Hissy Fit - August 2019
...because everyone needs one every once in awhile
August 2019 Issue
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen
If you read my publisher’s note on page 14, I alluded to this article being a spin off, which is a first. As you know, I went to the hospital for an excruciating, out-of-character headache recently. I worried I was having a stroke or an aneurism. I don’t get headaches; I’ve never had a migraine, and strokes run in my family. I was scared.
Before deciding to go to the hospital, I toiled with the debilitating pain for almost two hours. I took ibuprofen, put a cold rag on my forehead, closed my eyes, and tried deep-breathing techniques, all with no relief. The pressure pushing against my skull was insurmountable and radiated into my neck. The pain went from zero to agonizing, instantly. And yet, I questioned going to the hospital.
I am not alone. Women tend to wait longer to seek medical attention for themselves, especially if it involves a heart attack. Studies have shown that on average a woman will wait 37 minutes longer than a man to call for help. In the case of a heart attack—stroke or aneurism, too—every second counts to achieve the best outcome. So why do we hesitate?
Here are some of the reasons I hesitated, and the crazy thoughts that went along with the battle I was fighting inside my aching head as to whether or not to go to the hospital:
The wrong way to think: I’m just overreacting. I’m not an over-reactor, in general; I tend to wait and see, and usually things work themselves out. This approach is fine if you’re dealing with something like a solid case of diarrhea (pun intended). It is not fine, when you are potentially having a life-threatening medical emergency! Nonetheless, I felt I had to over-explain myself: “I have a high tolerance for pain, but this is so different; I’ve never felt anything like this. I’m fine. I’ll be fine. We probably shouldn’t go [to the hospital] blah, blah, blah.”
The right way to think: Trust your intuition, and don’t feel you have to explain yourself. If you are experiencing something out of the ordinary, get to the hospital. No one knows your body more than you. Trust yourself to seek the medical attention you need.
The wrong way to think: What if it’s nothing? I hope they find something so people won’t think I’m just being dramatic. Uhm? Excuse me, but you actually don’t want them to find something just to soothe what others may think. But I had thoughts like I was wasting everyone’s time and burdening my daughter for taking up her Sunday. I figured my headache was probably nothing more than a bad headache. I put so much pressure on myself to just validate my decision to go to the ER and get checked.
The right way to think: I’m going to the ER to get checked. This is an unusual occurrence, and I need to get it checked out for the best outcome. If it is nothing, that is the best outcome. If it is something, at least I will have caught it early, be in the best place for care, and given myself the absolute best chance at full recovery.
The wrong way to think: I don't need to spend the money, especially if it's nothing. Would you ever consider money if going to the ER involved your children, parents or spouse? The answer is no way! Then don’t allow the thought to cross your mind when it’s about you? This is your health on the line—the one thing that gives you the ability to care for everyone you love and live life on your own terms.
The right way to think: My peace of mind is valuable, and my health is even more valuable. I am worth being cared for.
The wrong way to think: I can’t let my family see me sick. I am their rock, and I can’t be this vulnerable. I better suck it up and not let on how much pain I’m in.
As a mom, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking I cannot let my children down by getting sick. We’ve been through a lot in the last few years, and the last thing they need is to worry about me. I don’t want to be a source of anxiety for them. This one is hard; it’s not driven by self-doubt, but more motherly protection.
The right way to think: Children want everything to be OK with their parents, but they know we are not super heroes. We get ill, and it is a great opportunity to connect on a more mature level. In fact, it can be a teaching moment. I will never forget when my ex-husband broke his ankle on the golf course in the snow (sliding down dunes). My son, Conner, came running in to tell me to call 911, while my daughter, Jacie, at age 3, stayed out with her father. When I got out to them, Jacie had packed her father’s ankle with snow and was rubbing his forehead. Children learn so much by watching you care for others, and their having a turn to be the caregiver isn’t a bad thing. So when I went to the ER, Jacie and I spent six hours there. We had the opportunity to talk, giggle and support each other. Overall, it was a positive experience that gave my now 20-year-old daughter a chance to care for me and feel responsible.
As it turns out, I am fine, thank God! It was a thunderclap headache, which feels exactly as it sounds, and is probably caused by dehydration, exhaustion, bp or sugar spike, who knows. However, if I had to do it over again, I would not change a thing.
The tricks our minds can play on us, and the inner dialogue our mind has with itself can be maddening. When this happens, you have to ground yourself, quiet down the doubt in your brain, and trust your gut. Don’t ever allow doubt to win, especially in a medical situation. As the old saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
If you are ever in doubt over whether or not to go to the hospital, I hope you remember this article and do not hesitate! Remember, I was lucky mine was nothing more than a bad headache; often times it is something, and that something needs you to get to the hospital, stat.