Thanksgiving had special significance for me this year. There is nothing like being reminded of your mortality to elicit an epiphany.
I spent Thanksgiving Eve in the ICU of the local hospital under observation for a potential heart attack. This happened because I made the mistake of skipping eating and drinking water after 2 hours of exercise. I really should know much better than do anything so personally negligent. After all, I've been exercising and paying attention to nutrition for 3 decades.
It is amazing what knowing loneliness during a so-called "Family Holiday" can engender. I wasn't feeling either depressed or experiencing suicidal ideation. Nothing that emotionally grand. I was just craving companionship and failed to follow my normal regime in order to seek connection with friends, including 5 horses and two dogs. I thought it was better to be with "my people" than be alone and ignored some important lean body signals.
So, my body announced my mistake by giving me a physical wake-up call in the form of precipitously low blood pressure. My normals stats are 120 over 78 or so. On Wednesday my blood pressure dropped to 70 over 70. This is not something I would advise anyone ever experience. Your whole world goes out from under you when the systems start failing that fast. It is like having nausea on the fastest roller coaster in the world mid the deepest dip. In other words, physical hell.
I asked my human friend to call 911 because I thought I was having a heart attack and was helped to a place where I could lie down. As soon as I was lying I knew I wasn't having another heart attack. The event felt just like my previous heart attack in January '02, but no matter what I did at that time the attack just worsened. This time I got relief almost immediately by lying down. That was good, but once the EMTs arrived and checked my stats it was more than obvious that something important was going on. I was dehydrated which is almost impossible for me to imagine considering how much water I usually ingest.
After the EMT mangled my right arm searching for a cooperative vein to place an intravenous feed line in--I can't describe the searing pain--I was given some fluids containing electrolytes, sodium and sucrose. My coloring returned to normal from the ashen pallor it had taken on. Then the sirens wailed and we raced to the hospital. If you've never been in an ambulance or aid wagon try to imagine riding backwards on an amusement park ride while guys are working to make sure you survive. It is not a "weeeeee" situation.
Fortunately, I was capable of being cognizant. I made sure the young men knew that I would not accept extraordinary measures of any sort. My attitude these days is that I really lucked out after the sudden death heart attack in '02. Less than 10% of men who suffer such events live to tell the tale unscathed (for the most part) and I was one of those. I did not suffer remarkable physical and brain damage such as people experience after strokes which many considered a miracle. Because that happened I am not tempting fate a second time. So, after one angioplasty (a procedure wherein they blow up a small balloon in the ventricle of your heart so they can install a small wire vein replacement called a stent), I decided that when my time comes I want to exit consciously and as drug free as possible. If my time is up, it's up and I am not nearly as scared of death as of the process of dying. I have a fairly high pain threshold, but that doesn't mean I am actively seeking out the experience of more pain.
After batteries of tests and a refusal of any medication beyond baby aspirin I became very aware, as I lie in the hospital bed, of just how fast everything can change and how frightening the prospect of death can be if you are unaware of what exactly is transpiring. I am very grateful to say that I became very clear about how I got in that position and how to prevent it in the future.
I have very little experience with being a thin person. I'd had a weight problem until last year when I got a real handle on correcting it. I have 51 years of experience finding the best tools to put in my physical fitness toolbox. I was 7 years old when I first started having difficulty with my body. Skipping meals, ignoring exhaustion and exposure to cold, inclement weather were never things that really bothered me for most of my life. When you overeat, skipping a meal is like earning the "Red Badge of Courage". When you are skinny, skipping a meal is akin to shooting yourself in the foot and watching the hole hemorrhage. That has been an interesting fact for my "formerly fatman" thinking to wrestle with. It is a serious recognition discovering that relaxing focus and adherence to your discipline even briefly can possibly kill you. I suppose it is akin to having a peanut allergy that can end your life by making one stupid move. "Normal" for me just doesn't exist anymore. It isn't somewhere I can even visit.
My epiphany is how very grateful I am that I was given the gift of a continued life after discovering my own folly and just how dangerous that folly is to me. I've always liked to take unusual risks and push my comfort zone into distortion. I tried it in this case unconsciously and was slapped into conscious in an extremely unpleasant manner.
Don't ever test your limits from a weak position. You might just fail the test. I did and lucked out once more but, as in baseball and armed crime, three strikes and you are out.
I'm no cat. If I were I'd be on life Number 8. Everyday there are chances to take. From now on I am greatly limiting the ones that impact me negatively in a physical way. I hope I've learned this lesson.
Happy belated Thanksgiving! I'd have sent my best wishes sooner. I've been a little bit preoccupied.