Number 12

For a little over a year, I knew something was looming. Deep down in my gut, I knew this was coming. I could feel the build in my body. I talked about the possibility, frequently, so everyone wouldn’t be thrown off when it happened. I assumed it would be one I already had. I assumed I would know what to expect. I assumed a lot of things, and you know what they say about assuming.

Around Christmas, I had an inkling that something was off, but I strode forward, headstrong. January came about, and I knew what was happening. The foreshadowing had been there. I didn’t want to see it for what it was. My whole life, I’ve successfully avoided seeing this for what it is. I’ve only danced the line. By mid-January, I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I knew it wasn’t good, but I didn’t realize I was dancing with death again. Mid-January, my life turned upside down and inside out. I went to the emergency room and kick-started this whole chapter.

What a dark chapter it’s been. Normalcy always creates unease in me. I thrive in chaos. When things are falling into place, and I am excelling at something challenging, my body fails me. To say it’s expected makes me a downer. So I force myself to ignore signs and look on the bright side. Mentally and intellectually, I am capable of challenging things, if you only knew the things I handle daily, but physically…that’s a different story.

January came and went opening the floodgates: no driving, no working, no exercise, and uncertainty. February brought hope. Appointments revealed that the problem wasn’t what I thought, and we couldn’t quite put our finger on it. Defeat slowly started to creep in, and then it happened. Casually and quickly, my heart went into a rhythm that made it stop. Sixty seconds, that’s how long it took for me to be alive, for my heart to stop, and for my defibrillator to bring me back.

My heart was beating so fast that, essentially, it stopped beating. This is the second time this has happened to me. The second time that my heart failed me. The second time I was on death’s door. When I came to, I was eerily calm and felt relaxed. I was changed. Mentally, physically, and on a cellular level. Trying to process, that I haven’t quite figured out. It took me almost a year the first time it happened not to fear going to sleep, but this time I fear everything. Then came a sliver of hope.

Hope is a dangerous thing. I waited three weeks, and then I went back to Nashville. Full of hope and promise that this surgery, procedure, whatever, was what I needed. That I would get the answer. I hated that procedure. I hated being able to wake up during, and I hated the level of fear that was in every ounce of my body. Fear to look at the screen, move, and listen to the Doctor talk. I forced myself back to sleep and was awoken on my way to recovery and by bad news. It was not delivered to me delicately—no smoking gun. No answers. I lay in recovery with something more than defeat; it was crushing.

Once I was finally alone, something in me snapped. I broke. I sobbed in a way that I hadn’t wept before. I cried for hours. I’ve never felt more alone than when I sat in my bed, holding myself, and realized I didn’t have much more fight in me. Then once again, a tiny sliver of hope was delivered.

Surgery number 12 was presented. Surgery number 12 happened a few weeks later. Surgery number 12 was by far the worst physical pain I’ve ever been in. It might not fix the problem, and I won’t know for another month or two. I’m now in this place of recovery. Physically I was beaten to hell. The pain has been excruciating at times, but the mental healing is what no one can truly understand. I’m digging deep, all the way to the tips of my toes, to find what little fight I have left.

Post-surgical depression. You’re not warned about it beforehand. You’re not given the tools to process it. It hits you like a brick wall. It’s different than your regular depression. It adds to it and forms a dark hole that can’t accurately be described. A hole that makes you sometimes wish you weren’t doing this anymore. It makes you think about if it would be easier if you didn’t make it through. It makes you have doubt, despair, loneliness, and darkness. It makes you realize the actual level of trauma you have just been exposed to, and it makes you understand that you will never be the same.

Number 12. I remember in high school, when I told people I was having my third, they were stunned. Twelve. From three to twelve, I have prayed that I’d make it through. I prayed that I’d get answers. Prayed that I would be done and prayed for strength. I have fought with will that I didn’t know I was capable of. I have felt like a stranger. I have hated my body.

I am sitting here writing to sort out my feelings. My anger, my loneliness, my pain, and my fear. I am writing for others to understand, and comprehend. To say I am okay because I made it through surgery would be a lie. Twelve takes a toll on you. Twelve has made me a version of myself I never expected. Twelve heart surgeries. Twelve.

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