Finding a New Path

One year ago today, my life changed. It almost ended forever.

Months, possibly years, of stress took their toll. I had a heart attack on November 7th, 2016, and two days later in the Cardiac Care Unit, I had a stroke.

Stress was probably not the only cause of this. I have a strong family history of mini-strokes as well as heart disease. I didn’t eat as well as I should, by any means, nor did I exercise regularly throughout my life. I have battled several autoimmune diseases that have co-morbidities with heart disease: Psoriatic Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Sjogrens, and that major demon of Diabetes.

It has been a terrible battle, but nothing as challenging as my heart attack and stroke. I was sick for weeks before they occurred, so ill that this political animal no longer wanted to hear about the elections or the candidates or the future of the world. I was physically unable to vote early, something I had done for more than a decade. I was in the CCU during the election and didn’t have to finally choose any candidates. Staff and medical teams were forbidden to discuss the election, a blessing for which I am very grateful. I was in no condition to think about politics.

Like many others who survive life-threatening events, I am immensely grateful and am finding my way to a new normal. The opportunity to get some things right is an undeserved grace.

I’ve been working on myself and the apologies I owe, the forgiveness I seek or can offer. I am focusing on things I think matter in the long run: family, friends, giving back. I haven’t been on social media as often. My writing and art fell by the wayside while I worked on learning to do complicated things like walking, eating, and bathing.

I no longer waste so much time on being angry. I do still get upset but I try to think about whether I would want to fall dead with those being the last words I said to someone. The answer is almost always no.

Shortly after coming home from the hospital on the day after Thanksgiving, it snowed briefly. I was like a kid. I realized that I had been blessed: I got to see snow again! Neither I, my husband, nor my son had thought that would be possible.

Sometimes blessings are wrapped in fear and loss. I am learning to recognize them. An integral part of my recovery is acknowledging the losses and welcoming the gifts.

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