Never in a million years would I have thought I would make this embarrassing moment public. After the embarrassment of being totally and completely vulnerable, I found a peace that I had never felt before. Growing up and through the troubles of life, I am finding a peaceful power in being vulnerable at times.
Ohhhh so embarrassing!! I am a health coach, not supposed to have health issues so large that I find myself not able to control my heart complications. And as a human, it is just plum embarrassing to have remaining pride and control issues on top of my struggles with perfectionism that equates to shame issues. It would be easier to have the heart attack and get it over with!! Instead, I am choosing to learn from my struggles in every way I can.
I am very open about my heart condition. I am in slow motion the last many years because of it. Simply explaining that I have a heart condition actually helps to keep me calm when I interact with others. By making the statement, I feel like I have taken the pressure off of myself to perform to others expectations. I still have to stop and rest often which normal people do not have to do. Other people do not lose their breath like I do. You know, the typical heart condition behavior that can get a bit embarrassing.
For the most part, I have gotten through the heart episodes with minimal embarrassment, until this week. I was headed to a doctor’s appointment, because of my heart, and only made it 10 miles when my vehicle alerted me that my air pressure was quickly plummeting.
Things like that have never phased me before so I did not give it much thought. The tire was down to 9 pounds and I knew I had to pull over immediately and I simply did it. Pulled into a gas station with the bad tire right next to the air pump. This is a simple fix. Reschedule doctor’s appointment, get air in the tire, drive to a tire place for a repair and I will have the problem solved. How difficult can this be…
My heart was already struggling more than usual and that is why I was on the way to the doctor to get some relief. As I sat there with the flat tire I realized that I would not be able to bend over to put the air in the tire myself. I am not too proud, just simply asked the next person who drove up for gas to help me. The kind gentleman tried but the air machine did not work. By then I was down to 4 pounds of air in the tire and realized that I would need to use the local tire repair shop instead of traveling to the one I normally use miles away.
All I could do at this point was sit, I could not stand at all. My heart did not like this ordinary situation and it was letting me know it loud and clear. I was starting to get dizzy and my hands were going numb. I quickly drove to the tire shop two blocks away. I have had heart trouble for decades so I knew my time limits and I knew that I was running out of time but had enough to get settled in the waiting room, FAST.
I walked in and told the receptionist that I had a heart condition (while I set my head down on the counter because I was so dizzy). I explained that I had a flat tire and needed to sit down immediately and could she please come over to the bench less than 20 feet away because I could not stand. I quickly explained about the tire and tried to sit very still to calm myself as fast as I could.
My heart kept getting worse and I knew that I was going to pass out if I did not get horizontal immediately. I have passed out so many times that I know what my limits are and have learned to get into a safe position quickly so that I do not pass out with another head injury. Two major head injuries from this before. So I laid down on the bench using my purse as a pillow so all the blood did not rush to my head making everything worse.
This is when one just curls up in a ball of embarrassment and waits it out. I had already called for someone to come pick me up and given instructions that even if I was passed out not to take me to a hospital, maybe. I was not real clear on that preference but nothing really seemed to matter at the moment.
When curling up became part of the problem, I had to roll over, lay flat on my back and open my arms to allow my inflamed heart the room it needed in my chest. I was incredibly dizzy and all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole. Having this happen in a public waiting room with no one to hold my hand was not my idea of fun. This was a bit much.
My heart and I have been together since childhood, I know my heart. I know the limits and I know that it all falls on me. Cardiologists and doctors have made it clear they don’t have an answer or a pill for this one. I have to immediately find a peaceful calm safe place in my mind while being perfectly still, regardless of where I am. If I don’t do it for myself, my body does it for me and I pass out. A few years ago I had the “elephant on my chest” experience and let me tell you… it really does feel like an elephant is standing on your chest. It is an unmistakable feeling once you have felt it.
My ride home came and it took a while to get me up and off that safe bench. Part of me wanted to run from the embarrassment but part of me knew that this was a turning point for me. The embarrassment should have been more excruciating than my heart pains. But it wasn’t and that was the fun part of the experience.
I am a pro at covering up how I feel. That is a whole different story. This story is about me learning to do whatever it takes to take care of me, no matter how embarrassing, and actually being okay with it. I set my pride to the side. I threw shame away. Perfectionism became a joke. Finally, none of that seemed to matter. Wish I had learned this in my 20’s but I didn’t. That is okay, I am learning it now.
For me, this is huge. I have finally learned to take care of me when I need to. There is nothing selfish about it. Had I not chosen to do embarrassing things, I could not have relieved the pressure on my heart.
So, how do we even get the thought in our heads that we should “push through” difficult things and “stop whining” about aches and pains? How did so many of us get to the point where we refuse to listen to our own bodies because it is supposedly a selfish act? What about the belief system that only a doctor can tell us what is best for our bodies?
This is not my first rodeo!! I have been dealing with Lyme Disease since early childhood and all the complications that come with it. My heart condition most likely was created by the Lyme Disease. I spent most of my life ignoring my physical needs. I have had times when I “woke up” and put tremendous effort into caring for mine and my children’s physical needs only to be shot down by society and a court system that would not allow me to act on our physical needs or take care of them. Again, another story for another time.
This is where and when the “rubber meets the road.” Pun intended — all four of my tires are too thin to drive on. It is up to me, no one else, to take full responsibility for my health. The sad fact is that, for me and my life, I have not had support or assistance in understanding how my body works and the basic needs that it has to maintain life. When I finally accepted that the responsibility lies with me, not others, to take care of my physical body, that is when my health started getting better. The last several years I have finally said ta heck with everyone and everything and did what it took to move into the healing stages of Lyme Disease and realize that I am in control of my heart issues.
It is a peaceful place to be. The road might be lonely but I would prefer peace than empty meaningless relationships. No one else’s opinion on anything matters when one is sprawled out on a public waiting room bench with heart complications. I have finally had enough practice of taking care of myself that I actually found peace in that vulnerable moment on the bench.
I have this crazy wild idea in my head that my heart will soon catch up with my soul. I know I have a whole life that still needs to be lived, one without the debilitating complications of Lyme. There are so many lessons to be learned as I walk through this. Each one is leading me to a more peaceful place just simply being me, messy and all.
How messy are you? How accepting are you for your messy you?
Maribeth Baxter, MBEC (Certified Mind-Body Eating Coach)
Donations are accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.