The symptoms started with a few pounds on the scale in just a couple of weeks. A few pounds on a person my size is noticeable, and I could feel it. My sleep was horrible, and I was having nightmares. Then, my heart rate started rising. And rising. At rest, my average heart rate is 52. After meditating for 10 minutes, it would be in the 80s. Sometimes while working, it would jump to 130, just standing there at my desk. There wasn’t any explanation for it. I would get super tired and have to go to bed. The last straw was when my overactive bladder issues came back (yes folks, even young healthy women have this) and I was going to the bathroom 12-18 times a day. I knew it had to be a stress-related nerve/brain issue because I’d been tested several years ago.
I emailed my doctor and told her something was up. I am very aware of my body, track my macronutrients, heart rate variability, and had even posted this article because I was getting paranoid that my Hashimoto’s Disease was acting up, or worse, I was getting another autoimmune disease. I had labs drawn, and they were stellar. My EKG came back normal. I cut my fluids to 30 ounces, and it didn’t change anything. I wasn’t sleeping well and felt anxious. Nothing I was doing seemed to be helping. It took an unexpected crying session for me to make the connection.
Low Information Diet
I expose myself to very little news intentionally. Just three minutes of negative press in the morning affects happiness levels 6-8 hours later. I listen to the New York Times The Daily podcast every morning and NPR in the car during my short trips around town. I hardly read any news on social media and feel like I stay up to date enough on my low-information diet.
But the Kavanaugh hearings were inescapable.
Every morning while I was running or making my breakfast, The Daily would have a 20-minute recap. The morning I heard Dr. Blasey Ford speak about the thing she remembered the most, the maniacal laughter during her attack, stopped me in my tracks on the greenway. I felt claustrophobic and couldn’t breathe. I felt her pain because that’s what I remembered too. I remember the laughter of the two boys holding me down in 5th grade and the smile on the face of the male teacher who watched the entire thing. I remember the incessant taunts of the boys in junior high and high school, commenting about my (then) 36 DD breasts. I remembered the teenage boy on the DC metro in 2003, during rush hour, groping me while I was yelling at him to stop and no one came to help me. Most of all, I remember his laughter. It was the most chilling and haunting sound I’ve ever heard.
A couple of days later I was explaining to my husband how terrible I felt that people were making fun of her and discounting her testimony because I also could remember the laughter and I started crying. This was totally unexpected. I thought I was over the incident. I thought I was no longer bothered by it and had overcome it.
Fast forward to hearing it get even worse, not that the President mocked her (because I’ve come to expect that from him), but that the crowd laughed along with him. And when that crowd laughed at her, they laughed at me. I started feeling panicked. I stopped running on the greenway because I became anxious and scared. Those people laughing were the ones who didn’t help me on the metro. They were the ones turning their backs, except now they were laughing while doing it. I remember the exact moment when I had the aha that these symptoms were indeed real, but that I wasn’t sick, at least not in the conventional sense. I was listening to an interview with a woman who had gone to that rally and thought what he said was funny. She felt like Dr. Blasey Ford, and all the other #MeToo women should get over it. Her commentary was so ignorant, in the true sense of the word, I was dumbfounded. I could not control my emotions the previous few weeks. I was having symptoms to the point I thought I was sick. I was not seeking attention, nor was I out giving a rallying cry. Even after knowing this, I unexpectedly started crying in a coffee shop talking about the hearings with a friend.
Once I realized the connection, I was able to start feeling better. The news moved on to climate change, Saudi Arabia, and voting rights. I took a weekend trip to Asheville. Then I saw this video by Delta Rae and after doing the ugly cry, decided it would only make me feel better to write because unfortunately, this is not uncommon. This isn’t new and some of us can’t just ‘get over it’. This post is not a political statement. It’s a real-life story of how stress symptoms are real. So real that I thought I was sick. So real that I went to the doctor and convinced myself I was falling apart. So real that I know that taking care of myself means writing this blog post.
Most interesting? When this post was first published in Money Inc, and I reposted it on my social media channels, no one commented. NO ONE. I have never had a post in five years that there was not a single comment. It makes me sad. I don’t want sympathy, but I don’t want people to be afraid either.