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June 11, 2023

Heart Broken Open: Honoring The 9th Anniversary of a Heart Attack

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

Tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of what I call my ‘cardiaversary’. I was 55 years old and on my way home from the gym following what I considered a not particularly rigorous workout. I was in my Jeep, window open, arm out, doing what we called ‘breezing’ when I was a kid. I was likely singing along to a song on the radio.  All of sudden, I felt like my jaw was held in a paralytic grip with searing pain in my chest and back, torrential sweat pouring down my face. I experienced palpitations and light headedness. Workaholic that I was, I didn’t going straight to the hospital. I drove home, picked up the phone and called my office, asking for the receptionist to cancel with my clients, saying that I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t tell her that I thought I was having a heart attack. If I had, she would have yelled, “What are you doing talking to me? Call 911.” After I hung up, my next thought was that I felt sweaty and needed to take a shower. Reason had gone out the window, since I got back in the car (un-showered) and drove myself to the hospital. I rationalized that I could get there sooner than an ambulance could arrive at my home, since it was only 10 minutes away. What hadn’t occurred to me was that EMTs could have started to monitor my vital signs and stick an oxygen mask over my face. Oxygen deprivation also played havoc with my solid judgement. I could have crashed the car and injured others or myself. Obviously, guardian angels were watching over me since I arrived in time to stumble across the threshold at Doylestown Hospital and gasp out, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” Whisked up to the cardiac cath lab, a stent was inserted and a new life began. That meant taking two weeks off from work which my family, friends and supervisor insisted on. He assured me that my clients would be taken care of and that he wasn’t going to let me in the door. Soon after, my high stress job offering counseling for clients in an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program was replaced with a full time, salary and benefits job working from home as a member of an editorial team of a company that owned inpatient rehabs. The perfect job in which I could write about mental health and addiction that sadly lasted only a year and a half because of financial challenges which called for massive lay offs.
I needed to slow my roll dramatically, taking naps, when before, I would say that sleep was highly over-rated. Setting boundaries and learning that saying no didn’t cause lightning to crash down or the floor to swallow me up. I gradually moved away from what I call ‘savior behavior,’ thinking that I had to fix, save and cure everyone who crossed my path in both my personal and professional lives.

Dietary change, a med regimen and structure workouts in cardiac rehab were part of my new life. I started using my experience to educate women about the importance of good cardiac care since according to Go Red For Women:

  • Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
  • 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

Since the cardiac event, I honored the cardiaversaries with a few channeled revelations.

This one was from six years ago.

“Imagine going to bed tonight not knowing that tomorrow an event would occur that would change….oh, only nearly every aspect of your life. You had been going about your days on autopilot until you no longer had that luxury. When you woke up, you did your ‘normal’ routine, only to discover that a few hours later, you would be in a cardiac cath lab having a new body part inserted and tubes and wires monitoring your vital signs. That was my reality three years ago. Tomorrow I will be celebrating my third cardiaversary and am grateful that Spirit/Creator saw fit to keep me on this side of the veil since I clearly had more work to do here. New routine, new activities, new friends, new goals. Treasuring each person and experience in my life.
Living even more heart to heart now.
I invite you to live each day as if it could be your last.”
This was from five years ago.
“Woke up a little bit ago with an almost fully formed article in my head. Not true to form, I am going to go back to sleep and wait until daylight to write it. Tomorrow, June 12th is my 4th Cardiaversary…the day when everything changed. I am blessed to have so many people in my life who loved me back to health. Some continue to kick my butt…in a good way and remind me to slow down. Some insist that I receive since I tend to feel all gived out at times. Knowing that life is unpredictable, I do my best not to miss out. I slurp the juice noisily from the bottom of the glass. I let people know what they mean to me. I sing, dance, sweat, play, hug and listen to the messages that come through. I engage in miracle mindedness. My heart is happy.”
Six years ago.
“A potent omen. I wrote this the day before the heart attack three years ago. Somehow my soul knew…
Excited, nervous, anxious…all part of a continuum of emotions I have been experiencing lately. Yes, all ‘normal human states’ and some are about events beyond my control, some about the once in awhile visitation of ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ as my dreams are coming true; things are going ‘too well’, wanting to be the ‘good girl’ and not make waves. Noticing paradoxically that as I ask for what I want, the response has mostly been a resounding yes.
In my co-dependently fueled past, I wouldn’t have dared to be as assertive as I am now, claiming space in people’s lives and the right to be heard and to have my requests met. I am living what I am encouraging clients to do, not wanting to be hypocritical and because it works. As I am typing these words, I can feel myself calming down and breathing easy. Getting more sleep last night helped too. Eyes closed at 9:30 and up around 6. Ahh~”
Eight years ago.
“Aware of life in the midst of death in the midst of life.”
and then, later in the day. “Ooohhh, baby, baby. TBT to 1959. I was likely six months old here. She had so many adventures awaiting her. Look at her leaning into life. I would love to whisper in her ear that she had nothing to prove, need not earn love, tap dance for approval or work herself beyond human limits. I would gladly tell her that she would have exciting adventures, call into her world amazing people and extraordinary experiences, that she would be happier and sadder than she ever imagined. That she would splash about in the happies and rise above the sads. I guess I just did. Tomorrow, this little one celebrates a second birthday in the form of my one year cardiaversary. Who knows what wonders await?”
No photo description available.
Nine years ago.
“If you knew, really, truly, KNEW that your very being, your presence on the planet at this moment in time could make such a huge, remarkable positive difference in the destiny of every one living and breathing, what would you do? Not a grandiose idea, by the way(: Would you feel purposeless or inconsequential? Would you feel empowered? Take that as a challenge and a dare and then go do it! Why else do you think you are here? There are no accidental people.”
“Watching the curtains blow lightly, danced by the morning breeze, playing peekaboo. The vivid green of the near summer grasses, the day lily stems about ready to burst forth in riotous colors, the white dotted shrubs in the front yard, welcome me into this as yet untapped morning. The next 24 hours will unfold as they do, without any coaxing from me. I am allowing myself to be in the flow of it, trusting that I will be carried along gracefully…..quite a feat for a ‘recovering control’ freak.”
What led to this near catastrophic experience?  Crazy, busy schedule with multiple jobs and responsibilities. Five to six hours of sleep a night. Pushing, rushing, speeding my way through life on autopilot. Occasional Five Hour Energy Drinks, one of which I swigged the day prior. I was burning the candle at both ends until there was almost no more wax left. Both of my parents had died a few years earlier (dad in 2008 and mom in 2010), and I had not grieved in a way that served me. I had been the social worker who interacted with their home care and hospice teams, my mom’s Power of Attorney and then Executor of her estate. I was the minister who officiated at their services. Meanwhile, the grieving daughter was hiding in the back room somewhere. I learned to keep on keeping on, until I couldn’t.
I say that the woman I was died that day to give birth to the one who is typing these words. She had to die because she was killing me.
In the interceding nine years, I have also been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), attributed in part, from working for 14 years in mental health care settings in which I was exposed to second and third hand smoke. What that has come to mean is being aware of how I feel physically and what I have the stamina to do. I have a walking buddy—a hiking pole for support that helps me get around more efficiently. Before this, it would have been unthinkable, since it would have heralded a time in my life that meant deterioration and a downhill slide. Add in a pandemic and doing my best to protect myself by physical distancing, masking and vaxxing, and still the little critter caught up with me. Blessedly, the symptoms were mild and a course of Paxlovid showed it the door. Other than the yukky taste, it was worth it.
With each subsequent “cardiaversary,” I have used the opportunity to do a life review. As I was musing about the shoulda, woulda, coulda regrets I have had, I realized that whatever I wish I had done back then, I could do now in all areas of my life. I consider so much time I wasted in worrying what other people thought of me—this codependent caregiver with savior behavior who was an emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people.
Nearing 65, my priorities have changed. My mornings are spent caring for my grandchildren (3 1/2 year old Dean and 1 year old Lucy) who keep my heart pumping and happy. My work schedule is not necessarily lighter but more manageable. My gym workouts have resumed after a three year hiatus during the pandemic. In the first few months of isolation, I lost a substantial amount of weight, likely as a result of mild depression and loss of appetite. Once things opened back up, the weight jumped back on board. My intention is to shed the pounds again and build my stamina. I am not the go-getter I was nine years ago. I have learned to ‘attract and not pursue’ what I desire. I have settled into acceptance and flow that opportunities show up as they do and that I need not fret over what I can’t control. I measure my life BHA (Before Heart Attack) and AHA (After Heart Attack). Clearly, I prefer AHA and see it as a flash of insight. I welcome easy lessons.
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