I am not a hypochondriac. I swear. So earlier this month, when I had a little trouble getting deep breaths at night in bed, at first I was skeptical anything was wrong.

I’ve held back on the goodies this summer, eaten the obligatory kelp salads – oops, I mean kale — and done a lot of pickleball, gardening and walking for exercise. Have felt great.

But I started feeling a telltale “whoosh” at the top of my chest. At least, it was telltale to me! Ooh! Hypertension! Palpitations! I must be developing a heart problem!

All that chocolate candy over the years had finally formed the Hoover Dam inside my arteries! I had smoked for over 10 years, back in the day, and it must be coming back to haunt me!

I strapped on our home blood-pressure monitor. It had never let me down. AAAIIIEEE!!! The first reading was 178/120!!!! I belonged in the ICU!!!

Calm down, calm down. Rest for 15 minutes and try again. 155/110. Well, that was better. I could make like a mountaintop guru and practice deep breathing, yoga, meditation, biofeedback, etc.

Next day, though, the readings were nowhere near normal, which for me is 120/80. They were sky-high! AAAIIIEEE!!!

I took my blood pressure three times a day. It got worse as the day went on. I had several more readings in the 170s. Was I going to pop like a cork? On the pickleball court, suddenly my hands and then my nose turned cold as ice! Was blood not able to get to my extremities?!? Was I about to have a stroke?!?

Hurry up, now: which daughter was going to get which piece of jewelry? Who could read my handwriting in my address book to notify old friends of the funeral date?!? Lord, I have one more daughter to marry off – I pray You’ll miraculously spare my life, or she’s liable to pick lime green and tan plaid bridesmaid dresses. AAAIIIEEE!!!

I made a doctor’s appointment, but had to wait a couple of weeks. Darn Covid. The whole time, I worried and obsessed.

Finally, yesterday came the appointed hour. I tried to stay calm as the nurse strapped on the blood-pressure cuff, bracing for her eyes to pop at the dangerously high numbers.

But she smiled: 110/77.


“What?!?” I asked. “That can’t be! Your monitor must be defective!”

I hauled out my two-page, single-spaced record of the two or three times a day I had recorded my readings at home. All of them were much, much higher than that.

The doctor came in. He had a different monitor. Strapped it on. I breathed easily.

The reading: 110/75.


The doctor beamed. “I think YOU must be the one with the defective monitor,” he said. “I am not a fan of those home sets.”

When we both stopped laughing with relief, we made a deal: any time I fear that my blood pressure is too high, I can drop in to his office and have a reading, free.

And no, they won’t laugh.

The momentary trouble breathing in bed, and the ice-cold hands and nose, both have gone away. He said they didn’t amount to a hill of beans, anyway, since they didn’t persist.

AARRGGHH! I had whipped it all up in my head! Tricked myself! The blood-pressure monitor found a new home in the bye-bye bin.

Yeah, I have an M.D. degree, all right: Mentally Deranged!

Beloved, I wish above all things

that thou mayest prosper and be in health,
even as thy soul prospereth.

-3 John 1:2

By Susan Darst Williams • 9/24/2020 • www.RadiantBeams.org • © 2020