Monday, January 11, 2021

Who, me? Anxious?

They finally called me from the Emergency Room waiting area into another room where they took my vital signs and asked me questions.  It happened last summer, in July.  

What are your symptoms, exactly?

"My heart feels like it's going to jump out of my chest.  I've experienced sharp pain below the left side of my rib cage, in front and in back, for some days.  Then this pounding heart.  When I called my doctor, she said I was to come here."

Your blood pressure and all other vital signs are good.  Have you been experiencing any anxiety lately?  Do you have any history of panic attacks?

 "Who, me?  Never!"

Is there anything that might be causing you undue stress?

"No. mean like a world-wide pandemic?"

Yes.  Something like that.  

After a few more tests, I left and came home.

The next day I saw my doctor, who asked me a lot of the same questions.  She assured me that all the tests were fine, and that my symptoms were the typical consequence of unrelieved stress.  We have this fight-or-flight reaction to danger, but there is nowhere to run from this pandemic and the results of the shut-down.  It is a constant "threat" or "danger" and our bodies react physiologically with symptoms such as mine.  She ordered an ultrasound for the next day to check out the source of my pain.

At the conclusion of the very thorough ultrasound, they asked if I wanted to wait for the results.  YES.  Twenty minutes later, they handed me a sheet of paper with the one word pronouncement: negative.  Nothing.  Nada.  I was fine.

Deep breaths.  Relief.  Feeling rather foolish.  Humbled. So, now what?  

After my yearly physical exam the following month, here's what I've come away with from this whole experience, and what I now tell myself:

1)  Remember that you are susceptible to anything that anyone else is, including anxiety and stress.  It's not evidence of weakness, but of being human.  What I need to learn is how to handle it.

2) When suspicious symptoms arise, call the doctor FIRST.  Do not get on WebMD or do some other search of the causes of those symptoms.  I was convinced I had several serious diseases after I looked up the possible causes of my pains.  That's what caused the anxiety that made my heart pound.  Then those symptoms made me more scared and anxious.  So my heart beat harder. Ad infinitum.

3) Follow doctor's orders re: diet, exercise, testing, etc.  My doctor had me cut out caffeine--including chocolate--and sugar.  I do feel better and am sleeping well.

4) When the symptoms occur--and they sometimes do--I tell myself "You are fine."  I take deep breaths. I quote Philippians 4:6-7 to myself, then pray that God will calm my heart and give me His peace that passes understanding. And so far, He has. But it's because I had the symptoms checked out and know that I really am fine.

World-wide pandemics are not new, but they are new to us, to those of us who are alive now.  The Spanish Flu epidemic was 103 years ago. We've all read about the bubonic plague that occurred in the Middle Ages.  

What was true in those times and is true now is this:

"The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting." (Psalm 93:1-2 ESV)

The Lord is Sovereign, and He is Good. But we live in a fallen world that has disease and death. Indeed, something is going to get everyone; none of us gets out of here alive.  But as it turns out, my battle with anxiety--those pains and pounding heart--aren't going to get me.  At least, not yet. And I look with hope and anticipation to the day when the Lord Jesus will make all things right and disease and death will be no more.

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