Waiting to Die vs. Learning to Live

Almost a year and a half ago my heart decided to do strange things. The electrical circuitry in my heart decided to go rogue on me. It started by going out of rhythm and then going fast. The doctors got that straightened out and then my heart decided to show me who was boss. Again they got it straightened out but not until I had been become very nervous about everything. My anxiety began to get worse. The small things that never used to trigger an anxiety attack began to trigger huge attacks. The likes of which I had not experienced.

It was around this time that I learned about the age of my heart. Because of my maintaining a fight or flight existence for so many years my heart was behaving like the heart of someone fifteen to twenty years older than myself. That coupled with my reading about the studies that say that people who experience the level and duration of trauma that I have don’t live as long as those who do not. My heart was behaving like someone who was older and had less year to live. I doctor to my cardiologist about this and she agreed with what I had found out. The topic of trauma related health is something she had been studying. This however made the condition of my heart prominent. Things heal and my heart could also. It was not fated to live a short life by default.

At some point in this journey along my life path I found a bench and sat down. The path of my life continues on but I had stopped and begun to put my house in order and began the wait to die. The uncertainties of my health and of my heart’s functions increased the fear of living that I had been silently harboring for years. There was now a reason to stop trying, my heart could do more strange and painful things. I was afraid to do anything. I no longer saved money for my epic train journey that I had been planning for years. I no longer felt safe to take a train from Boston to Portland, OR. This trip is something I have been planning for five years as a gift to myself for graduating with my masters degree. The thought of going on the trip periodically comes up only to squashed by the fear of something happening to my heart.

When I told this to my doctor she was shocked. What is wrong with my heart can be easily stabilized and should not be a problem. She told me of being on a plane recently when someone with a similar problem became ill. She said there were four doctors on the plane and they had everything taken care of quickly. That there are hospitals all over the place and I would be cared for without any trouble.

As I started to think about my life I realized that I had stopped doing the things that bring me joy. I had stopped baking, quilting, sewing, walking, dancing. I had stopped living. I had given up on everything. I was waiting to die.

After I had this realization I started to look at what I am doing everyday. Is what I am doing waiting or living? There are projects that are waiting to be finished. Things that I have to muscle my way past the depression and anxiety to accomplish. After putting it off for a very long time I have started to work on the wedding quilt for my daughter.

I am finding that I have to go slowly and do just one thing at a time. The anxiety is still very high and it makes life difficult at times, but I am finding my way around it through meditation. It seems at times that I am trying to jump-start my life, much like how they jump started my heart. I hope the experience of re-embracing life will be less painful. I have been focusing for too long on what I cannot do and now I am looking at what I can do. And also how to bring back the beautiful things that I have shut out. It was very easy to stop and sit down while waiting to die. It is a lot harder to get up and start walking again. Now when I stop I have to remember that it is only to catch my breath.


A Long Time Ago

A long time ago things were very dark for me. This was a very long time ago. Before I had a husband and before I had children. This was back in the dark days when essentially it was just me. And even though there were people in my life, it did not feel like there was anyone.

It was at this time that the depression and loneliness started to become suffocating. All I could think about was how painful everything was. How much it hurt to take a breath and to just keep going. It hurt so much more to live at that time than it did to think about not living. It was about this time that my youngest brother died in a car accident. And it all seemed so easy at that point to just not be here anymore.

I do not know what happened exactly. There was no great moment of clarification. No one came suddenly into my life to help me make meaning out of everything. There was no outside change in my life. I just decided to keep going. To keep trying to breathe. And the breathing became a little easier. Things were still dark but they weren’t as dark.

Coming out of that dark place took time. And a lot of escaping. I was living outside of Boston at the time and spent a lot of time in the city just looking at people and reading. I wrote more at that time then I had in a long time. I am not sure how I came through to the other side but I did.

That doesn’t mean that the darkness doesn’t still come out of nowhere and truly floor me anymore. It does mean that now I have reason to believe that I can make it to the other side of the darkness. Because I already have. I already walked through it. I am still here.

I guess the reason for this story is to say that the darkness though very real does not have to win. We can make it to the other side and be OK. There are many things to help us through. Friends, family, therapists to name just a few. But the point is that we are needed here. And sometimes we just need to be there for someone else, or allow someone to be there for us. I know that in reality it is really not that cut and dry all the time. But it is that cut and dry more often than we think.

I am glad that I kept walking past the open window. That I kept going. I know many who have not. And they are greatly missed. So the ending of this story is that a long time ago I thought that the pain was more than the pleasure of living. And I took a chance that the story I was telling myself was not true. And I won. I have a beautiful husband who is an amazing example of how to keep pushing through and eight beautiful children who have given me more reason to keep walking past the window.

And to end the story traditionally, I lived, happily and unhappily, but I still live.