There is no perfect survival story and there is no guidebook called “how to live your second chance.” Life is messy, it’s a beautiful disaster. Some survivors chose to curl up in a ball and wish the world away. Others are filled with anger and they become bitter with age. Some simply give up before they give them selves a chance to rise. Then there are the ones like me, a special breed who doesn’t deal with the mental/ emotional aspect of what happened, yet they want to change the world.
When you survive the doctors do a really good job at taking care of your body. Your mind and soul are left with you to repair, as they do not have time for that. They simply cannot mend what they cannot see.
Trauma leaves scars behind. Pulmonary Embolisims and Strokes take pieces of your soul and if you survive they leave you with survivors guilt. I’ve spent more days than I can count wondering why me and why not her? Why am I allowed to take a seat at the table while so many women are asked to leave? Fate she amazes me, maybe she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Maybe she knew that I would grow in a moment of darkness.
I never looked at my PE and stroke as a tramatic event, for me it was a horrible event that I wanted to stuff in my pocket. I wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible, it never crossed my mind that I needed to deal with the mental and emotional side of survivorhood. In my eyes I was doing a really good job at running from my emotions and memories. My back pocket held my PE, the Stroke, Lucia, Divorce, and Charlie. As long as they stayed in my back pocket I was safe. I believed whole heartedly in the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.”
A soul can only carry so much disaster before its seems break. My seems burst long ago, I was living on patches, throwing myself into my work and crying my tears into the muppet like dogs fur. When I turned 32, I knew something had to give, I thought “therapy is only for the crazies and for those who can’t get their fucking little ducks in a row.” My ducks were lined up in size order, my exterior was iron clad, and crazy, ha I probably am but hey that’s ok who isn’t a little off these days.
Research, I checked the health partners sight to see what my plan covered,Watercourse is where I landed. Turns out they were right around the corner from my apartment, I had driven by their office for years. I slowly dialed there number, a nice lady answered, she asked if I had a couple minutes, I said yes. I unfolded the items hidden in my back pocket, she repeatedly said “you poor thing,” and promised to match me with a therapist. I was sceptical and hesitant, a few days later they called, her name was Emily. My first appointment was scheduled. I was ashamed to tell my friends “hey I’m gonna go see a therapist so I can learn how to deal with my shit.”
Walking into Watercourse I was in denial and skeptical about therapy. Mostly I was afraid she would tell me “you are insane, here is the name of a psychiatrist.” No one wants to be told they are crazy. Emily didn’t tell me I was crazy, instead she asked me question after question and with each answer the items in my back pocket unfolded into the room. She started to build a picture of my past and my survival mechanism “put it in a box and deal with it another day.”
Bottling up emotions is not the answer. Eventually the top is going to fly off and you will end up in a puddle of tears on your appartment floor. Trust me I know about this kind of thing. Emily understood the road I was walking on and through guided conversation we traced each step. We discussed how I don’t always have to be perfect, she told me “it’s ok for you to have bad days too.” Emily was the first person in 6 years to tell me that it is ok to have bad days or off days or any kind of day I want. Everyone else acted like I shouldn’t complain or have a bad day, instead I should be grateful that I am alive.
I am grateful to be alive, I know that a few minutes could have given me a different ending. I am a stubborn survivor, help is something I rarely ask for. In my mind asking for help is a weakness and shows your flaws. Emily made me realize that we all need a little help and that people want to be needed. I am so used to being the helper that I put my own needs aside. I do everything on my own, including driving myself to the ER, because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone or ruin their day. Which I wouldn’t recommend you do, ask for help, don’t be like me. Then again I have turned a new leaf and have learned its ok to ask for help. Jay can attest to this as he has taken me to the ER about 3 times now and carries heavy things for me. I am still not great at it, but I am learning that it’s ok to not always be the helper.
I’ve been seeing Emily for over a year now and she has helped me immensely. Not only have we delt with survivorhood but we delt with Lucia too. Everyone says “oh you will have more children,” without knowing those words cut through me like a knife. A grieving mother doesn’t want those words, she wants her children. When a plus sign showed up in May I was terrified and did not want to get to attached to the contents of my uterus. She let me know that these feelings were perfectly ok and that with time they will fade. That I didn’t have to be afraid of an ultrasound machine and that I have a right to demand that we handle this pregnancy my way.
That + sign slowly turned into an empty sac, I was crushed. I felt defeated that my rainbow eluded me. Emily helped me deal with my emotions and fears when it was determined that a D&C was the best course of action. Without her help I probably would never have gone through with it. We talked about the procedure and that it was ok for me to speak up if I didn’t like something or if something felt off, after all it is my uterus. I did my research and found a doctor who understood what I had gone through and he promised he would take every precaution he could to protect my uterus. He did just that and he said “I have no doubt that you will carry a baby.” Those are the only words I needed to hear, that I can have babies too.
A perfect storm, the past 6 almost 7 years has been waves of disaster. Between each wave I found calm and enjoyed the beauty in the silence before the next one came crashing down on me. I was sailing in a beautiful disaster. My boat on the outside her haul was perfect, but on the inside my engine was slowing burning out. Therapy helped me really examin each wave, to realize that there was nothing I could have done to avoid them and we cannot simply see in to the future. If I did manage to avoid each wave my life would be drastically different and I wouldn’t be me.
The biggest lesson I learned is this: it’s ok to seek out a therapist. Sometimes one goes through so much that she needs another soul to help her deal with it. I had no idea where this therapy journey would take me, I just went in with a semi closed mind and came out stronger than ever. The doctors they fixed my heart and lungs, but Emily she mended the one thing they couldn’t fix, she mended my soul.
We are all in this together.
Mental health is often overlooked when it comes to heart and stroke patients. So many doctors only concentrate on the physical and leave their patients to struggle through the why mes, the what ifs, and other questions that plague survivorhood. The thing is we do not have to go it alone talk to your doctor, let then know about your struggles. Because one’s mental health plays a huge part in their recovery. If your mind is not in the game, then your heart surely won’t follow.
To learn more about Watercourse please visit: Watercourse Counseling