Yesterday (January 13) was an anniversary for my family. Not a wedding anniversary. Or a birthday. Or anything fun or celebratory like that. Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the night my husband almost died. One year ago yesterday, my husband went to the Emergency Room thinking he had bronchitis. Instead, we discovered he had had a heart attack. And that he had lost function in part of his heart. From the ER, he was admitted to the cardiac unit. And a run-away journey began for all of us.
The scary thing about traveling down a path you’ve never traveled before is just that: You’ve never been there before. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s scary as hell. It really is. And I feel like January 13, 2017 started me and my family down a twisting, uncertain, and, of course, unexpected path. There were a lot of tears. There was a lot of fear. There was a lot of me trying to be calm and strong and hold it together for my daughter and my husband. There was a lot of me failing at that, and failing HARD.
So far, January 2018 has felt weird. I’ve been anxious and unsettled. Whenever I visit FaceBook and see a memory pop up from last year at this time, I look at it and automatically think, “That was five days before the heart attack.” Or “That was two weeks before the heart attack.” And so on. It feels … weird. I don’t know how else to explain it. It feels weird to look at those pictures of my family, smiling and laughing, and to think about how innocent and naive we were then. It’s weird to look back at those pictures and think about how we had no idea what was about to come or how life was about to change.
As we were going through everything last year, I remember thinking to myself that we just had to hang on until we got through the first few days. And then, just hang on until we got through the surgery. And then, just hang on until we got through the milestones after the surgery. I thought that, if we could get through one hurdle and then the next and the next … if we could continue moving forward … we would eventually get out of the forest, so to speak. If my husband recovered and came home and got stronger and continued to improve, then we would overcome this ordeal. We would have traveled the path set out before us and come out at the end of it, and our normal life would be waiting for us there.
Looking back, I realize I was terribly naive about it all, even in the midst of my fear and panic. Because “normal”, as it existed before the heart attack and surgery, is gone. It’s just gone. There’s no other way of saying it. I wish I could have it back, but I can’t. I’m not the same person I was before my husband’s heart attack. The truth is, no matter how much I told my daughter everything was going to be okay, I thought my husband was going to die. I thought I was going to have to figure out how to live without him. I thought I was going to have to raise our child on my own. It was me, standing at the edge and staring into the abyss. And the abyss stared back at me. This experience shook me to the very core of my being, and it still hasn’t let go.
Now, in the aftermath, I feel everything has changed. Friendships are irrevocably altered. My online presence is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my husband is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my daughter is irrevocably altered. It’s just … not the same. Nothing is the same. My “normal” is gone, and I don’t know how to get it back, and I don’t know what my new “normal” is supposed to be.
My husband recovered. I will forever be thankful for this. He is strong, and he is doing well. He’s been back at work for several months now. He is more or less back to his old self, other than a few diet changes and a few medication changes we’ve had to make. We weathered the storm, and I should take a deep breath and relax a little bit. Except, I can’t seem to do that. I worry about my husband all the time. Every cough, every instance of him not feeling well, every everything scares the crap out of me. I feel panicked and afraid. I’m probably driving the poor guy crazy.
Today, as we were sitting down at lunch, my husband said something silly. It made me laugh, and he looked at our daughter and said, “See? I make Mom laugh. That’s why she needs me around.” And I lost it. I started crying right there at the table, and I couldn’t stop. I know my husband and daughter probably thought I was crazy. But I couldn’t help it. In that moment, the reality of it all slapped me right across the face. And I knew there was a part of me, still standing on the edge and staring out into the abyss. And the abyss is still staring back.