Not too long ago I wrote a post about dealing with anxiety, and how Anxiety and Depression are Caused by the Smallest Things.
In that post, someone cancelled lunch on me and I went into a meltdown state. Panic hit me hard, and I wrote about it in great detail.
About a month later, something far worse happened. In fact, lots of ‘something worse’ happened.
The week leading up to Easter weekend, I had something very similar to a heart attack.
This is not the first time this has happened and, until the doctors are able to define it, I’m sure it won’t be the last.
It’s not officially a heart attack, but it mimics one, and it feels like one, and it’s as urgent as one, so I have to call 911 and be ambulanced to the hospital.
This happens to me in the middle of the night. I wake up with chest pain, and I’m thoroughly confused.
- It’s not stress, because I was in a dreaming state.
- It’s not heartburn; I haven’t had any food.
- It’s not a panic attack, so it doesn’t stem from my mental state.
Side note, I’ve also had asthma for my whole life, so I’m used to chest pains and difficult breathing.
When you wake up in the middle of the night with chest pain and natural disorientation, you just try to solve the problem yourself.
On Understanding You Need Help
I take my inhalers. I take Tums because I’m convinced it’s indigestion.
I attempt to do deep breathing exercises and do a mental gratitude checklist.
I’m trying to heal anxiety, asthma, and heartburn as the pain continues to get worse. I try to go back to sleep.
My skin colour becomes grey and translucent and I know there’s a much bigger problem.
I call 911, and when the ambulance arrives, the paramedics ask ‘how long have you been in pain?’
Well, I noticed the pain just after midnight. I called for help at about 2:30 in the morning.
Two hours of pain and unnecessary suffering because I couldn’t figure out how to cure myself.
So after they give me crap for not calling sooner, I’m rushed to the hospital where I’m “fixed” within an hour or two, and then spend another ten hours being monitored and tested.
Side note, the time before this one it was more like 36 hours in the hospital, plus 48 hours of wearing a heart monitor.
I use this term ‘fixed’ very lightly. I’m not fixed, but the immediate threat is gone. The pain is mostly gone and I’m able to function.
I did need a few days off to recover, and probably should have taken more, but I promised myself I’d go back to work after Easter.
An Easter to Forget (Almost)
Fast forward to Easter weekend. It’s Good Friday; it’s a rainy, miserable day and the whole weekend calls for the same misery.
There’s not a lot I can do anyway, because I’m still recovering and just walking around the house takes a lot of energy, but my poor kids.
I want to do lots of activities with them, and I want to get them out of the house, but it’s hard.
To make matters worse, my husband left. He didn’t say bye. He didn’t leave a note. He just left without a trace.
I did receive a text message from him shortly after. He has his own struggles, mental illness and personal issues, and he needed some time to get help.
Despite my condition, I have to be responsible for my kids and so that’s exactly what I do.
I spend the whole weekend doing fun things like movies, shopping at stores they like (plus stores we needed, like groceries), and doing crafts.
I didn’t have the energy to bake cookies, but I did buy them a kit of pre-made Easter cookies that they could decorate, so that was fun.
When it stopped raining, we played outside.
The Easter Bunny visited too, and brought so much chocolate.
By Sunday night, I had to call the cops because my husband was officially missing and I was concerned.
I had been fearful all weekend, but he promised to be home before dinner on Sunday.
I had to do all of this without my kids knowing because I didn’t want them to be afraid. I didn’t want them to know that I was afraid.
I also called my mother. Now let me tell a brief story about her.
On Receiving, and Offering, Support
My mom is my best friend. She lives ten minutes away. We work for the same company. We do as much as possible together.
But she, too, is suffering. She has chronic pain and is currently on disability as she tries to recover.
Sadly, we don’t think there is recovering, there is just coping. She’s doing the best she can, but life is getting in the way.
Her mother, my grandmother, has dementia. Her father, my grandfather, does as well, but in addition to that, he continues to suffer from things like stroke, falls, broken bones, etc.
So over Easter weekend, he landed himself in the hospital.
My mom has to drive my grandmother back and forth, and my grandfather is in palliative care.
They can’t fix him; they can only make him comfortable. His days are numbered. We’re all struggling with this.
So I didn’t want to call my mother, but she already knew about my heart, and she already knew that my husband was struggling.
She calls to check in, and I have to tell her the truth.
I need to call the cops and report my husband missing. I’m worried that he might be dead.
The officer comes and takes a report and leaves just as my mother shows up. On Easter Sunday.
There’s been no fancy meals, no get togethers; everyone is struggling.
My mother then cries because life is hard. It’s so hard. There’s far too much going on right now in this moment, and she can’t deal.
If I’m being honest, I cry too. I cry because of my mother’s pain. She’s suffering the most, and I don’t want to see her this way.
Dealing with Anxiety While Dealing with Other Big Things
My biggest fear in all of this so far is my heart. What happens if I have another heart failure in the middle of the night and my husband is gone?
Who will take care of my children?
My mom lives close, but she can’t be expected to drop everything and come – she’s already expected to do that for her parents, and her chronic pain is never compliant.
Maybe my neighbours? I know there are people I can call, and worst case scenario, I wake up my babies and bring them with me to the hospital.
That would be the worst.
The more I think about this, the more I realize I can’t think about this. I focus on my life right now in this moment.
The heart issues don’t matter. The husband doesn’t matter. Even my grandfather’s health… I can’t control any of these things and therefore, I can’t focus on them.
I focus on what I can control – my kids, and making their holiday weekend joyous for them. They still believe in the Easter Bunny and the magic of Easter.
If I screwed this up, they wouldn’t believe anymore. I’d have ruined Easter forever.
I might have ruined their childhood and the magic of other holidays as well.
Despite my heart problems and my very serious family problems, I needed to create magic.
And despite all this, I realize I didn’t have any panic.
I did not suffer from any anxiety. I had no attacks. My body didn’t shut down and go into a depression state.
Taking Care of What, and Who, We Can Impact
Why is it that when someone cancels lunch without warning, I feel embarrassed and that leads to a blackout of pain – but when my whole family is suffering from really big things – my body knows what to do?
I read a comment in the private Mental Health and Me Facebook group, and it said something along the same lines:
The little things cause panic, suffering, and struggles. The big things we manage.
I don’t know how or why our brain is wired to handle what it does. I have learned that the brain does what the mind tells it.
This is a quote that I heard from Jim Kwik, however, I believe he’s was quoting it from a book he read:
Your brain is a super computer. Your self talk is a program it will run.Jim Kwik
This is why the famous quote from Henry Ford applies,:
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.Henry Ford
All of this is fine and good, and it’s definitely something we can utilize in our daily lives.
However, as someone who suffers anxiety, someone who can’t always control her thoughts, knowing this and applying this are often two very separate problems.
Upon reflection, I can see that my biggest priority was saving the magic of childhood.
I continued to feed my brain the fact that my kids needed the Easter Bunny to visit.
My children needed innocent happiness, and so I wasn’t going to bombard them with the realities of adulthood.
Based on Henry Ford, and also The Little Engine That Could, we can tell ourselves “I think I can, and therefore I will”.
Or, if you’re like me, the girl with uncontrollable thoughts, try this: “I can, and therefore I will.”
It doesn’t need any thoughts at all. You don’t need to convince your brain, you just do.
Your brain is programmed to follow your lead. I can do this.
Watch me do this.
*For those wondering: My husband came home on Easter Monday. He’s also in a world of pain, but he’s home and he’s alive.