Story Time: Stress Landed Me in the Hospital

Since April is National Stress Awareness Month (who knew!). I wanted to tell you guys the story about the time stress landed me in the hospital and how I’ve changed my life since then so that never happens again.

In 2014, I started a high-stress job in digital marketing for a huge QSR company. The job was sink or swim. I had no guidance, no training and was given a huge problem to solve with very little direction. Being the uber type A person I am, I jumped in and figured it out. I worked 12 hour days, weekends, holidays, whatever it took. I knew I was stressed but I was so focused on the job that I didn’t pay much attention to it. Different than most, I was still taking care of my body during this time. I was working out 4 -5 days a week doing Crossfit and HIIT and I was eating a balanced pescetarian diet. I didn’t partake in all of the office treats, except happy hour, of course.

The Day

My day started as it usually did. I got up early, but not early enough to get to my 5 am class, so I did a tabata workout in my living room. After I finished, I sat down to read my bible for the day and my heart rate never seemed to slow down. Five minutes went by, then ten, twenty…forty and my heart was still racing. On top of that, I was suddenly exhausted. In spite of those warning signs, I still got dressed and went to work. I arrived before everyone else, as usual, and still wasn’t feeling great. I was slightly out of breath like I was running but I was sitting still, my heart was still racing and I was still really, really tired. I decided to stop by Care Now to make sure I wasn’t dying. I fully expected them to tell me I was nuts and send me home.

My First Ambulance Ride

After they ran a routine EKG, the doctor calmly walks into the room and tells me that I have to go to the hospital and an ambulance is on the way. He told me that I was having an arrhythmia accompanied by taccicardia and my heart could potentially stop beating at any point. Awesome. I call my then fiance, now husband to tell him what’s going on. He freaks out.

Then, I calmly change into a hospital gown and wait in the back of Care Now for my ambulance. I felt ridiculous. I was calm, coherent and not in the kind of condition you imagine one would need to be in to take an ambulance ride. Then my embarrassment turned to horror as three EMTs come rushing in. I assured them I was fine and attempted to crack a few jokes as they asked me a series of questions and loaded me into the awaiting ambulance.

As they rushed me to the hospital with sirens and lights blazing, they took my vitals and my heart was beating even faster because they were freaking me out.

Admitting patient Patterson

After arriving at the hospital, they took me into the ER and I was swarmed by doctors and nurses. They berated me with questions and ran a crap ton of tests. Apparently the top part of my heart was beating faster than the bottom and I had a super elevated heart rate. They gave me some meds via IV and decided to observe me for a bit. By that time, my boo arrived and looked genuinely distraught. Poor thing. I assured him I was fine and he sat by my side. After an hour, they couldn’t get my heart to slow down so they admitted me.

As I sat in the hospital room, we asked the series of doctors and nurses that came in and out what could have caused this. None of them knew. All of my other vitals were awesome. I was healthy, alert and never had any previous major health problems.

After a few hours and a crap ton of medicine, my heart rate returned to normal and they let me go home. After following up with cardiologist weeks later, he said the arrhythmia was caused by an electrical shortage in my heart that decided to act up that day. Apparently, it was something I was born with and it’s something I need to monitor but I don’t need to worry too much about it if it doesn’t happen again. I asked what could have triggered that event and he said stress could have led to that specific episode. I haven’t had an episode like that since.

Lessons Learned

Looking back, I was ridiculous stressed out at work, so much so that the stress had become normal to me. Add to that a few years of tumultuous financial times caused by my husband’s, then fledgling business and I guess that’s what pushed my body over the edge.

Since then, I’ve slowed down at work, started meditating and resting more. It’s been a journey. The lesson here is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. You are your best defense. You know when something isn’t quite right. Don’t feel guilty or weird for bringing attention to an issue or ailment you have going on. You never know, you could save your own life.

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