HOW I BECAME A STRESSPERT
I experienced a lot of firsts as a working mom of my delightful 15 month old, Delaney. Some of the hardest were nursing, explosive diarrhea, and the first time I said, “goodbye”. But honestly, I was mentally prepared for it all. As a producer and director I was used to sleepless nights, waking up to someone screaming for you, and never having enough time to pee. Plus, Brian and I had launched a company together. We had survived the “great recession” together. And even kicked cancer’s ass together. So 7 years into our marriage we were strong, and ready for our dynamic duo to become a terrific trio.
However, with the joys of motherhood came a bunch of other firsts I was NOT prepared for; facial numbness, back spasms, migraines, weight gain and a general feeling of self-loathing. At first I accepted my less-than-optimal health situation. I chalked it up to motherhood. Until one day, 5 months postpartum, everything went pitch black. Literally.
The last thing I remember was being angry and stressed. I had just read an email about someone stealing an idea from me. I started to see spots, the spots got bigger, and suddenly dark. As I blindly tried to voice dial my husband a million thoughts raced through my brain. “Why do I never slow down?!!! “Why had I gone back to work 9 weeks postpartum after a c-section” AND “OMG, I am not dressed for an ambulance!!!! I am in my old torn up pregnancy leggings!!!”
By the time I finally reached my husband, the episode progressed from darkness to a shattered prisym obstructing the vision in both eyes. He kept me calm while unbeknownst to me, he was “google doctoring” the situation. Then he told me to call my neighbor immediately and have her take me to the ER. He was thinking, “My crazy wife just had a stroke!” By the time my neighbor Katie and I arrived at the ER, my eyesight had returned. Doctors rushed me to a CT scan. Then after 4 hours, while Katie was on a hunt for a vending machine, my doctor emerged. “Your CT scan was clear, however we would like to admit you. You need an MRI as we believe you probably have a tumor less than 2cm between your eyes, and the CT scan can’t see it.”
I tried to take my own IV out and walk out the door. I politely explained I have an infant at home and this just doesn’t work into my shoot schedule. However, I was more than happy to come back, let’s say, Thursday? The doctor sternly looked me in the eye and said, “We believe if you walk out that door you could die.” With those words, I started replaying different things in my head, “Why hadn’t I taken more time to enjoy my daughter’s smile or laughter” and “Will I get to see her grow up?”
Katie returned to me sobbing. As soon as she heard the news, she called my husband and told him to get to the hospital as soon as possible. After a few somber moments of silence I turned to her and said, “I swear if I don’t find out I am dying in 48 hours I want to start talking about stress. Stress is killing all of us.” She wiped her own tears, and said, “Should I be documenting this in case?” (See photo)
Once Brian arrived we told him our new plan . My calling in life was to unveil the truth about stress. He looked at me and said, “Are you f***ing kidding me??? You want to talk about this now? NO, my focus is your health right now.” But when I rolled out of the MRI he showed me this and said, “DAMN YOU! Let’s go make a difference”.
Thankfully, the MRI was clean. It turns out my temporary blindness was triggered by a painless ocular migraine and I would have clusters of them as time went on. It took months of symptoms, specialists, and tests to conclude I was suffering a myriad of REAL health issues due to stress. So once I got back on track I spent months working with the top doctors, scientists, and experts in the field to learn everything I could about this, ‘not-so-silent killer’ and find a way to demonstrate to the world we need to start looking at Stress differently.
I love my job. I don’t even mind that I am a workaholic. However, as I learned, 70% of doctors visits are due to stress. We work 40% more than we did 10 years ago and our GPS-reliant society has made cellphones the “new black” and talking to one another the “old-fashioned way” obsolete. The results are that we’re shrinking our brains, dumbing down our senses, and weakening our immune systems. Our attention spans have dramatically shrunk and with it, our memories. We no longer watch TV. We watch CNN while on Facebook and texting our friends. The raw truth is we reboot our smart phones more than we do our own bodies.
So what do we do? Well, the great news is all the experts agree on one thing: stress management is in our control and most of the effects can be reversed before it is too late. I am sticking to my word and I am here to help you. My blogs will be jam-packed with ways to combat stress, from food to fun activities. I will be working with doctors from all over the world to bring you updated information on the effects of stress and what you can do at home to fight it. I will have daily stress updates on twitter and Instagram that will hopefully make you laugh as well as help you find a way to “unplug” a bit. I have also decided to conduct a social experiment. With the help of my team of doctors and my friends I am preparing to attempt to live a stress free life for 8 weeks. Now, living completely stress free is nearly impossible, but experts say there is a healthy level of stress and an UNHEALTHY level. So lets see what happens when I become their guinea pig.
I will be monitoring my health during the process as well as my mental well being and exploring some unconventional and sometimes bizarre practices used around the world to destress. Since sacrifices will need to be made with my work habits I will also be documenting the impact this experiment has on my career and my wallet!!!! So check back often and follow us on twitter and instagram @stresspert. Because I believe if we start to #stressless we will all #livemore
Love your #stresspert
*Lifein2lemonade is edited by Ryan Howard