Before I convince you to commit five or so minutes reading this blog, let me just keep it one-hunen right here: there’s no blood, no broken bones, not even a fever involved, but I still ended up in an ambulance in rural Italy.
If you’re still here reading, you’re a softie and I appreciate you.
Here’s the backstory: five months ago, I was a stressful kind of a person – New York does that to you. Before I left the city, I was working three jobs, pulling 16 hour days back to back for six full months, this is not an exaggeration. Why? Because I have student loans and a dream, that’s why.
The working madness finally came to an end around May 1st after I told my corporate boss that I would find my replacement, train whomever they were, and be on my way to go on a month-long Eurotrip then move to LA for a change in my overly stressed lifestyle. I quit my second as a part-time receptionist at a co-working space despite it being one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, and the last job, producing content for this blog you’re reading now, or maybe even watching content on our YouTube channel, would finally be my full-time gig.
I thought I had a grip, I always think I have a grip, it’s an illness.
Without even two full days of “me time” to regroup and mentally prepare myself for the next huge adventure I was about to embark on, I just packed my apartment up, dumped it at my mom’s house, packed my three bags and went to the airport for Lisbon. Who takes breaks anyways?
I get to Lisbon rejuvenated because I was finally away from the cube and was traveling again. I felt so refreshed by creating that I didn’t even think of the build up of work I needed a break from. I didn’t even have jet lag. Damon made fun of me because of how “go go go” I was without wallowing in the lazy slump of post-travel laziness. It didn’t hit me then.
Fast forward 30 days and we managed to travel to 13 countries, 9 of which we stayed in for 2-3 nights while the others’ train stations were just seen in passing. The Eurotrip was majestic, stressful, enlightening, frustrating, indulgent, and painful. We weren’t on vacation, we were filming every second of every day, blogging, responding to client emails, all while working on crappy wifi, trying not to get robbed, and sleeping upright in a train chair at least twice a week. And that’s ok, because it beats the hell out of robotically living in my old New York life, working for no purpose doing tasks someone else thought I was worthy or capable of doing… forget that.
After the trip was over, I decided that the perfect way to actually recharge after a month of backpacking would be to spend time living with a family in Italy to finally learn Italian. After all, I hadn’t busted my a$$ back in New York to save money for nothing. I went straight to the suburbs of a tiny town near Verona and here I am now, looking at the sticky residue from the adhesives they put on to scan my body last night in the ER.
So here’s the juicy stuff: Once I arrived in Italy, I realized something about myself, I hadn’t relaxed in five years. I hadn’t just sat and done nothing since leaving my house in Connecticut. Once I moved to New York I became a productivity monster, someone who always wanted to do it all, at the same damn time. I started traveling and wanted more. So I worked like a mad-woman to save money and managed to travel once every four months while in college juggling internships, workstudy jobs, and living a crazy “fake-id” kind of NYC nightlife. The theme was always that I thrive on putting myself out of my comfort zone, I both hate it but am addicted to it. It’s a part of who I am.
So to learn how to relax, I went to Marmirolo, a tiny Italian town with less that 7,000 people. It’s definitely not the place to be trying to change the world. Quite the contrary, in Italy, they have a saying “da fare un cazzo,” or to not do a damn thing. I didn’t realize that my body would physically react to not doing anything, but it did, and after six days, I couldn’t breathe properly for two hours.
I’m tough, really I am, I see blood, vomit, and other crazy things and I still don’t lose focus of “finding a solution.” But for some reason, not being able to breathe felt like a serious problem. My chest wasn’t filling with enough air no matter how much I tried to breathe deeply, I kept gasping and got dizzy if I stood up. The pressure in my head made my eyes hurt, and yet I was still trying to keep my cool at 2:08 AM to avoid waking up the entire family who were now “a little less than strangers” to me. I started pacing back and forth the guest room thinking of how to distract myself. Hulu and Netflix weren’t accessible in the country and Hé Arnold in French started to annoy me. Then I felt a tingle in my left arm and was like “Hell na, I’m not gonna go down like this,” and woke the entire house up. Now side note: this family only speaks Italian so the last few days have been a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, and charades, but somehow they understood me. I explained in my crappy Italian what was happening and that I thought it would be ok, but I wanted them to be awake just in case something were to happen.
Of course, they freak out and call an Italian ambulance.
Meanwhile, the only thing on my mind was 1. I’m shaking, and 2. How much is this going to cost without international health insurance? 3. I should probably put a bra on.
A few minutes later, I see the red and blue lights outside my window and feel so dumb for causing all of this commotion, so my heart rate rose again. Three paramedics ask me (all in Italian) if I had eaten anything bad. No, I have a stomach of steel. They also asked me if I had any allergies. I’m allergic to cats, dogs, and mold, and they have all three in this house so that was probably a trigger, not to mention European chain smoking that I had to inhale for 30 days and counting. Then they told me I’d be going with them to the hospital to see a doctor and we’d take it from there.
It was such a cheat ambulance ride, I wasn’t even on the stretcher.
During the awkward “there’s nothing wrong with me, but I’m in an ambulance” ride, they asked me what I was doing in Italy, if I studied here. I said it was vacation and to learn Italian, they complimented me and I felt like an even bigger ass. It was 4AM at this point.
We arrive at the hospital and I was almost 100% better, still couldn’t breathe properly, but managed. My adorable Italian host mom who had been driving behind the ambulance comes running through the hospital doors to see me.
40 minutes later the doctor finally calls me in with little urgency, takes a chest exam and tells me I’m perfectly fine. She explained that I likely had an anxiety attack from something and my allergies tightened my chest and triggered my inability to breathe.
The first time I ever tried relaxed in my life, I had a freaking panic attack.
They asked what I do for work and I tell them that I created Shut Up and Go and tried to explain what a YouTuber and blogger was, and attempted to explain how we make money. The conversation ended with me letting them know I had just come back from a 30 day trip of no day off. All the doctor said was “vai al letto a riposare,” translation: take my booty to sleep in a real bed.
Oh, and when and if I ever get a hospital bill, I’ll let you know how much it costs.