It’s been a long 4 years trying to explain, articulate, verbalize, let alone write about a shift in my mind, my marriage, my relationships, my life and myself.
It is said time is a healer and that with time things change. Does it really? Or do we just get so used to the change we have become that now what originally seemed and felt different has transformed into the norm?
November 2nd, 2013. It was Diwali, the festival of lights. We had an entire day of events planned almost to the minute. We would wake up bright and early, give our thanks to God by praying as a family with our 2 daughters, aged 1 and 4, then enjoy our day together engaging in multiple activities so that we could later have a kid free, guilt free evening of eating, drinking and dancing at a family party we had been looking forward to for months.
Lesson number 1: Don’t over plan, because life has this funny way of throwing you curve balls when you least expect it. I woke up bright and early only to find my husband pacing the room holding his chest saying he wasn’t feeling too well. Early morning prayers, the excitement of us all wearing new clothes, exchanging little gifts, eating together changed to putting on a Disney movie for the kids in their pyjamas and my husband going back to sleep in the hope that his discomfort was perhaps due to a bad night’s sleep or indigestion.
The day quickly turned to night and we got ready for our evening out, dropping the kids at the babysitter. The moment he carried the car seat out, a sudden crushing pain left him somewhat breathless as he tried to tell me his chest was hurting again, followed by him continuously mentioning the shooting pains.
The pain subsided but the discomfort continued for a few hours, so we left the party early, picked up the kids and proceeded home only to then call the ambulance within minutes of arriving. The pain was back in full form. The obvious fear was that it was his heart but even the paramedics thought surely not. Simply because he didn’t ‘look’ like a candidate for heart disease.
Lesson number 2: As far as health is concerned, ones appearance on the outside not necessarily a reflection of what is happening on the inside. It almost became amusing listening to the paramedics, nurses, Doctors and specialists draw similar conclusions based on his physical appearance. They kept telling him, “You’re young. You don’t need a wheelchair. You don’t need a stretcher. You can walk yourself. You have the heart of an athlete.” All this based on his appearance.
A few days passed and anyone who was everyone continued to pass the symptoms and pain off as nothing serious. Instead, differential diagnoses included indigestion or muscular pain from ‘carrying the kids incorrectly in the cold’. Another even suggested it may be anxiety…someone who had never suffered from anxiety in 42 years! Again, it couldn’t be his heart though… oh no…because he simply didn’t fit the criteria of being a heart patient.
Lesson number 3: Call it a 6th sense, a gut feeling, instinct. When your insides are screaming at you that something is wrong….listen.
Everyone, say ‘Hi’ to your intuition. We are all born with intuition, but we have simply forgotten to use it, to call upon it and listen to it. The more you use and practice using your intuition, the stronger it becomes. Over time, we have started to replace intuition with logic or what appears to be logical, therefore we dismiss or ignore our inner voice.
Many hours have been spent in quiet contemplation as I question my thinking and actions back then. Two moments specifically were when I placed a call to someone who perhaps could have helped with preventing the inevitable, I then backed out in the fear of seeming dramatic or ridiculous.
The second was on the night of the dreaded heart attack when again the crushing pain started, the pacing, the sweats the breathlessness, the nausea, things didn’t feel right, intuitively I felt he needed to go to the hospital again. However, good old logic took over, telling me that he had just spent a night at the hospital a few days prior, he had been cleared from his stress test by doctors, and so again, such an action would be an overreaction on my part.
Lesson number 4: The only time we can control, is that of the present. The only time we can control, is that of the present. It didn’t matter how many times I could have replayed incidents over the past few days, it was too late, there was nothing I could change. The heart attack had happened through the night, I was sitting at the hospital, with my in laws, themselves heart patients, waiting anxiously as their son was having stents put in. The three of us wondering why it was taking so long? How it all happened? How is this going to affect him mentally and emotionally? Was it our fault for not taking some sort of action earlier? But these questions were pointless, for nothing could be changed.
Bottom line, we were feeling, sorry, sad and regretful of a situation that we had no way of changing and that wasn’t helping any of us in the present moment.
Lesson number 5: When it’s time to step up, you have to step up. When it’s time to step up, you have to step up. I was 28, he was 42. Up till this point in our marriage, I only ever saw him as someone who was a go-getter in life, a strong, fearless, confident, unstoppable, indestructible, healthy, well built, 6ft something guy.
The many things I had taken for granted, such as carrying the kids around, shoveling the snow, doing things quickly or going for a run without worrying about chest pains were now not possible for him, or at least for the next little while. Life had suddenly gotten a whole lot more serious.
From not being able to feel my feet walking the corridor of the ER where I watched the cardiologist rush him away to surgery, or explaining to my toddlers why their father wanted to be alone and couldn’t carry them, or trying to put on a brave face to my family on facetime so they wouldn’t worry, or having a very embarrassing yet gut wrenching emotional breakdown falling to the floor of the pharmacy as they prepared his medication, there was one immediate certainty. I was required to step up my game and as an English expression goes…’just get on with it.’
I could scream, shout, cry and get angry with everything and everyone or start to accept the current situation for what it was and make the most of the present in a happy, positive manner whilst working towards creating a wonderful future just one step at a time.
Lesson number 6: Learn to be happy with your own company, by yourself. Learn to be happy with your own company, by yourself. It quickly dawned upon me that when you assume many different roles in your life, it becomes quite normal to lose your own identity somewhere along the way. Marriage, kids and a pretty taxing career will do that. Up till this point in my life, it was hard for me to be alone, hard for me to even want to spend time with myself let alone be peaceful and content with my own company.
As much as family and friends try to support and help you, it is impossible for them to always be there. For when the clock strikes bed time, their phone battery dies, data runs out, sleep calls and the lights go out, they inevitably have to go back to their life and you to yours.
When the noise stops, the lights are out, and there’s nothing or no one to hide behind, there you are, once again, on your own. After a few nights of this same pattern occurring, I realized that I needed to get re-acquainted with me. I needed to go through the discomforts of the silence, my own thoughts, regrets, changes that I needed to make, and get comfortable.
I had to once and for all accept that for me to feel happy, content, peaceful, fulfilled, empowered, then it would have to come from me. No one else.
Lesson number 7: You are stronger than you think. You are stronger than you think. I started off this week, 4 years ago, being a slightly naive happy go lucky young woman, relying quite heavily on my spouse and other family members, to ending my week as a rather fragile young woman trying to find her feet and knowing what was needed was to toughen up, and get strong physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
In some ways this last lesson was the most important one I had learnt from this entire experience.
It was for me to realize and embrace the power within me, as well as to acknowledge that I was so much stronger than I had ever thought. This week certainly changed my life in many ways. Some changes have taken me a lot longer to accept and admit to than others, whilst some are still revealing themselves to me as time goes by.
We are thrown many different curve balls in this game of life. You may not react in the same way to each ball. However, with each ball you have a chance to choose how to react. You get to choose whether you will use this as an opportunity to grow; to learn; to develop; to change or to get strong?
The silver lining here is that in finding our inner strength, we can also find the power to believe. To have faith. To succeed. To create your life as you envision it and to ultimately live your life as you choose.