About   |  Books  |  Media

Sunday, May 29, 2016

So, Remember That Time I Almost Died?

Okay, probably not because I haven't really talked about it...until now. This is not an easy post for me to write but after seeing similar health issues crop up in other people's lives (other women's lives) I decided to share what happened to me.

So, back in January, I was unknowingly flirting pretty hard with death. It sounds dramatic and at the time it was, because I had no idea how close I'd been.

When I think back on it, I had symptoms for years...what I didn't know were panic attacks, where my heart would race and feel like it was going to jump right out of my chest, had been happening for a long time, most of the time just before I was about to fall asleep. So I would get up, write a list of things I had to do and then take a pill or two and go to bed. The next day I would do all the things and wonder why I'd gotten so worked up about it.

I'm a hardcore type a kinda girl. I work a pretty intense day job that has a lot of take home, I was carrying a publishing schedule that had me releasing every three/four months (and involved not only writing but 3+ rounds of edits, promo and other paperwork time-sucks). I also had been involved in some day job projects that were both exciting/challenging and time consuming. I'd also taken on a union leader role that was consuming more energy then I'd anticipated. And that's just work...lol So needless to say, I was STRESSED...more stressed than I realized. Nothing that I couldn't handle. Right? I loved doing it all so what's the big deal?

What I didn't know was that my stress was killing me. I suspected that something was up, thought about making a doctor's appointment but there was so much to do always that I never got around to it.

I went on a vacation in December. I really needed that vacation. Desperately. On the way home, I bumped my head hard enough that I had a pretty tender spot for days afterward. I didn't think anything of it though and prepared for work as I would normally once my vacation was over.

I woke up that day feeling WEIRD. I was dizzy, couldn't walk straight, had trouble following a conversation and lost words. In fact, I was giving a presentation at work and could hardly make sense of the slideshow I'd created. I thought I might have a concussion from the head bump. Instead of going to the hospital though (did I mention that I'm also stubborn?) I called a nurse (we have a free health call center in Canada) and the nurse advised me to go to the hospital. I ignored the nurse and went to bed instead.

The next morning the symptoms were worse so I decided it would be better to get it checked out. My biggest worry was that if I had a concussion I would be restricted from using my computer (I know how concussion recovery works) and I couldn't lose the time. There was too much to do. But my symptoms were just too drastic to ignore any longer. I couldn't even drive to work and I shouldn't have driven the day before.

I told the triage nurse what was going on and she did a check of my vitals...including my blood pressure. She frowned, checked my other arm, frowned again and then checked my bp one more time. She asked me if I was unusually stressed out about anything. I told her that I was missing a day of work and that was going to set me back. She pushed my file through to the doctor as a high priority.

It turns out my bp was 220/168. If you google that, you'll see how bad it was. We're talking stroke/heart attack territory, or as the ER doc said, you're like a Champagne bottle ready to explode. And we needed to get my bp down. Quick. But not so quick that it made me sick from the stress of that on my body. I got nitro. And over the course of six hours or so, my bp came down. I was put on some drugs and sent home with all of the preliminary tests coming back clean. There was nothing medically wrong with me that would cause high bp. No history. No family history of early onset. I worked out regularly (in fact I would argue I was in the best shape of my life at that point). My organs were behaving properly and all of my blood related levels were normal. (And since then all additional tests have come back clean too.)

Two days later I was back in the ER with super hight BP once again. I got nitro again. And then I got fast-tracked to see my family doctor.

I was pretty sick, folks. My body felt like I'd been run over several times. I couldn't think straight. The pills were making my BP plummet so I ended up almost passing out at work several times. I ended up having to take about two weeks off (and I never take time off) and faced the threat of a long term leave.

And the body stuff, that wasn't the worst of it.

The worst part was the mental shit, the head game that was going on. I couldn't see how my life could go on. I couldn't function. My body was betraying me. I couldn't have a conversation without breaking into tears. I cried every day. I couldn't handle adversity in the slightest. I was so, so weak. I hate weakness. Loath it. I am not weak. But I was then. And I was having anxiety attacks which I'd never experienced before. And the depression...don't get me started on that. It was horrible.

I've made some changes to my life. I've slowed things down. Samhain closing has been a blessing in a way. It has been a forced break. I've reprioritized things. I've adapted to a different, less taxing schedule at work. I've learned how to say no and not feel guilty (mostly). I've agreed with myself to cut out the bullshit. I don't have time for bullshit. I don't have energy for it either. Life is too short for toxicity. It's too short for anything that doesn't make me happy. I'm still working on things. There are things that spike my bp and we're still looking for a physical cause just in case I  have some obscure thing going on. More tests. Those are fun. I'll probably be on meds for the rest of my life.

I'm turning 40 this year. I always imagined that I'd live to be as old as fuck and have ten million cats. I'm sharing this because I think other women need to know. I think we forget about ourselves a lot of the time. Or we think because we are strong that nothing can defeat us, that we will survive. But there are things that can defeat us and so I've learned some things that I'd like to pass along.

1) Listen to your body. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Call your doctor. Make the time.
2) Get rid of the toxic shit. People and things. Life is too short to be unhappy for stupid reasons...even if they don't seem stupid, even if they seem like the most important things in your life. If you spend most of your time being miserable because of it, cut it out.
3) Remember that there are no guarantees for tomorrow. Live life and, for the love of all the chocolate in the world, don't work too hard. Make time to unplug. Make time for you.

There are many people who have helped me and continue to help me, but if I start writing about them I'm going to cry again. So I will continue to thank them privately in my actions and words. (The words are the hardest, even for a writer). They all know how much they mean to me, at least I hope they do. I will try harder to make sure they do.

I'm still recovering. My bp is still too high. I'm working on it. Every day.

I'm still writing but my days of aggressively publishing are over. Things will happen as they happen because I can't write anything if I'm dead. ;-)

Keep on keeping on and thanks for reading.


  1. Wow. Thanks for being transparent. And thanks for choosing to live. :)

  2. Sorry you're having to go through all of this. It is important to get your story out there to help others. As a nurse who flies patients in these kind of emergencies because they have waited too long to seek medical attention I'm so glad you were brave enough to share your story to help others. Take care and God bless.

  3. Angie,
    I'm so glad you are now taking care of you. Change is always possible.

  4. Thank you so much for your courage and honesty in sharing this. Stress has a tremendous impact on our minds and our bodies. These days we're always "plugged in" and we're only beginning to see some of the consequences in that. I see a lot of myself in your post, and it gave me pause. Glad you're feeling better, and slowing down to a manageable pace. That's the best way to win a long distance race (if you'll allow a running metaphor). Keep up the good work!