About the Author: Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a colorfully creative journalist, inspiring transformational speaker, licensed social worker, interfaith minister, editor, radio host, BLISS coach, event producer, Cosmic Concierge, the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary and co-author of Embraced By the Divine: The Emerging Woman’s Gateway to Power, Passion and Purpose. She has also contributed to several anthologies and personal growth books. Edie has interviewed such notables as Ram Dass, Wayne Dyer, Debbie Ford, don Miguel Ruiz, don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr. Noah Levine, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Weaver, Ben and Jerry and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She calls herself an Opti-mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility. Edie writes for The Huffington Post, Psych Central, Beliefnet, Elephant Journal, The Good Men Project, Expanded Family, Meaningful Mom, Bucks Happening, Montco Happening, Hunterdon Happening, as well as a growing number of other venues. Edie is the founder of Hug Mobsters Armed With Love, which offers FREE HUGS events on a planned and spontaneous basis. www.opti-mystical.com
Thursday June 12, 2014 was a day like no other in my 55 years on the planet. I had donned shorts, t-shirt and sneakers and headed to Planet Fitness (a.k.a. The Judgement Free Zone) where I had gone five or six days a week for my workouts, which I referred to as ‘playouts,’ to make them seem more fun. I completed my one hour round of cardio and weights, jumped into my Jeep and drove home to shower and prepare to see several clients in an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab where I had worked as a therapist for two years. On familiar roads, something unfamiliar and unexpected occurred.
Imagine someone grabbing your jaw and gripping tightly so that you couldn’t move it. Then sense torrential sweats, long after having cooled down post workout. Beat skipping heart palpitations, lightheadedness, nausea and searing heartburn pain followed. I knew immediately that I was having a heart attack. Call it oxygen deprivation, but I didn’t go straight to the hospital. I drove home, called to cancel with my clients and then had the thought that I was sweaty and needed to take a shower. Common sense kicked in…but only to a point. I said to myself, “What are you doing, woman? Get yourself to the hospital.” I didn’t call 911 as I should have. Instead, I got back in the car and drove myself to my local hospital which was about 10 minutes away. I stumbled into the emergency room and informed the woman behind the desk that I was having a heart attack. Within moments I was whisked to the cardiac cath lab where a stent was inserted via my wrist which was a blessing, since the other option was that it be threaded through the groin. A humorous moment preceded the surgery as the nurse who prepped me for it, told me, “You’re going to hate me, but I’m only going to shave you on one side (in case I did need to have the less pleasant procedure).” I asked her, “Can’t you do a landing strip?” She volleyed back, “You’re on your own for that when you get home.” That told me that I would indeed survive.
An hour later, I was greeted by the cardiologist who showed me what my fully occluded artery looked like (a broken tree branch) and how it appeared once the stent was present (as if the branch had popped back up). He cautioned me about my condition that had multiple causal factors. Family history (my mom died of Congestive Heart Failure), elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, as well the highly stressful lifestyle I admitted living. I had been working 12-14 hour days and sleeping perhaps 5 or 6 hours per night for likely two years. Both parents had died within a 2 ½ year period and I had suppressed my emotions since I had been the social worker who interacted with hospice, the minister who officiated at their funerals and my mother’s Power of Attorney and executor of her estate. The grieving daughter had no opportunity to mourn.
This experience had been preceded at the end of 2013 by shingles that showed up on the anniversary of my mother’s death, which was the day after Thanksgiving of 2010. No surprise that my body was telling me something that I ignored. Turns out I was not alone. Many women ignore the symptoms as I did. I erroneously believed that menopause was the cause of my sleeplessness, dizziness and arrhythmia.
As I lay in the hospital bed, I was bombarded by thoughts of, “What if I don’t bounce back? What if I am incapacitated? What if I have to rely on other people? Holy sh*t, I’m only 55.” Well -meaning family and friends told me that I had to take a few weeks off from work to recuperate. I went into panic mode, thinking that I couldn’t afford to miss work. My boss informed me that he would not allow me through the door and that my co-workers would hold down the fort and take care of my clients.
I found myself lying on the couch as I watched the ceiling fan spin from the peak of the living room ceiling. I wrote copious articles for various sites and publications as a cautionary ‘don’t let this happen to you,’ message. I had promised one of the nurses who had come in to care for me in the wee hours of the morning that once stabilized, I needed to go out and teach women about cardiac care. I have since kept my word and have spoken to several groups about this condition.
According to The Heart Foundation
One step I have taken is to return to my athletic roots. I was a swimmer in my youth and into my early adulthood. Even though that has not been my chosen form of exercise of late, I do things that get my heart pumping such as 3-4 time a week gym workouts, walking on alternate days, dancing, riding my bike. I am training for a 5k in September called The Bubble Run. I have also joined a Facebook group called Ironheart Connect which was designed with athletes who have cardiac conditions in mind. The support has been invaluable.
Since that morning, nearly three years ago, I have dived deep, stretched wide and soared high and in uncustomary non-action sat in silence with my feelings until they became vocal in the form of sobbing and storming. The one who kept emotions at bay in the service of keeping on keeping on had died that day to give birth to the one who is typing these words. I say that she had to die since she was killing me. Killing me with overwork and under-rest. Killing me with co-dependent savior behavior. Killing me with unreasonable standards for performance in all areas of my life. Killing me with rabid disapproval. Killing me by not holding my own heart sacred as I did others.
Paradoxically, although I did not actually die; no ceasing of heart beat, I am prepared to die any day. I don’t fear it. I do fear incapacity and relying on others for my physical care.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned:
In celebration of my third cardiaversary, I am organizing a Free Hugs stroll on June 10th. If you are in the Philadelphia area, please join us. If not, hug someone wherever you are.
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