In the early hours of 1 July 2016 I experienced a stress-induced heart attack. Three weeks later I experienced a severe stress attack (like a panic attack but MUCH bigger), thankfully without the whole heart attack and dying thing.
It wasn’t really until I participated in the Silver Synergy (the paying membership area of The Silver Tent community) What’s Your Story? call on 25 September 2019, that I realised how much stuff – and actually other people’s stuff – I was hanging on to around this event. I had no idea this was the story I was going to share until I heard the story of another participant on this call whose body also had to take drastic measures to get their attention.
To My Knees
The story of how I came, literally, to my knees is quite long, and unless someone really wants all the details (you can let me know!), let’s just say persistent stress in the form of life events, work issues, relationship issues and the loss of my Mum, from 2013 through to that day, all contributed to a build-up of adrenalin and cortisol in my body, through signals received in my amygdala (emotional responses) and hypothalamus (producing the forementioned chemicals). Looking back on this event I can see that all the signs were there in my brain and body but I just wasn’t getting them.
About 10 days before this event I had a very strange dream. I was in an ambulance with my husband and a nurse. On my husband’s lap was a box and I asked him what was in it. He said it was my new heart. I got really cross with him and said there’s no way I’m having surgery, I’m phobic of hospitals, which he knows, I refuse to have any needles, tubes or any other thing in my body, and under no circumstances will I accept a blood transfusion if it all goes wrong. The nurse leaned over and patted my hand and told me that I didn’t have a choice. I must’ve been very dense not to understand that dream, but at the time it just seemed a bit odd, nothing to worry about.
Ten days later I woke in the middle of the night, covered in sweat and feeling very unwell. I was dizzy and felt a bit nauseous. I went to the bathroom, used the toilet and washed my face and hands but still felt so unwell, the worst I’ve ever felt in my life.
Along The Tunnel
Luckily, I live in a single-story cottage, so no chance of me falling downstairs. In the living room is an enormous mantelpiece above the fire place. As I was walking into the bedroom I felt my knees buckling under me and I reached to grab the corner of the fireplace. I knew that I was dying. I thought, “Oh so this is how it ends, in the living room. And then I was standing in front of a tunnel. Outside the entrance to the tunnel was an old-fashioned Victorian-style gas lamp. The tunnel was beautifully made in arching brickwork, very reminiscent of the district Line tunnels on the London Underground.
I was moving swiftly down the tunnel and I could see a light at the end with shadows of people moving. I was so relieved and happy to be going home. As I moved towards the light I had two thoughts: Matt would never cope with internet banking; Matt can’t look after Purdy (our cat companion). I couldn’t go home yet. At that point I felt a tremendous push back into my body, and I was back in the living room on the floor. This all happened in a split second, you understand. It was thinking about it afterwards that made it into a narrative.
I went back to bed and either went to sleep or passed out. When the alarm went off and I woke up I felt like I’d been on a drinking binge, and as if I was bruised all over. My left arm from my shoulder to my hand was completely numb. I could hardly speak to Matt, who was getting really angry with me. I finally managed to get out what happened. He called our respective work places and we got off to the GP. I wouldn’t recommend driving with a numb arm, but Matt doesn’t drive, so it was that or wait hours for a cab during rush hour. He didn’t suggest an ambulance or A&E as he knows how phobic I am.
Stress-Related Heart Attack
My GP confirmed a stress-related heart attack and I was then months undergoing blood work and testing. Turns out I’m physically fine. Big stress, I ignored it, big attention-grabbing action from my body.
What was really perplexing was the reaction of my family: husband, brother and aunt and my in-laws. No-one really wanted to talk about it. I had a few minutes of curiosity from one of my sisters-in-law but that was pretty much it. The attitude of my brother and my aunt was, “Oh well you didn’t die so no harm done!” Matt’s defining emotion was anger, laced with fear. He still doesn’t want to talk about it to this day, but is happy to talk until the cows come home about the day he was sure he had a stroke, embolism, psychotic episode, or something else.
This experience obviously changed my entire perspective on life and death and I may well reflect on that in another blog.
What I’ve realised is that, since then, I’ve been carrying my anger at my family for not reacting to such a massive event. Great for them, they don’t have deal with their stuff. Being able to talk about this during a Silver Synergy call has helped me release much of that. I can release their burden along with my own now, and understand my experience in the context of my life’s mythology.
If you’d like to join Silver Synergy to take part in these cathartic What’s Your Story? calls, please check it out here.
Back to Silverbloggers