The Right Stuff

Do you ever wonder how tough you are? I’m not asking how tough you might be if xx happened (you got cancer/you lost your spouse/you got into a terrible car wreck and lost a limb—nothing catastrophic like that). I’m talking about right now.

We all have the usual life obstacles to deal with—work stress or physical pain, for example. How tough are you right now? Do you have an accurate self concept? If you consider yourself tough, do you think those close to you would agree? How much slack do you cut yourself?

A week ago, I had a gallbladder attack. I didn’t know it at the time. I just knew that I was in terrible pain that went all the way through my body. I thought maybe I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t sure. It was scary. It was painful. It was confusing.

To complicate matters, my fiancé Andrew and I were camping in the woods. We had no cell phone service. We were at least 30 miles from the nearest hospital. We had my dogs with us, and leaving them at the campground was out of the question.

We struggled to determine the correct course of action. We were close to driving to the nearest pay phone to call an ambulance. We wavered back and forth.

I really didn’t want to go to the hospital. I mean—the dogs. The distance. The hassle.

But overriding all of those feelings was overwhelming uncertainty. Was I making too much out of my symptoms? What if we called an ambulance and EMS drove all the way out to the campground, and there was nothing significant wrong with me? Was I being a baby?

Andrew tells me that he thinks I’m plenty tough. It makes me feel good. I want to be tough. I come from scrappy Brooklyn-born parents. They taught me that being tough was a highly desirable quality. I guess I came to believe it.

Ultimately, we decided not to go to the hospital. I took some ambien and finally fell asleep. Andrew stayed up to watch me to be sure I didn’t die. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.) Gotta love that guy.

The next day, after we got home, I went to the doctor. She said it sounded like a gallbladder attack, and sent me for an ultrasound. Yup—gallstones. What’s more, liver-enzyme tests showed very elevated numbers. I guess I wasn’t making too much out of my symptoms. They were real, and something was actually wrong.

I have mixed feelings about what happened. On one hand, I felt validated. I wasn’t exaggerating my symptoms or making too much of them. Maybe I *am* a little bit tough.

Next question: was I smart to be so tough? Should I have knocked off the stoic stuff and gone to the hospital? I don’t know.

I don’t have any conclusive feelings on this issue. I really don’t know if I did the right thing, and I don’t feel like I have any lessons to take away for the next time (and of course there will be a next time…life is full of these situations, right?) I have a feeling I’ll doubt myself just as much.

My only conclusion is the observation that I never feel like I’m quite tough enough. And after this experience, I wonder if I value being tough so much that I could actually put myself in danger.

What about you? What’s your philosophy? Any advice for me? Got an anecdote to share? Let me know in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *