The day before I collapsed on the floor of my gynecologist's office with a blood pressure reading of just 85/40, my fiance left New York for Fort Benning, Georgia to start Army infantry basic training. After that, he was going on to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to try out for special forces. We might still have phone contact for another week, they had said, but I wasn't going to see him again for at least four months.
In the moments after the recruiter drove him away from his apartment, time slowed down. In the hours and days that followed, I was acutely aware of each passing minute. The anxiety that I had accumulated in the weeks leading up to his departure had suddenly dissipated, but in its place there was a palpable absence. A heavy, nameless weight grounding me firmly in my new reality.
Suddenly, I didn't know what to be nervous about anymore. All of that stress had led up to him simply not being there anymore. No great fanfare, just the clicking shut of a passenger door and the crunch of city debris under the tires of his recruiter's car as it turned on to the main road.
When I went to my gynecologist's office next day, I was nervous. I was there to finally break free from my daily birth control routine, to get an IUD, but I didn't feel liberated at all. I was fully cognisant of the irony in my decision to switch my birth control method on the first day of a very long period of abstinence.
“Is this normal?” I asked my gynocologist when I finally came to.
“Actually, no,” she looked at me, clearly incredulous. “A lot of my patients used to go vasovagal during the procedure, but that's why I started prescribing the vicodin and the valium. I think you're the first person to have this reaction while also taking the pills.”
I wanted to act surprised, or concerned, but I wasn't. I knew it wasn't the pain that had done it, it was my nerves. All of that anticipatory anxiety had my nerves warmed up, and they were working overtime to stay occupied. Valium? Certainly no match for the overwhelming power of true, practiced anxiety.
After years of panic attacks, countless therapy sessions, and many a high-stress situation, I've come to know my anxiety well. It does not react favorably when I try to hide what's bothering me. Trying to distract myself with a medical procedure less than 24 hours after saying goodbye to the love of my life? No bueno.