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Tag Archives: stress

Working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack

18 Apr

March was a rough month for me. I brought it all upon myself but that didn’t make it any easier. The head technician at work took the month to go tour around Asia, and I volunteered to cover his shifts. This meant a month of working 6 days a week and close to 60 hours. Add on top of this cat sitting, dog sitting, studying for my final semester of school and this led to a life limited to work and animals. Work wasn’t the most joyful either. I had to work with Dr. Z who is quite possibly the most difficult, arrogant man in the world. But he signs my paychecks, so I have to grin and bear it. We also took in a precious little pug puppy who after weeks of intense nursing passed away, leaving me devastated but too burnt out to even think of sitting down and crying.

At night I would come home (sometimes to cat/dog sitting clients’ apartments), eat, shower, study as much as possible, and maybe allow myself a bit of time to write in my journal or read. The exhaustion of a long day would overcome me as I turned out the light. This is when my heart would start to pound. I could feel it in my ears, in my hands, in my feet. Breathing would become difficult. It felt almost as if I was drowning. I’ve been having nighttime anxiety attacks for the last 3 or so years, but those were maybe once every other month. This was happening every night. I became accustomed to listening to Buddhist podcasts I had downloaded. I used them to slow down my breathing, to let go of anger, to breathe loving presence into myself. But night after night, there it would be, my pounding tell-tale heart. As my anxiety attacks became worse and more frequent, I found myself almost unable to focus on the teachings. I could hardly even focus on the words the teachers were saying.

Then one night, toward the end of the crazy work run, I left work and on the train home thought over the list of things that I had to do: catch up on schoolwork, update blog, clean the bathroom, book flights to San Francisco. But as I walked into the door of my apartment, I said fuck it all and changed into my workout clothes, grabbed my boxing gloves and went to the kickboxing center. Every muscle in my body felt wound up, and I guiltily walked into the room, knowing my instructor has noticed that I haven’t been in to work out in a month. He just smiled at me though and said welcome back.

The workout began. Running, jumping jacks, burpees, crunches, planks, and the millions of varieties on all of these. But unlike other times when I have worked out, I moved with an intensity, with an energy burning inside that I was unaware of. When we got to the point in the class where we got to punch and kick the bags, I went crazy. I hit and kicked harder than I knew was possible. With each swing I thought of all the things that have made me angry, disappointed, frustrated. I saw the face of Dr. Z and punched with each condescending thing he has said to me. I thought of the puppy dying. I thought of people shoving me on the train. I thought of every moment where I tried to breathe through an emotion instead of confronting it.

I felt a light tap on my shoulder, as my instructor told me class was over. I was dripping with sweat, breathing heavy, every muscle in my body shaking.

“Good workout today, champ,” he said to me. All I could to was nod and try to catch my breath.

At home in the shower, I felt elated. I felt ready to take on the world. My mind was awake and refreshed and clear. I thought of things I wanted to write, places I want to go, paths I want to go down. I felt like I could deal with it all. “Bring it, world. I can take on anything.” And that night, my heart stayed calm as I slipped into sleep with ease.

I love Buddhism. I love what it teaches, but I can’t help but disagree with this idea of sublimating anger and negative feelings. Maybe I’m not doing it right or I’m approaching it wrong. Maybe my crazy workout fits in with Buddhism. I didn’t take my anger and put anything negative into the world. I didn’t hurt anyone, start a fight, say something that I might later regret. I did nothing but strengthen my body and improve myself. But it had to come out. All that anger. It didn’t go away with breathing.

Life is back to a beautifully healthy balance now. And my workouts have stayed intense. Maybe they are a form of meditation in themselves. A way to exist in the present moment, to feel alive and aware and connected. To confront the truth. Maybe sometimes the truth is simply that I’m angry and that’s okay.

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26 Before 26: Do Batting Practice

1 Jul

Just like Matt Kemp

In my 26th year of life, I am attempting 26 new things that I’ve never done before. Full list here.

Boy oh boy, I needed this.

One of the best and most pleasantly surprising things about my 26 before 26 endeavor has been the eagerness and enthusiasm of others to hear about it and to help me. I keep a copy of the list on my phone, and anytime anyone hears about it they immediately want to see it. They go through the list, laughing at some of the items and becoming overly excited about others. I haven’t been as diligent about my list, because life gets in the way. But a new friend from my soccer team, Dave, saw this on my list and insisted on taking me to the batting cages at Chelsea Piers. I was happy to go.

We went on a Wednesday night, after a crappy Wednesday day. I went into work slightly hungover and proceeded to have a bad luck day. I was mainly having issues with catheters. Catheters were so scary to me for such a long time, but once I got the hang of it, I felt so proud. But Wednesday, every catheter I put in would kink and I would lose the flow. It’s heartbreaking, to see the flash, to slowly insert the catheter, to pull the stylet…nothing. No blood. I’d pull the catheter out and see it had bended all weird. Everyone kept telling me that it sometimes just happens with catheters, but I would look down at the blown vein and beat myself up. I was having such an off day with those effing blue catheters.

So I headed to the batting cages to meet up with Dave. It’s a pretty good deal, really. $2ish for a token which gets you ten pitches. Dave went for the medium pitch cage, but I wanted to take whacks at the slow pitch softball cage since that is what I encounter in my Pac-12 softball team. There was a pair of girls who had rented the cage for an hour. They were dripping with sweat, taking turns in the cage. We got to talking with them, and they make it down to the pier once a month to rent the cage for an hour and go to town.

“We’ve got a lot of rage,” one of them told me breathlessly.

Once they left, I took my turn in the cage. It was much easier than actual softball. I knew exactly when the ball was coming and where it would be. I also didn’t have rows of Pac-12 dudes cheering me on. I love my Pac-12 dudes, but I want to do so well for them, I stress myself out. This time, it was just me and a machine. Somehow, nothing feels better then making contact with a bat, hearing that pop, imagining where that ball would go on a real softball field. Such a perfect stress release, and I made a mental note that I must rent the cage out sometime for myself.

Afterwards, Dave and I grabbed a beer at a bar next to the golf driving range. It was perfect weather down my the water, and it was hypnotizing to watch those golf balls sail out towards the water, like a meteor shower. A couple of Dave’s friends showed up so they could practice their golf swings for a tournament they put themselves through, known ominously as “The Cup.” It’s an epic battle amongst old college friends which never fails to entertain me when they start talking about it. There’s even a draft.

I told them that I’d never actually gone to a driving range, and maybe I should put it on my 27 before 27 list. But why put off until tomorrow what you can do today. They invited me to come along and hit a few. I was pretty horrible, but after they gave me a few tips, I don’t think I was so bad. It took a couple of swings before I finally hit the ball, but when I did, one of Dave’s friends Adam said something along the lines of “Yay bucket list.” It took me far away from the worries of a 22-guage catheter.

The next day, my shoulders were so, so sore. But I was relaxed, and 15 minutes into work, I had to place a catheter into a squirmy King Charles Spaniel. I got it right away.