I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this yet; I keep forgetting to say anything and now it’s been a while so it hasn’t been in the forefront of my mind.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I had an echocardiogram and an appointment with the cardiologist. I’d called because I hadn’t been feeling well, and the doctor had me move my next appointment up about a month to make sure everything was ok.
Miraculously, the echocardiogram showed that my heart has regained all of its function. In the doctor’s words, it looked like the echocardiogram of any normal, healthy 27-year-old woman.
That shocked me; I was sure it would take much longer for my heart to recover. Many women who experience this take medications for years to get to the point where I am, if they get there at all. So for me to be less than two months out from the big event and to be pretty much recovered where my heart function is concerned without having taken any medications to get here…well, miraculous is the only word I can think of to describe it.
(Note to readers: We’re now moving on to the “rambling evaluation of my emotional response” segment of our program, with which I am sure you’ve all become familiar in recent months. Sorry about that. This is just what life is like these days. It seems sort of arrogant and self-centered to take all of this time to delve into my psyche so much lately, but, well, that’s my reality. My apologies…I’m sure that someday I’ll get around to posting something fun again!)
Anyway, hearing the wonderful news that my heart looks great has forced me to start dealing with all of this in a different way. Since I’ve heard my doctor say that my heart is pretty much the picture of health, it makes me feel like life should just be back to normal, like it was before all of this happened, like everything should be business is usual and like I should feel really good physically, and if I don’t then I’m doing something wrong.
The problem is that I don’t feel great physically. I’m doing much better than I was, certainly, but I still get so exhausted at times that I can barely move. Yesterday was one of those days; I was alone with Elanor all day – 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. – and I was out and about quite a bit, too. On top of that, Elanor hasn’t been sleeping great lately (she’s getting about three more teeth -- fun, huh?). By about 4:30 or 5 p.m., I felt worse than I had in weeks – exhausted, short of breath, unable to focus on anything, just totally drained.
I’ve also noticed that my heart seems much more sensitive to stress. It barely takes any stress for me to feel like it’s going to beat out of my chest. A sudden stop in the car or any whiff of relational conflict and I’m suddenly feeling my heart beating in double time.
So to feel that way when I’m recovered – whatever that’s supposed to mean – seems strange. I have to keep reminding myself that two months ago I was lying in a hospital bed and the doctors didn’t know whether or not I’d have brain damage when I woke up since I stopped breathing for a few minutes when my heart stopped beating, if I did wake up at all. I’ve come a very long way in the past two months, and it’s perfectly reasonable that my body would be less accustomed to stress and activity than it was before this happened.
All of this reminds me of something that our pastor said during one of the meetings we’ve had with him lately. We were talking about how I was dealing with everything, and how I felt this compulsion to process everything in some kind of analytical way. He said something to the effect of, “Don’t let anyone, least of all yourself, dictate how you should be feeling emotionally right now. You are processing it, every single day, and there is no right way or wrong way to do that.”
No one else is telling me I have to be recovered, that I have to be back to 100% at home, at work, with Elanor. They’re all saying to take it easy. So why am I telling myself that I should be back at 100%?
My mom told me something a friend of hers named Kate told her once, when my mom was having a hard time and was struggling with feeling like she couldn’t keep her head above water because of the very real struggles in her life at that time. Kate told my mom to imagine that a friend of hers was going through everything my mom was going through, and that the friend was describing everything that was happening. She then asked my mom to think about how she’d respond to the friend. Would she have compassion? Would she give them a hug and say she was sorry and ask how she could help? Or would she laugh and give them a hard time for not being able to keep it together?
Kate then told my mom to think of her life in those terms from time to time, and to at least have the compassion for herself that she’d have for a friend in the same situation.
It’s been helpful to think of what happened to me in that context. Because, really, when I call a spade a spade, what happened is hard both emotionally and physically. It makes sense that my body would be tired, that I’d have a hard time doing things. I came within a hair’s breadth of dying. I think it’s ok that two months from that day I would still feel tired and overwhelmed at times.
Just like it’s going to take me a long time – years, probably – to work through this emotionally, it’s going to take me a long time to feel normal physically, too, regardless of how great any echocardiogram might look. I’m coming to realize that it’s ok and good and normal and healthy to realize my limitations and to try to stay inside them.
I’ve had many people tell me recently that I know my body best. That is true, I do know my body better than anyone else does, and right now, I need to listen to what my body is telling me, which is – of course – to take it easy.