Before I even begin this piece, I must admit, I would have never even thought of penning this a year or two ago. I am, and always have been, a people pleaser. I disdain when people are angered, upset, or hurt by me. I spend way too much time worrying about how others interpret my actions and choices. That is, until about a year ago.
The past two years have been difficult. I’ve dealt with losing my brother and father and the fall out that sometimes comes with grief. I’ve taken care of everyone before myself and one weekend last October the universe let me know that this had to stop. I woke up multiple times during the night with my heart racing, my body sweating, and half of my body completely numb. I shook it off as anxiety and forced myself to go back to sleep. Anxiety is not a new guest in my body, so we’ve learned to coexist. However, my heart would not stop racing and I started to lose more and more feeling on the left side of my body. It was 3 A.M. and the first thing I thought was not of my health, but of what an inconvenience a trip to the Emergency Room would cause in my family’s life. I would have to call my mother, wake her up, juggle how to tell the kids what happened, and manage our next day’s schedule. Not once in those moments did I think of exactly what was happening in my body. I nudged my husband, he called my mother, and we left for the Emergency Room. To make a long story short, the team of doctors discovered I had Pericarditis, which is a virus around the heart. I underwent every test known to man and the entire time, I was more concerned with how this drama was affecting everyone else around me. When I was wheeled into the Cat scan, the lovely nurse looked at me and cocked her head, “Honey, you need to relax. I can’t put you in this machine like this. Whatever is jamming you up, let it go.”
And in that moment, as if someone needed to tell me it was okay, I let it go. All of it. The sorrow, the anger, the disappointment, the grief, the heartache, the resentment, all of it fell away. I sobbed so hard in that tiny room with a stranger, I could not breathe. My body shook with release, the only thing grounding me was the nurse gripping my hand and patting my back.
“Honey, it’s okay. You’re going to be okay. Everyone will be okay. But first, it’s your turn. It’s your turn to get better.” I don’t know if I ever believed in divine intervention, but in that sterile room, this angel of a woman knew exactly what to say to me. I laid down, closed my eyes and wished with every ounce of my being, it was only my broken heart and nothing else. The Cat scan was an experience not ideal for a neurotic claustrophobe, but because of the release of so much pent up emotions, it was the most relaxed I had been in over a year. I was almost high on relaxation and nearly fell asleep. At the end, I was wheeled back to my room in the Cardiac unit, monitored for 24 hours and discharged with my broken heart.
That experience taught me one thing: I am mine before I am anyone else’s. I cannot care for those I love if I don’t care for myself. I cannot be happy if my entire body is full of sadness. The sorrow is heavy and it will pull me down. Some days, it is a solid anchor tethering me to the blues, other days, it is a buoy floating right along my side, present, but not weighing me down. I must care for myself first. I must make myself happy. This is easier said than done and is a daily battle for me, but I never want to see the worry on my children’s faces like I did that day in the hospital. Never again can I do that to them, to my husband, or to my family. Putting myself first does not mean neglecting them, it is honoring them.
My six year old son recently had to write a fictional story for school and as he shared his story at the dinner table, my heart both broke and mended. He wrote about a Superwoman who had to go to the hospital because her heart was broken and two things fixed her: magical hugs from her family and quiet time with books. This boy knows me better than myself.
So, my house is messier, there is more dirty laundry, but I’m busy. I’m busy putting me first, grabbing magical hugs, and reading quietly.
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photo cred: http://theyardpdx.tumblr.com/post/32208849295