.
I sit and ponder my mortality and sink deeper and deeper in to despair. Is my life over?
Will I now meet the same fate as my father? I didn’t have as much fun in life as he did so now I’m getting angry. It probably doesn’t help the blood pressure but I can’t help myself – must blame him one last time for something.
After twenty minutes, I go back and the machine still doesn’t take a reading. Three times we try. No luck.
At this point I’ve written my own eulogy, and make the silent decision to do whatever I want with whomever I want because I probably only have 30 days to live. Obviously.
I try to clear my mind and relax while she keeps trying. Eventually I hear her say she’s got it. And now it’s even higher than before.
I now move to the line that takes me to the Doctor who will explain all the tests. I use this opportunity to go through my folder of stuff to do and manage to clear a few items off the list.
I get to the doctor and he basically tells me I should be having a stroke with my blood pressure readings. I sit there numbly and dumbly while he explains what to do and the next steps.
And they are to go to another doctor and get some pills so I can stay alive long enough to change my lifestlye.
I start to cry because…. I don’t know. I feel like life is a sham and stressing over work and responsibilities is truly a waste of anyone’s life.
I start to ask myself why. Why? Why care so much about my job and making people happy? Why care so much to do a good job and make the effort to be honest and go the extra mile for the benefit of someone else. Why? What am I doing this for? It is literally killing me to be this way.
So after my teary moment with the doctor I exeunt stage right and go straight to my office to stare out the window.
Co-workers come in and try to talk to me but at this point I’m in la la land. I just can’t worry anymore.
All the stress and drama and scheming and backstabbing of recent weeks and months has taken a physical toll on me and I can’t take it anymore.
I go home early (4pm).
The next morning I go to another doctor and he confirms it all. He prescribes me some pills (yuck, I loathe) and says I need to calm the fuck down.
I go and take more blood tests and buy my pills from the hospital (it’s very efficient and cool in there. Props to MOH for a smooth operation). Despite the usual hiccup of the blood test taking forever because of my shy veins, it was a stress-free undertaking and I was back at work by mid-morning.
By the time I got there the whole office was looking at me with pity. They all knew about my situation.
Just great. It felt like that scene in Dead Man Walking where the guy is a dead man walking.
I don’t like to show weakness so I was most unhappy that my colleagues knew I was one burst blood vessel away from a floral funeral arrangement from them all. But if it means they might understand the results of their actions and the load of work facing management (because they think it’s a walk in the goddamned park) then maybe I can accept some of their pity. For the team.
After the quiet shuffling outside my door was too much, I decided to talk to them and everyone had the same advice for me – find a husband.
“He will share your stress and you won’t suffer as much.”
These people have less white hair than me so maybe there’s something in this ridiculousness.
Five years ago I would have screamed bloody murder at such a suggestion. But 2016 Renate is seriously considering the wisdom behind such words.
I mean, maybe they’re right.
When I was coupled up, it was nice to have someone to rant to and be a cry baby to.
Not forgetting the magical nocturnal and sometimes diurnal de-stressing techniques of couples.
That helped. A LOT.
So instead of dismissing their comments as simplistic nonsense, I dismissed it as unrealistic nonsense because I don’t know where one would even go to get a husband. Is there a market? Can I buy one?
I decided to take some time off and my boss agreed with me. He even hugged me. Yikes.
So now it’s been two weeks of eating, sleeping and pleasure-seeking activities.
Honestly, I’m bored AF. But I am enjoying the down time because I don’t think I’ll have another break until Christmas.
Unless there’s a new government after elections… I’d probably be out of a job so there’ll be plenty of time to relax and tend to my garden of weeds.
If I’ve learnt anything in the past months and weeks, ignoring your mental health is a recipe for a major health disaster.
I absolutely MUST take time out every week for “me” activities and relaxation. I need to find ways to decompress. I have to socialise. I have to try new things. I have to leave my house more often!
I have to give myself some room to breathe.
Basically, I have to learn to let things go from time to time.
If you know me, you’ll know this is a big ask for me.
So anyway, that’s my tale for today.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, I urge you to step away from it all for a short while.
Your responsibilities will always be there.
Your family will still be there when you return.
The work will always remain.
You are not the only person who can do anything.
Take care of yourself first and you can take care of everything else after.
A huge thank you to the team at SNKF who provided a great service to our office and caught a few of us who were on the brink of disaster. Your work is truly appreciated.
If anyone out there wants to get a health check, please contact the Samoa National Kidney Foundation and have yourself tested for these common lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
So now all I have to do is find myself a husband… 😉