Sometimes, Stress Is Good?


I had the joy of visiting my doctor recently. During this visit, we got caught up the state of my mind and body since I had last seen my doctor some 8 months previously. She commented about my weight and asked if I felt that the reading was accurate. I made a comment that scales don’t lie (in an effort to dismiss the subject). Her next question had the subtlety of 100 grit sandpaper: “Have you noticed your clothes have begun to fit more tightly?” My wife nodded in silent agreement. I felt like I was at a parent teacher conference being called out for passing notes in class. Except in this case, I was being called out for repeatedly asking someone to pass the gravy.

Along with this pleasant topic of conversation, my doctor made some adjustments in my medications. In the interest of being through, my doctor also scheduled me for a cardiac stress test. I have some mild anxiety over this forthcoming test but I was usually able to divert myself with other things: work, watching the Braves lose the wildcard playoffs after a good season, learning new chords on the mandolin, or preparing for two upcoming midterm exams. OK, maybe that last one wasn’t the best way to avoid stress. Getting an F on one of these midterms is more stressful. After all, this will require that my wife and kids will have to meet with my teachers. I’d prefer not to be the only grounded parent in my neighborhood. In the days that followed, my wife caught a terrible cold. I did my best to keep my distance while proving her with a never ending supply of cold medicine and cough drops. My room reeked of eucalyptus. I had koala bears knocking on my door at 3 in the morning begging me to hook them up.

The day before the stress test, my wife got a phone call from the office performing the test. They said I could not eat for 4 hours prior to the test and I could not take my blood pressure medicine. I don’t know about you but it was beginning to sound like they were stacking the deck against me. I was sure that any minute they were also going to feed me a fried bologna sandwich and make me sit in a sauna for 20 minutes before the test. This didn’t happen which was sad. I rather enjoy fried bologna.

A cardiac stress test involves attaching enough wires to your body to become an antenna for the nearest college radio station then briskly walking on a treadmill. You start at a nice pace with no incline. As the walk continues, they increase the speed and the incline. During all of this, a nurse has a blood pressure cuff wrapped around your arm. This requires a lot of talent considering that you are walking and wired for sound (I think I hear the B-52’s playing). So every minute or so, the nurse will say “30 more seconds on this level”. Then, as you make your way up this imaginary hill and you feel as if your face will explode, the nurse inflates the blood pressure cuff on your arm to get another reading. I can only describe this part of the experience by saying I think I know what it feels like to be a zit.

The speed and incline got me to where I felt like I was racing my way to claim a prize at the top of Stone Mountain. It would have been true as I was really getting an urge for that fried bologna sandwich. The routine continued: “30 more seconds, Shane”, another blood pressure reading, and my head feels like Mount Saint Helens. At this point, the treadmill slows down and the incline levels off. The nurse then takes off the leads which held the monitor wires (Darn, I was really digging that song). It is at this point that I should delicate point out that I am, shall we say, hirsute (i.e. hairy as an ape). I didn’t really think of the repercussions at the beginning as the nurse was strategically shaving areas of my chest to place the leads. Now that the leads were off, I looked like aliens have made crop circles on my chest.

I left the office with my wife and I treated her to breakfast. Now, I know what you are thinking. So, let me just set the record straight. I DID NOT HAVE a fried bologna sandwich. After breakfast, I went home to relax and prepare for a midterm that was taking place that evening. As the day went on, I began to notice that my very generous wife had something waiting for me once I got home. She had given me her cold. Man, I had JUST gotten rid of those koalas, too.

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