Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love
Chapter 12: Ready for a Fight
With personal, professional, and political madness swirling around me, the last Saturday in May provided much needed relief. Sandra’s parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a beautiful mass and an elegant reception on May 29, 2010. Sandra, the girls, and I took a family photo that day. That photo perfectly describes how I felt about my place in the world. Looking at it, one could see a successful man surrounded by his beautiful family at the pinnacle of his life.
I felt fatigued and anxious for most of the week following the anniversary party. Sandra commented that I looked especially tired and lethargic. I kept pushing myself to the limit, bolstered by double lattes and daily workouts. Sandra and I had been exercising together regularly for about eight months with a personal trainer. Both of us felt great losing weight, toning our muscles, and exercising away the stress of our jobs. During the week, the trainer commented to me that he had “never seen someone under so much pressure as you were that week.” I remember feeling extreme stress and anxiety during the morning workout.
The symptoms that dogged me were similar to those I had six years earlier when my doctor diagnosed me with anxiety disorder after my mom and sister Patty died. After the diagnosis in 2004, I had participated in several one-on-one therapy and group sessions and classes that provided anxiety sufferers with the tools to manage symptoms. What I learned was that anxiety symptoms were the same as those of a heart attack, just less severe.
On Sunday, June 6, the family gathered at Dave & Buster’s restaurant to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. At the arcade, I was at the basketball machine shooting as many free throws as possible in a short time span. When time ran out, I had a hard time catching my breath. The pressure in my throat was more intense, and my shoulders were so heavy that I sat on a stool next to a pinball machine, hunched over, trying to regain composure. I worked on the breathing and relaxation exercises I had learned to manage stress and anxiety.
While I believed that the symptoms causing my discomfort were from an impending anxiety attack, something entirely different was happening inside my body. At forty-six, my arteries surely were hardening because of genetics and years of a high-fat diet. For decades, researchers have studied the correlation between stress and heart disease. According to these studies, the chemical reaction in the body that produces the fight-or-flight sensation causes the blood to thicken and clot in preparation for a blow to the body.
In other words, in a constant state of high stress and anxiety, the body is getting ready for a fight and protects itself from potential excessive bleeding. Since my return to college and entrance into the world of career building and redemption, my body had been in a perpetual state of alertness. During the first six months of 2010, the high level of stress my body had endured for more than two decades had intensified many times over. By June 6, 2010, blood flowing through my arteries and veins was thickening and clotting with every crisis.
Summer in the Waiting Room will be available in paperback and on Kindle June 7, 2022. Kindle users can pre-order a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX