I’m not sure how long this post will be. I only know I was compelled to write it. I’ve mentioned this a few times. More than a few times. And I’m going to be talking about it for a little while. If that’s too much, you’re welcome to skip through the posts for awhile.
I think the main reason I decided to write his post tonight is for several reasons. The first one is the most important. I need to. I need to keep talking through this because I need to process things. Until it’s all processed my brain will linger on it and needle it. The second reason is because I know I’m not the only one who needs to talk about the subject of PTSD after trauma.
On September 28th, I suffered a STEMI heart attack with dissection. A few weeks before my 48th bday I came as close as I can get to dying. As a healthy female who works out, and eats healthy, the reality was none of it prevented the heart attack from happening. What I came to realize was it was probably these factors that saved my life.
So why am I still going on about this?
First off, it didn’t dawn on me the next few days how much my life would change. And secondly, I wasn’t prepared to hear the words “heart failure.”
As I talked to the doctors, even they had a hard time saying those words. I only realized they applied to me when I read them on paper given to me in the hospital when I signed my soul away to the medical bill gods in the pearly hallways and shiny white floors somewhere on the 777th floor.
This, I understand, is where many people question whether it was worth it to survive. It’s as much as my college loans. I’m self employed, make less than minimum wage, and can’t afford insurance. And now I can’t afford surviving.
Going into the hospital I was free of any prescription drugs (and recreational ones), coming out I am now on 7 pills a day. One of those pills costs $500 a month.
Let me pause right here because this is where a lot of people stop listening. I’m not telling you all of this to try and ask for money. I’m being honest because somebody has to. Everyone can sit on their self-righteous cushion and tell other people how to live. Let me remind you of the Gweneth Paltrow experiment where she tried to tell women who lived on food stamps how to eat like her. She set out to prove it could be done and when it failed miserably, she ate processed crow meat, tucked her tail between her legs, and ran back to her rich and famous lifestyle. The lesson here is, if you’re not wearing my shoes, you ain’t dancing to my song.
I’m self employed, as I mentioned, and I have a family who relies on me. I’m the one home all day. Even though I’m working, I have the luxury to stop and make phone calls, do the bills, grocery shop, cook, clean, and take care of my adult son who suffers with treatment resistant schizophrenia.
I take care of others.
Now? I have to take care of myself. And I have to ask for help. I don’t even know when I need help. I’m not trying to be a martyr, I’m being dead serious … pun intended.
Let’s fast forward… it’s now November, 2 months post heart attack and I have taken on a full time job in addition to still taking care of my company. Writing my books has taken a back seat. One of them, by the way, is a book on how to be a caregiver for a family member suffering with mental health. But at least I have the Magazine. I get to write. That’s all that matters.
So, I work full time, back in American retail during American holidays (hello Black Friday, ridiculous hours, Karens, etc) all so I can financially afford to not die.
The hardest part is processing that I came close to dying. Came close to never seeing my children again. A moment away from never seeing my grand kids grow up. Minutes away from no longer existing.
In addition to that, I’m faced with the feeling that my body betrayed me. I did everything right. I didn’t eat the fast food. I didn’t do the drugs. I didn’t drink the alcohol (minus special occasions) and I have sweated through all kinds of workouts — I was even a personal trainer for over 15 years! And now my doctor is telling me I have to take “gentle” walks, and “ease into things slowly.”
What does that even mean?
And that’s not all.
Every flutter of my heart. Each pain in my chest. I don’t know if it means something or I’m being paranoid. I call my doctor and I get one of two answers:
Go to the ER (you know the place people sit for days with Covid symptoms in overfilled hospitals)
“That’s normal. Let us know if you gain more than ___lbs. “
I’ve gained 20! I don’t fit in my clothes. I’m uncomfortable. I’m angry. I’m depressed.
Those words you hardly ever hear me say? They are a daily vocabulary now.
There are nights I’m afraid to go to sleep in case my next heart attack happens in the middle of the night.
The thing is. I’m not alone. Medical trauma is a real thing and there are people suffering with it besides myself. I’m not alone, you’re not alone.
I’m trying to breathe and meditate but I’m not consistent. I need to find something to center me and above all…I need to just keep breathing.
Stay tuned for part 2