For days, thoughts of a one-year anniversary have been haunting me. Yes, it has been that long since my little and massive heart attacks and all that came after: the bypass surgery, the embolism, the 20-day hospital stay, recovery, and on and on and on.
Life has changed dramatically since then. My spiritual life has taken a turn for the worse, if that was even possible. I talk about it, I push it away, thoughts keep on creeping back, I can’t shake it. “It” is what I consider my short death. Probably everyone I know is sick and tired of me talking about It or about the ordeal itself. After all that happened, we have few friends left.
We used to host parties, at least dinner parties, almost every weekend. Since heart attack and bypass, I wasn’t able to put out that much energy anymore, but no one invited us in return. In the past year we had two dinner invitations, or only one? And I’m lucky if everyone actually shows up when I invite them. I’ve kind of given up for now.
Back to the “short death” part. After the massive heart attack and being ambulanced to the hospital in Sacramento and resting in ICU, I either continued with the heart attack or had another one. Never figured that one out. I remember saying that my heart is starting to hurt again and lots of commotion around me. My mind started sinking into depths I’d never experienced. There was a physical and mental distance to everything around me, and it grew and grew. The void between me and others and material life as well as spiritual life became so vast I didn’t want to make the effort to overcome it. I was content drifting farther and farther away without any regrets or misgivings. Until it all stopped, just nothingness I could only talk about afterward, since at the time there was no experience at all.
Apparently I mouthed to Stephen through a window that I loved him, because by now the family had been herded out of the room and I was surrounded by 10-plus medical responders. Stephen later told me one of them exclaimed there was no pulse anymore. There was talk about using the paddles, but no agreement on that. This is when a nurse did some resuscitation on my chest, and I came back without any knowledge of having been gone.
There seems to be an out-of-synch problem now. I feel my life never caught up with the few moments I missed. What happened in those moments must have been monumental for me. I’m afraid to admit it, but since then death has a whole new meaning for me. Of course I don’t really want to be tested to make sure it’s so. My death has a new meaning, not so sure about anyone else’s.
The fear of death has disappeared, and all that remains is the fear of pain. So many times I’ve said it would have been better if I’d died then. It would have been a very easy death. For me. One that I could have accepted. Whenever I die now, I’ll have to experience it all over again.
I didn’t experience any white light or god, or any inkling of other or bigger or anything for that matter, less than even sleep. There was a time during the hospital stay when I did experience a white light. With the pulmonary embolism. As soon as I was deprived of oxygen, my surroundings started fading from colorful to washed out, and it became brighter and brighter, to the point where I wished for sunglasses. Or at least for someone to turn those overhead lights off. I can only deduce that a lack of oxygen gives one the type of “I’m about to die and I see the light” kind of experience.
Take into consideration here that death is probably a very personal and different experience for each of us. Don’t draw any conclusions from what I’m saying. If I had a shred of faith left in me, it’s gone now. My belief is in nothingness. And there’s no fear associated with that. No regrets, no bucket list, no worry about the mess I leave behind, just OK, everything is OK.
Two myths, perhaps only personal ones, but myths: you can’t have a heart attack while exercising, I proved that wrong. And no matter what my grandmother said about wearing nice underwear, I didn’t care, because if they were clean when I put them on, they certainly were totally messed up when I arrived at the hospital. I had no control over any functions during the heart attack, it seemed that I was going to purge everything. Hugging a trash can, throwing up while sitting in a wheel chair instead of on a toilet. And this is the dirty truth.
There’s a barrier now between me and most of the rest of humanity. That part of humanity that doesn’t share my experience. Is this why support groups are so important? As a society or as individuals we don’t have what it takes anymore for empathy? Instead, we direct everyone to their own kind to deal with problems? Weren’t we able to support all who lived in our communities, no matter what their experience? Or is this a case of the way we never were?
I tend to have nostalgia for the olden days, sometimes I call them the Little House days. Everything was alright then, life made sense, people were connected to each other. I could write books on the changes from back then or perhaps speculate how it really was like to be a woman back then, or a child, or a man for that matter. Life was hard, and perhaps it is all a trade-off. No alienation, but instead overworking yourself. No time for alienation, because no time for socializing, because you had to work so hard.
If I seem like a whiner in this post, I’m not trying to nor do I feel like I’m whining. Just trying to get some thoughts out. I guess I could keep a diary, but then again, I’m a Gemini.
The night of my MIL’s birthday was the little heart attack; this anniversary is coming up in a few days. Then Toby’s birthday eve was the massive one. I sure know how to pick my dates, eh? Yes, I’m nervous and scared. Though a calendar year is arbitrary, it does have meaning in our lives, if for no other reason than to mark the seasons.
What if instead of a year being a year or a month being so many days, we would mark time differently? Mark it with events we don’t have in our consciousness right now. Imagine not noticing the changing seasons, there has to be something we’re unaware of that could be used to mark time. And no, it won’t be every time I finish a knitting project. That would get me in all kinds of trouble.
Back to the year though, perhaps we could rush ahead and make it, let’s say, November? I returned November 1 from the hospital, so let’s make it later in November, OK?
I will find myself in the same boat knitting-wise as I did last year, except this time around I have even more water to bail out. I had so many started or unfinished knitting projects and finished them all within a couple of months. This year it might just take me next year to finish them all. What the heck is wrong with me? Because I don’t see myself breaking this pattern. With gift-giving holidays coming up, I even have excuses for my bad behavior.
Seems I’m back on the knitting track and have left more morbid thoughts behind.
Go ahead, start another project on me!
P.S. I don’t want to be ungrateful. I thank all my friends who cooked for us after I came home from the hospital. At least twice a week for several weeks we didn’t have to give any thoughts to cooking. Thank you!
3 Replies to “Angst”
Dear Marianna, I am glad you wrote all of this. I wish I had known better. I feel really sad. I know what it feels like to feel alone and not very supported during times of deep sorrow, anguish and loss. All of what you are and have experienced and more. I find what you wrote honest, moving, poignant and true and I am glad to read more and talk about it too.
Of course if this reply shouldn’t be on your blog, please delete it. I’m still a bit ignorant in the blog world.
I love you and I am glad you are still here.
Well M, I am at Kaiser Redwood City reading your post with my 56 yr old little sister laying in a bed in room 662 after suffering her first stroke while driving and hitting 5 cars…her right side is paralyzed…we are trying to find her car not to mention her cats… the 4 of us sisters and mother are having quite a wake up call… unfortunately it has taken this incident for all of us to put our priorities in order… And it is certainly a lousy way for our family to come together…
Interesting post in many ways. It’s a process, you’re not alone, and don’t give up.