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The Power of Stress…

Would you believe that severe swelling of my calves was caused by stress and heat?

My kidney transplant team never mentioned that possibility. Everything was A-Okay as far as they were concerned and they sent me back to my family doctor.

My psychiatrist Dr. Bob said it was highly unlikely, when I asked him a month or so ago.

It never crossed my G.P.’s mind.

So for more than four weeks, I was stressed beyond belief.

No one knew what was wrong with me…

I was tested for obstructions. Another word for cancer or a tumour. Was there something preventing the fluid in my legs from going back into my body? That’s what my G.P. wanted to know.

As I was battling with my compression pantyhose. Teaching. Travelling. Public speaking. Managing my household. Walking my two Dandie Dinmonts three times a day. Trying to not worry. At the back of my mind, I kept thinking it might all be stress. And heat. I always swell in the heat.

Yet no one ever took me seriously…

The little lesion on my face turned out to be benign. That was a relief.

And, finally, last week after weeks of testing, repeated ultrasounds, blood tests by my kidney transplant team, and a lot of waiting, my General Practitioner informed me ~ as I secretly suspected ~ that, indeed, stress and heat had caused my swelling calves. I was essentially fine.

The good news is, it’s gradually getting better…

My legs are starting to shrink as the temperatures drop. They’re no longer painful.

My sudden financial crisis, necessity to downsize, sell and buy a new house, move ~ whilst teaching ~ start a new course in September and living amidst a chaos of boxes, had thrown my perfectionist brain and body into an extreme state of distress and the reaction came out in my legs.

Even Dr. Bob was surprised to admit that this is possible.

Every body is different, like every mind. Just because he had never heard of such an anomaly before, doesn’t mean it cannot happen.

So, what’s the lesson in all of this?

Never underestimate the power of stress in your life on your physical health and your mental health. We need stress to survive. (Professor Hans Selye, please forgive me.) I was so severely stressed I was white-knuckling my way through every day, minute by minute. I had no choice.

It was a fight or flight life and I was fighting, I guess. Undergoing profound change ~ fast.

Isn’t this an intriguing illustration of how powerful stress really is. For every action, there’s a reaction. Yet, how little medical doctors know about stress and mental health as they relate to physical health. One doctor, a friend, suggested I had phlebitis and he urged me to have my GP investigate that. I didn’t because I knew that wasn’t the case.

Remember that, the next time you’re given a diagnosis. Remember where it’s coming from. Remind yourself that doctors are human. They make mistakes. They err in judgment.

And never forget that you know yourself and your body better than anyone…

You know how you feel and where it hurts. How it hurts.

Trust yourself. Your gut. Never forget that medicine is science, but there’s far more to the mind than the brain. It’s not all science. It’s not all pills and diagnoses. It’s life and what happens to you. It how you handle the changes that are thrown at you. Those curve balls you don’t expect. And your emotions.

Last week, I hit my Lifetime goal at Weight Watchers. For the second time. In the last year, I have lost 54.4 lbs.

Now I have to maintain it and I’m petrified. At times obsessed. Afraid to eat.

My psychiatrist told me that studies show the best way to maintain weight loss is to weigh yourself every day.

But, oooh. It’s so hard. My emotions play havoc with my resolve. But I carry on. One day at a time. One hour at a time. I’m getting used to looking down at my white knuckles on this keyboard.

And I’m so happy to be back.

Speak soon.

The Power of Stress…

Sandy Naiman

Sandy Naiman is a Toronto freelance journalist.

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APA Reference
Naiman, S. (2019). The Power of Stress…. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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