Sharing: When a personal story can help others …

September 12, 2008 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)


There are a couple of topics I just don’t address publicly. My health is one of them. But in this case, I’m making an exception – partly because it turned out to be a false alarm, and partly because it speaks pretty directly to the subject I addressed in this week’s column for BitchBuzz.
I refrain from anything too personal in my BitchBuzz writing, because … well … it’s not appropriate. But on occasion those experiences and stories merit sharing some backstory. This being a cautionary tale, I feel compelled to share.
It all began with a number.
That number was 139 over 95.
You might recognize that as a blood pressure reading. It is. Mine. And as someone whose blood pressure has been a solid 110/65 since I was, oh, 14 years old, that number was pretty shocking.
And it scared the shit out of me.
So I went to my internist to get it checked out.
I walked into the office, went back into an exam room and the nurse came in. She took my weight (depressing) and then my blood pressure.
It was marginally better, 135 over 80, but still pretty elevated.
In came my physician. Dr. Gary Apter. He’s just about the calmest, most easygoing fellow you’ll meet – good thing in a doctor. He’s been my doctor since I moved to California 18 years ago and has seen me through some pretty rocky business.
He sat down across from me and we began to talk. He asked how I was doing. He asked what I was doing for work. He inquired about my family. And then, as he continued chatting with me, he began – very slowly – to move over and pull out the blood pressure cuff.
As we continued chatting he wrapped the cuff around my right arm. Then he said:
“Okay Cathy. Now I want you to take three deep breaths.”
I did.
Nearing the third exhale, Dr. Apter began taking my blood pressure. The cuff tightened. I felt my breath catch. Dr Apter paused and reminded me to breathe. I did.
He finished with the reading and smiled.

“110 over 65.”
He moved the cuff to my left arm and we went through the process once more. Again I felt my breath begin to catch as the cuff tightened. He paused and reminded me to breathe.
He finished with the reading and again, he smiled.
“110 over 65.”
Putting the stethoscope around his neck Dr. Apter told me that I needed a vacation.
The good news was that this was precisely my plan two days later.
The bad news was that in spite of my definitely being overextended and tired from work, I hadn’t been feeling particularly stressed, and so the fact I’d become so normalized to such a tightly wound state gave me serious pause.
So for this trip I opted to cut myself off entirely from my usual digital connections for several days. No Twitter. No Facebook (or any other social network for that matter). No Seesmic. No email.
It was glorious.
And as I mentioned in that BitchBuzz post, the world didn’t come screeching to a halt without me. That’s a bit depressing, of course. We all love to feel that we’re entirely critical and without our presence things would just collapse.
Truth of the matter is that while each individual is certainly important, and while we all bring value (at least hopefully so), when push comes to shove even the most influential, luminary powerful people are completely and utterly dispensible.
Lest you think this vacation served to do nothing more than turn me into Debbie Downer, allow me to offer some perspective.
Social media tools in their marvelous connectivity are a most excellent way to maintain the links you have to existing friends. It’s also a way to discover new people and have a chance to learn about them in a way never before possible. In today’s world we are truly living the Global Village experience.
You may hear a rather sizable “but” coming along and you’d be right.
Even with all the good that can come from this always-on world, it’s important that one doesn’t mistake being connected for being … well … overly important. Don’t get me wrong, we are all as individuals very important … each person’s life matters in the big picture. That should not, however, be confused with being indispensable.
It’s about balance. Having a healthy self-esteem is good. Thinking that the world revolves on your axis, is not.


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