In the United States about 78 million adults have high blood pressure, which can lead to heart and kidney damage.
This is her story.
If we're getting technical about it, my chart says "Primary Idiopathic Hypertension." Translated, that means "We have no idea why your blood pressure is high. Here are some pills."
I've had high blood pressure since I was eighteen.
In the beginning, no one even tried to figure out why. My doctor at the time just looked at my readings, said it probably explained my headaches, and sent me home with some medication. It worked, so I took it and didn't think anything about it.
Several years later, another doctor told me how unusual it was for someone to have high blood pressure at my age and proceeded to do every test she could think of. Cortisol tests, an MRI to make sure I didn't have a shunt, and metabolic blood tests galore. They all came back completely normal and the doctor wrote my prescription as always and sent me home. I think she was actually a little disappointed.
This has gone on for years now and I manage it by taking my medication (three kinds now!), watching my sodium and caffeine, and exercising. The only thing that seems to make a difference is the medication, though. As always.
My favorite part about having high blood pressure is the body-shaming. I have lost count of how many doctors have told me "if you just lost some weight your blood pressure would be normal."
I wish it was that easy.
When I was first diagnosed, I was just this side of underweight. At one point I weighed well over two hundred pounds. When I lost sixty, my blood pressure didn't change. Not one point. I try to explain this to the doctors and they just don't listen. None of them. And it feels just great to be told how fat you are when the medication you're on is what caused the weight gain in the first place.
Judging from the way my life has gone so far, I'll never be able to completely go off my medication. If I were to become a champion marathon runner, I would probably still be on it. I don't love it, but there it is.
For the rest of my life I'll have to have blood tests to check my kidneys, eye exams to check my retinas, and use my home pressure monitor to make sure I'm still in the right range because untreated hypertension can cause all kinds of horrors. Sometimes if my readings are off, I get dizzy and disoriented. Sometimes I get headaches. Occasionally my feet and hands will swell.
The point is, you can never tell what someone else has going on inside them. I hear "You have high blood pressure? But you're so young!" all the time. I didn't ask for it. I certainly don't enjoy it. But I can do my best to control it.
I am the face of high blood pressure.
Now where did those pills go?
With Mother's Day lurking about, I thought I'd share a story about mine.
If you've read my other posts for The Band or checked out my profile, you know my mother has Multiple Sclerosis. She was diagnosed somewhere around 1989, although I'm not sure of the exact date. I remember she'd gotten the MS diagnosis after I'd finished kindergarten because she'd stopped driving and I'd learned to walk to school.
Sadly, her case of MS is now so advanced that there's no real treatment available.
I'll admit that my relationship with my mother isn't the best, which shocks most people. However, I'm sure some can relate to our story. I love my mother; I know I'm lucky to have her, but the chronic MS has taken away so much that it's left a huge hole in our relationship.
She currently lives in a nursing home because her MS requires a level of care far beyond home health care or even the care of my father. She's dead weight, which makes moving her impossible, especially as she doesn't cooperate well.
She's been living in the nursing home since the fall of 2008, after my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2007 and had his bladder removed. It was a tough choice to make; nobody wants to put family in a home but you have to do what's best for everyone.
Before MS, my mother was a typical mother; doting, an avid baker and gardener, and creative - she'd knit and sew. Whenever she baked, I'd hang out in the kitchen, pushing my chair to the counter to steal pie dough or play in the flour.
She had the most beautiful rose garden I've seen. I'd help in the garden, digging holes (and for worms, in my case) planting seeds and tulip bulbs; making sure to tell them "good night" every night. I'd sit and watch her knit slippers for my teachers for Christmas until she couldn't. She was able to knit for a long time; she taught me to roll the yarn into balls for her.
But I was such a rebellious child! As a baby, I managed to flip out of my crib and knock out my bottom two teeth - scaring the shit out of her. I'd play in the dirt, she'd bathe me, then let me go back outside with the promise that I wouldn't get dirty again. I always did. I cut off my long hair - boy did that piss her off - and refused to wear dresses.
She'd spend hours brushing my hair - something I wasn't fond of - because I had naturally curly hair that left my hair in knots. I'd howl as she brushed, sitting on the floor between her legs on a big pillow. Sometimes, I had a piece of toast with peanut-butter and bologna to distract me or I watched The Brady Bunch.
In Kindergarten for Halloween, she made a witch costume; she even helped me practice my cackle. I was so proud.
Slowly the MS began to take away her abilities.
She'd lose her balance and fall to the floor. I'd be playing in the other room and hear a sickening THUD - I knew Mom had fallen. I'd call Dad to come home from work to help Mom up.
So scary to see your mom helpless on the floor.
Soon she could no longer cook for us, but she was still able to do my sister's hair. I began to do my own. My Dad began to have to take over her responsibilities; he had his hands full. Three kids, two of whom had special needs, I was young and needed help with my homework, and he had to care for Mom. He had to quit his part-time job so he could be home with us.
Dad stepped in a lot of the duties that Mom had done. He learned how to use a curling iron and a hair crimper, he helped me with Girl Scouts projects, and when I got to that age, he took me bra shopping. Poor guy. He never complained. I became independent with everything else.
As Mom's condition worsened, we had to get help. We hired a care provider to help when Dad had to go to work from 7AM until he came home at 5PM. She'd take care of Mom, bathe and dress her, help her from her wheelchair to a recliner. She administered Mom's medication and took care of some of the housework.
I wasn't thrilled with the caregivers, mostly because they'd boss me around like they were my mother. It made me angry because my own mother sat there watching TV, not even trying to defend me. Mom loves to talk, she'd ramble on,and on about anything. Including me.
I was so humiliated by the things she'd tell this total stranger about me. My teen years were already rough - trying to fit in, struggles with making friends, dealing with bullies.
I hated that I couldn't go to her for advice for certain things: friends, boys, because I was afraid she'd spill the beans to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. She told everyone in a ten mile radius when I got my period.
There was so much she missed out on. Prom dress shopping, doing my hair (which I admit I began to miss), my high school graduation, because it was raining and it was too hard for Dad to transport her.
All because of MS.
Multiple Sclerosis has definitely strained our relationship.
I've heard that as adults, our relationships with our parents can improve. I'm closer to my dad than my mom.
Recently, I was thinking about those things a mother is supposed to pass onto their children, cooking, sewing - stuff I should know but don't. I'm going to be a horrible mom because I don't know shit about any of that stuff. I'm not domestic at ALL.
And yet, I wonder if she's proud of me? I make her things to display in her room, and from what Dad tells me, she brags about them. Even now, I'm so rebellious - I'm sure I'm not the daughter she visioned.
Despite all it, I love her so much; I'm glad she's my mom.
Let me end this post with a quick story about my mom and I.
In January, she had to have surgery to patch a wound on her behind, she'd been bed-ridden for a month at the hospital. It was difficult because we couldn't always get away to visit her.
One particular Sunday, Dad and I visited her, we were teasing her and she said: "You drive me crazy!" I laughed and replied, "You drive me crazy, too!"
It wasn't exactly I love you but it was just as good.
Happy Mothers Day Mom!
Your Crazy Rebellious Daughter Mags
This post contains information of a graphic nature.
Please do not continue reading unless you understand that sensitive content about rape is contained below. That said, please support this brave woman as she shares her story.
Rape is more that just physical violation, it also has devastating mental and emotional effects.
This is her story.
What is it about rape that is so hurtful?
Is it when someone actually reaches for and enters the inside of your body you feel like your whole self - inside and out - is being exposed and violated? Is it the fact that your dignity is taken away as you are forced to stand or lie there naked, as you are stared at and calculated in a public area while being spied upon?
Is it that you're forced into feeling things you have never felt before without being asked just so they can watch your reaction? Is it that they knew you were extremely vulnerable yet still forced you into things you weren't ready for?
You didn't know enough to realize the impact of these actions.
Is it that your friend left you alone with seven guys, two of whom abused you? They had very little consideration for your needs. Is it the physical pain as one of them jams his finger inside of you causing some bleeding? Then he penetrates, not caring if you're sore, not even speaking to you except when telling you what to do or trying to make you react so you can be heard.
Is it being forced into positions you were uncomfortable with and being treated like a rag doll? Is it the fear or the shame because you're too afraid to resist? Is it the what ifs, like what if you gave the message to them that you wanted this even though you didn't know what was going on?
You thought it was a normal thing to do at 14 because your friend was doing it. Is it that the same friend was inconsiderately shouting about what you did that day? You denied it all and have been ever since until now. Even now you have to try and make yourself stop denying it so you can heal and move on.
Is it the fact that after you did walk away from the first rape he molested you and attempted to stimulate you in front of the rest of the gang? Your privacy and trust mocked? Is it the fact that only sheer luck meant you weren't forced into a situation of being a parent at 14? Is it the fact that what happened that day tainted what should have been a good life experience? Your trust in people is gone, especially of men.
Yes, it is all of those things and probably more.
But most of all it is the fact that I have lived with this as my life slowly ground to a halt. True, I did have a lot more going on that contributed but what happened that day made things an awful lot worse. They made me feel worthless - a feeling that grew with time as I kept that day locked away for nine years. The guilt because I didn't do anything to resist. The shame at the memories of having to strip in a public park. The guilt because I didn't run. The shame of the things I did and how it was broadcast to peers.
When you hear of someone being raped you never think of all these feelings that are attached. But they are, and it hurts.
Rape is a trauma that lasts with you a lifetime.
This is her story:
About a year ago, my best friend was really into this older guy, and I didn't want to be around him; he gave me the creeps. But she always said, "Come on! I don't want to go alone," so I'd give in and hang out with them.
She'd always been a horrible friend, but I suppose I didn't care (don't worry, because thanks to my current wonderfully supportive, long- term boyfriend, I've since gotten her out of my life.)
She'd accused me of wanting him, which, for some reason, made me want to prove her right. He suggested, through text, that we have sex. I thought, "Hell, she deserves it," and went with it, even though I knew it was wrong.
He asked to hang out with me alone, and I said "sure," but to make it abundantly clear that I didn't want to have sex, I followed that up with, "I DON'T want to have sex with you."
He replied, "Okay, I don't have sex on Sundays anyway; it's a sin."
I'm so stupid - why would I believe such a bullshit excuse? I don't know, I'm young and naive.
We were watching the movie Saw, just as friends, so I wasn't expecting, or hoping for anything sexual. He was.
He started kissing me. I was semi-unsure of what was going on, so I went with it for a moment. Then, he rolled on top of me and started to unbutton my pants.
I was confused.
I pushed up on his chest and asked as quietly and calmly as I could, "What are you doing?" He ignored me. I must have asked at least five more times getting more and more anxious when he didn't reply.
Things got a little blurry - after he put on a condom, I accepted what was about to happen.
I knew no one else was home and I was afraid to run home and telling my parents because I didn't want to get in trouble. So I just laid there with my arms at my sides; I didn't really know what else I could do.
I thought I was okay. I really did.
I felt guilty and for a while I convinced myself that we'd just had sex. Soon, though, I began to feel ashamed and disgusted. The tears came and I realized, I had been raped, violated, assaulted.
After I realized I'd been raped, I went into a very deep depression.
I managed to keep both the depression and the rape to myself, though I came clean to my friend. I was happy that she believed me, because she's the type who thinks people get what they deserve. Soon, though, she began to use the rape against me in arguments. That hurt. A lot.
I told my dad about the rape.
We talked about the rape and decided together not to report it to the police as my rapist had just been arrested for raping and statutory raping a number of girls, so he was in jail for over twenty years.
I became suicidal and I didn't believe it had anything to do with the rape
I went to the psychiatric hospital for a five day stay. Now that I understand the stages of grief after a rape: depression, regret, anger, and guilt you go through it makes sense.
I'm currently working through the guilt stage following the rape. I know logically that the rape wasn't my fault; that he should have taken no for an answer the first time. But still, I feel I need to go back and change the past; like it was all my fault.
I was raped.
But I have a voice and I intend to use it to help myself and anyone else who has been through a rape.
Have you survived a rape? How did you cope?
Every day in the United States alone, 26 babies are stillborn.
This is Ruth's story:
i don't have any leather pants to strap on, as i have been invited to do on the homepage, but i'm gonna share my story. i'm 37 years old, happily married, and the proud mother of three (living) children.
last year, almost this exact time of year, i found out i was pregnant with our fourth child. the news came as a bit of a surprise, as i was on the pill, and we'd thought we were "done" - our kids are 12, 10, and 8.
after the initial shock wore off, we were thrilled. it was going to be so much fun this time around, knowing what we already know about having kids and whatnot. all the stress of just keeping the little buggers alive and well until they started school was behind us. we could relax and just enjoy having a little one to hold and snuggle.
at our 20 week ultrasound, we discovered that it was a girl we named ruth, and her umbilical cord had only two blood vessels instead of the usual three.
the doctor explained the problems this could cause, and after educating ourselves about the risks involved, we felt confident that we could handle whatever GOD chose to bring our way. her due date was set for january 11, 2013. because mine was considered a high-risk pregnancy, i had weekly ultrasounds scheduled for the last two months of the pregnancy.
on january 2, just nine days before our due date, my ultrasound revealed that there was no heartbeat. ruth was dead.
i headed to labor and delivery to be induced. early the next morning, I delivered my baby girl who had already left this world.
the pain and shock have been enormous. i am so grateful to my husband for being my strength over these last 4 months. he lost a daughter too, but somehow he manages to rise above his grief when i need him.
our families have been wonderful, letting me grieve in my own way, never judging, always loving. we never did find out what happened; why she died. now the big question is, do we want to try for another baby? we know we can't replace the one we lost, but it just seems so sad to end our baby-making years with a tragedy.
if anyone reading this is interested, Jason Collins, MD of knoxville, tennessee is an ob-gyn studying the causes and risk factors for stillbirth. i was able to get in contact with him after losing ruth, and discovered that this tragedy is all too common: every day in the united states alone, 26 babies are stillborn.
i'd become concerned during the last few weeks of my pregnancy that the baby wasn't moving enough, but when i contacted my doctor, i was told that it was fine; babies slow down as they get bigger.
listen up, everybody! babies DO NOT slow down. all pregnant moms: do a kick count. be a pain in your doctor's ass. drive the nurses at the hospital crazy. do whatever it takes for that little one.
s/he is counting on you.
GOD bless all of you who read this. GOD bless ALL the unborn babies.
thanks, the band, for letting me have the floor for a moment.
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