I think there is something our loved ones need to understand, and I am going to try to explain it in the best way I can. With lots of words, because there is no other way to explain a feeling and the thoughts that go with it.
There is a moment when you are wheeled into the operating room, a very special moment where you are completely alone in your head, thinking: "THIS is it. Your emotions are OFF. You just signed a consent form that states that you may not make it, and you still agree to go through with the procedure on the chance that you will. (Believe me, when your chance of survival is only 20%, that signature means something !) You don't know whether you will open your eyes again. EVER. You don't know whether you are leaving your children forever. They are only 9, 14, 17 and 19 years old. You are their mother. THAT moment defines the rest of your life when you DO open your eyes again, because in that moment you finally realize that you have absolutely no control about anything in your life, specially not about your own...life. It is the moment your SELF, as it has been, dies. The person who wakes up is different in many ways. In my case, the person who woke up has lost keenest memory there ever was. The person who woke up knows that making plans is a totally useless activity. How the heck would you know whether to accept an invitation to (fill in activity) on (fill in date) if you neither know whether you'll be alive, or even feel like going? The person who woke up wasn't really me, and never became me again. "Me" is what I am now.
I'll back up to the time I was about 16 years old, when I woke up in the middle of the night with palpitations that shook the bed. This would repeat off and on throughout my life until age 35. An additional symptom appeared at that time. Pain down my left arm, along with shortness of breath and palpitations, racing heartbeat. Diagnosis: stress, anxiety, heartburn. Nerves. High strung. "Here, take some Maalox". "Let's try Prozac", "have you seen a psychologist"?
Age 46. Get up in the morning, get the kids ready for school and yourself ready for work. Get a load of laundry from the basement, feed the dogs. Pain slams you into the wall, you run into the bedroom, sit on the bed, elephant is sitting on your chest, instinct kicks in and you fight the pain using Lamaze breathing (you are the mother of 4 after all, you know how to get through pain). Husband in bed holding your hand while you breathe through whatever the heck it is that is hurting. 15 minutes later it's over and you get the kids on the bus and drive to work. But your legs are shaky, you are walking on rubber. On your lunch break you decide to make an appointment with that little clinic next to work, maybe you can squeeze in an appointment for next week.
They ask you what they are seeing you for. You describe the elephant on your chest. "The doctor will want to see you right now, can you take a seat?". The ambulance is called and you find yourself in the emergency room, with some unknown ER doctor telling you you have had a massive heart attack and they can't figure out why you are still alive. You have a triple by-pass next day, but only after asking the cardiologist and the surgeon whether they are out of their effing minds. They kept you awake during the angiogram because you demanded proof that there really is a triple 75-80% obstruction in your coronary arteries. So....it wasn't anxiety after all? (Interestingly, your family physician does not want to give you an appointment after the surgery,......).
Aren't you glad I won't tell you about the 14 years between that day and today? Let's just say that I went against ALL the doctor's warnings and I lived my life the way I did before the surgery. I did not cut down on anything, cut out anything, lowered anything, avoided anything, and I'm still here. I work and have worked a full time, high-stressed job, and still do. I raised my children to adulthood.
I did not turn into a mean, cranky, horrible person, but I turned into a person who does not make plans, committments, or promises. Nothing really "gets" to me emotionally. I know my emotions are still there, buried deep inside of me, but I don't let them come to the surface anymore because if I did, it would affect my heart. The adrenaline generated by emotions affects me so greatly that my blood pressure shoots up, my left side gets numb, and my heart hurts and starts racing. I don't get short of breath, I have all the energy in the world, I dance, I bowl, I walk the dogs for hours, I run......but upset me, and my heart reacts instantly.
No, we are not the way we were, and I know every one of "us" is different. I mourn the person I lost, the one with the good memory. Today, I'm lucky I remember my name. I have learned not to give a damn (or I pretend not to) when my feelings are affected, but some of the people in my life enjoy antagonizing me although I have begged them not to. I have explained that their behavior causes a physical reaction I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER. Excess production of adrenaline that causes very scary and dangerous symptoms. I can't tell them to adapt to my physical needs, it would be cruel to them. In order to "save" myself, I have become a hermit. I choose to be by myself whenever possible in order to avoid conflict. If that makes me "cranky" and "mean"........the people in my life need to get their definitions straightened out. In my mind, I'm removing myself from their company in order not to get an adrenaline jolt that WILL make me turn into a cranky, mean, and cruel person. If they would just allow me to stay detached from my emotions, everything would be perfect.
As far as the doctors are concerned, I'm glad my present family doctor is one who honors MY way of life by not telling me what I need to do. I've obviously done SOMETHING right to be still alive 14 years later.
As for me, I will live as long as I am meant to. Not one second less, nor one second longer, but that does not mean that I am going to have anyone dictate to me HOW I have to live. Not the doctors, nor my children. If that makes me selfish, it's about time I am.
This post is not cranky and not angry. It is ASSERTIVE.
Love and hugs to all.