November 2011, we decided that we'd host our first ever Thanksgiving. Olivia was so excited! She loved hosting parties and helping to prepare for them. She would even help clean the house before company would arrive. She was so excited to be hosting Thanksgiving that she created name plates for each of our guest with a saying on why she was thankful for that person. It pains me that not only did I NOT keep my name plate, but I don't remember what she was thankful for. I choose not to dwell on things like that..... those regrets can only eat you alive. Instead, I have these wonderful family pictures to reflect on and know that she was thankful, as am I, for each other.
Little did we know that this would be our last Thanksgiving as a complete family......
The following year, I had decided that I didn't want to celebrate Thanksgiving because well, I wasn't at all thankful. I was completely anti-Thanksgiving. I bought a beef roast and put it in the crock pot that morning, unwillingly let Ainsley watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and listened to the pounding in my chest become louder and faster as the day went on. We did promise that we'd stop in to visit family on the North Side of Pittsburgh. It was a beautiful November day and quite warm. On our way to our visit, I asked Erick to stop off at Giant Eagle so that I could get my blood pressure read from one of those automated machines. My blood pressure was extremely high. I've always had low to normal blood pressure so this was a bit concerning to me. I asked Erick to get his read in hopes that the machine was off. Nope. Erick's was normal. I took mine again....... 140/100! Erick, as always, is calming me down and tries to ease my mind. We continued with our plans and drive the rest of the way to my father-in-law's house.
Once we arrive, I immediately ask Nancy (Erick's dad's wife) if she has a blood pressure cuff. Nancy is a nurse so I sort of knew that she would have one. I explain my dilemma and we go upstairs to her bedroom. She takes my pressure and it's now higher. She tells me to lay down and relax, takes it again, and it's still high, 150/100! Holy shit, I'm going to die. I jump up and declare that I'm going to the emergency room. The closest ER is literally within walking distance, but Erick drives me there. Nancy took care of keeping things quiet so that neither my parents or Ainsley would worry.
I entered the triage area of Allegheny General Hospital. After a very brief set of questions by the triage nurse, I'm being escorted, by foot, to a room and thenI'm hooked up to monitors. Erick has parked the car and comes into my room where Thanksgiving Day football is on the TV. He's content. Two different doctors run tests on me to rule out a stroke. No, I didn't have a stroke. They then tell me that my heart is fine. Lastly, they ask me a series of questions about stress. Here it comes, I have to tell someone my story. My daughter died in March. Every time I say it, there it is, the lump in my throat, the sting in my eyes, the elephant in the room. Is the elephant sitting on my chest?
Blood work comes back all normal and I'm diagnosed with anxiety. I had my first panic attack on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Am I thankful that I didn't have a stroke?
I am still anti-Thanksgiving at his point and am not thankful in 2012.
I am discharged from the hospital. Erick and I return back to our family and I cry when I see the concern and love from everyone in the room. Then, there is Ainsley. She is so happy and doesn't have a clue as to what just happened to her unstable mommy.
We finally make our way back home and the roast in the crock pot is WAY over cooked. It sucks.
I have since learned that I cannot change the inevitable. I cannot hide. I can control my anxiety, which takes some time to learn how and some help from a therapist. And, I can be thankful for Ainsley, Erick, and my family but I don't have to like the way things turned out for us.