I have long suspected that stress was the main culprit behind my hubby's health issues (he had two business partners who didn't get along at all, and he was forever caught in the middle, forced to play mediator) which is why I encouraged him to retire early and join me here in the Hill Country. Unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed just a few days ago.
John's blood pressure has been the best we've seen in years, since coming home from the hospital, and he's taking about half as many medications as he was on before. Then he got a couple of calls from one of his ex-partners. I could hear the guy ranting from across the room, and poor hubby couldn't get a word in edgewise. Bam! His blood pressure spiked up off the charts again, and stayed there for a day and a half, necessitating a call to his specialist in Houston, and the addition of a new medication to his repertoire.
Now, this particular partner is actually a pretty good ol' guy, who would never intentionally cause John any harm. However, he's the type who has to work through his stress by talking about it non-stop until he comes to grips with it and, since he's now divorced and my hubby is such a good listener, he tends to call John when he needs to vent. It got me to thinkin' about the myriad of ways that people deal with stress.
The other partner, whom we will call The Source (of all stress), handled his own by hopping on a bike that cost as much as a car, and pedaling off into the sunset. I don't know when his family ever saw him! Many of our friends rely on their church families or some type of spiritualism to get them through, while others practice yoga and meditation. Sadly, more than a few turned to the bottle and/or pills. Me? Well, I guess you know by now that I write my stress away for the most part, get lost in some sort of creative trance, or get my hands into the dirt. I have lots of way to deal with stress. My poor hubby, however, has none. He never actually deals with it at all. He just bottles it all up and holds it inside. Forever.
The way he just sat there, soaking up his partner's stress for him, reminded me of a movie I once saw, called The Last Sin-Eater, based on a book by Francine Rivers. The practice of sin-eating began centuries ago in England and Scotland, then migrated to certain parts of Appalachia. Traditionally, villages maintained their own sin-eater, usually a beggar, who was brought to a dying person's bedside, where a relative would place a crust of bread on the breast of the dying, then pass a bowl of ale over them to the sin-eater. After praying or reciting some ritual, he would then drink the ale and eat the bread, thus (supposedly) removing the sin from the dying and taking it unto himself.
Anywho, since many people tend to use John for venting their stress, and since he is not good at processing his own, much less theirs, I suspect that stress and lifestyle, even more than genetics, are the true culprits behind most of his health issues. Yes, his mother had a heart attack and his dad had a series of strokes, but they both smoked like chimneys for years, had sedentary lifestyles, and his dad wouldn't eat anything but meat and starches. On the other hand, all of his farming aunts, uncles and grandparents lived into their 90s, and even his mom, who quit smoking cold turkey after her heart attack and started going to water aerobics three times a week, made it into her mid-80s!
So, I guess what I want my kids to know is this: You don't need to walk around feeling like you have a time bomb strapped to your chest. You are not a puppet to genetics. Just learn to make the hard choices. Eat your veggies, get plenty of exercise, and find a constructive way to deal with all the stress in your lives.
As for the ranting partner, I got ahold of him and explained that John was just out of ICU. I also told him, in the nicest way possible, that if I ever heard him ranting on the phone to John again, I would rip the phone from his hand and stomp the living hell out of it. And then I'd come and do the same to him.