I have a lot to celebrate these days. These days I feel like celebrating everything I can. Something has gone wrong with my heart. I’ve developed an arrhythmia all of a sudden. Out of nowhere. It’s as if a switch was flipped. One day I’m strong and healthy, the next day my heart is malfunctioning. One day turned into two, three, a week, more. I’ve seen a cardiologist. I’m being observed and tested. I’m patiently waiting for a diagnosis.
The thing is…even though They (the medical They) keep reassuring me I am not dying, it feels like I’m dying. Every time my heart seizes I feel like it could be the last time. They keep saying it’s not that way but it feels that way. The episodes have gradually increased in frequency and duration until it’s a daily and sometimes a day-long event. Ten hours becomes twelve, becomes more. The only time I get relief is when I’m asleep. So that’s my first celebration.
I’m sleeping. I’m sleeping well. They made me give up caffeine. So I’m falling asleep relatively easily and waking unassisted before my alarm 8 hours later. My sleep quality is good, if not better than before. I’m celebrating this.
I love coffee. Most commercial decaffeinated coffees use toxic solvents to decaf the beans but Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, and Whole Foods use a natural process with no yucky chemicals. So I’m celebrating that too. I can still have coffee. I can afford it. I have access. I have my creamy organic decaf for comfort if not for stimulation.
Although I’ve been too terrified to try, They swear I should still be able to run. Not while wearing this heart monitor but the expectation is still that I won’t have to give up running completely. My marathon days are over but I am expected to be able to run four or five miles at a time, three or four days a week, at an easy pace and keeping it under 20 miles per week. No more training runs of 2, 3, and 4 hours but They say I can still run. That’s good news. I’m celebrating that in theory; still working up the courage to try it in practice.
I can still practice yoga. I can still work. I can still drive. I can still have sex. I can still eat whatever I want until medication comes into play. I can travel and go about my normal activities until I’m told otherwise. Most of the potential restrictions would be related to medication. As of today I’m still medication-free. I don’t know how long that will last so for now, I’m celebrating that too.
I’m suddenly compelled to enjoy myself as much as possible. Depressed and scared are in the mix too but my overwhelming desire is to love and live and laugh and look for ways to milk every ounce of joy and pleasure out of the remainder of this lifetime. Even if I’m really not dying I feel confronted by Death. Death doesn’t scare me–we’re friends–but it has definitely changed my perspective. I am completely chilled out. I feel like being as kind and tender to myself as I can possibly be. I feel like being gentle with me. I want to allow myself all the pleasure available to me. I want to soak in the joy and beauty of being alive in this world.
I took a vacation day. I got my hair done. I’m doing all the things that make me feel good and happy to be alive. Every time my heart spasms I calmly and respectfully acknowledge my friend Death but I keep holding hands with Life. I keep finding myself more deeply enchanted with Life. I like her. She’s amazing. And so am I, which is why we get along so well, I suppose. I know it sounds extreme but so is the sensation in my chest. There just aren’t enough dismissive reassurances to counter what feels like a reckoning. A confrontation. A reminder of my mortality. And I guess I’m cool with that. There really is no alternative. I mean, stress is bad for the heart, you know. It’s better this way.
Because everyone is asking the same questions:
- No one knows what’s causing it. Yet. We might never know. We might figure it out tomorrow. We’re working on it.
- I have no underlying diseases, disorders, or disabilities. All tests are normal and good so far.
- There is a genetic indicator which could mean this was always going to happen at some point–it was just a matter of when–but no one knows what might have triggered it.
- Heart damage (without an accompanying disease process) cannot be ruled out but it also cannot be singled out as the cause yet. Hence the conservative running allowance–better safe than sorry.
- I don’t have a treatment plan yet. Until I do I’m just supposed to let the heart monitor record data. In the meantime I’ll watch for a short list of more ominous symptoms. So far I have none of them.
- Despite how it feels They say this is not immediately life-threatening. Concerns would be over the long-term. Left untreated there is risk of blood clots. Clots could mean stroke or heart failure, but the arrhythmia itself isn’t likely to kill me.
- Yes, it’s possible this could resolve itself without any medical intervention. Sometimes the heart will voluntarily “reset” and return to normal. It’s also possible that this will go away and come back, maybe for years or the rest of my life. Some people live with it permanently. An episode can last minutes, hours, days, weeks, or forever. My heart is pretty much in charge of all that. I can do nothing preventative unless I can identify triggers, which will take time.
- No. It’s not anxiety.
So this post is a declarative gesture. I’m still here. I’m still kicking. Wellness doesn’t end when illness begins. Wellness doesn’t end at all. How much sense does it make to give up wellness practices when we feel less than well? It makes no sense. I’m certainly not going to get better or feel better by canceling everything I already do to promote and bolster my wellness. D’uh.
My story changes but my occupation of it is not diminished. I have no intention of diminishing my methods of expression. I am oriented toward celebration of my life, my story, my physical body, my spiritual essence, my presence, my influence, my impact, and my obligation to someday die having fully occupied my bliss.
Wellness takes on a new dimension here . I’ll be running, working, writing, and living with a broken heart. But I intend to nurse it with joy and celebration. Sometimes that will be in blog form. I’m calling it good medicine.