Posted by: tommybrennan | September 5, 2017

Going Against the Tide

Going UpstreamI have an ongoing love/hate issue with my heart, whom I have named Chester.  Chester and I had a wonderful relationship for 46 years, and then, unexpectedly, he cheated on me in 2008.  This initial revelation of Chester’s unfaithfulness left me shattered, as you can imagine.  I was in the dark, suspecting nothing, as is common in these stories of unfaithfulness.

I noticed the problem in New York City, where it is really hard to sleep.  This was compounded by a difficulty breathing, and I knew something was going on.  I suspected the twins, my lungs, of letting me down.  And I saw my pulmonologist.  Upon examination, he said that my heart was out of rhythm.  I was in an arrhythmia called Atrial Fibrillation.  A term which I had heard, but hadn’t studied. He sent me to a cardiologist, which was delayed 4 days.

Upon examination, my cardiologist confirmed the Atrial Fibrillation, but he wanted to rule out any further heart issues.  He assured me that this was merely a precaution.  I would probably just need to be shocked, and that would be it.  “200 joules to the chest will set you right”.  He ordered a cardiac ultrasound, just to be safe, and I had it done right there and then.  The tech was grimly poker faced as she did the exam.  I tried to joke with her, but she wasn’t laughing.   Tough crowd, I thought.

The doctor came in and looked at the results.  Now the depth of Chester’s infidelity could be revealed.  He told me I was in congestive heart failure, I had very severe cardiac myopathy (heart muscle weakness), an eject fraction (heart pumping capacity) of 15%, leaking valves, and I was in imminent danger of cardiac arrest.  He sent my wife and me home with a lunch bag full of drugs, and kind of shrugged.  Good luck.

My Cheatin’ Heart.

So, after this episode, I was now suspicious of Chester, and for good reason.  I thought everything was fine, and then he pulls this stunt.  What a jerk.  In any case, I followed the doctor’s orders, and within three months, after lots of drugs and a cardioversion, my heart was back in normal rhythm, and all of the dangerous cardiac issues were resolved.  At least for the time being.

Since then, A-Fib has been my very sobering and unwelcome companion.  It really feels like every so often, Chester decides to cheat on me with this harlot arrhythmia.  Those who are afflicted know of what I speak.  Sometimes I know I deserve it.  I get stressed out, and Chester hates that.  Or I eat too much sugar.  Chester hates that too.  Or I work outside in the heat. Chester hates that.  Or I don’t exercise enough. Chester hates that.  Or I eat hot (temperature) food.  Chester hates that.  Or I eat hot (spicy) food.  Chester hates that.  And when Chester doesn’t like what I do, he cheats on me.  Pardon the expression, but this sucks.

So, what is a partner to do in such a relationship?  I might consider divorce in light of such rampant infidelity, but, I literally cannot live without him.  He is that important to me. One might even say, if he ever leaves me, I will die, and it would be no exaggeration.  So, what do I do?

I have learned something along the way.  When Chester goes into A-fib, it greatly affects my physical capacity for exercise, thought, and just about everything else.  But nobody can see it.  That is maddening.  I look normal, but I am being cheated on, and that is part of the frustration.  Nobody can see my pain.  The spiritual parallels are pretty astonishing, but I will let the reader meditate on that little nugget.

I used to lay low when Chester cheated on me.  Reasoning that it was best to rest, take it easy.  The heart is stressed when it is out of rhythm, and is working much harder than normal.  The most natural plan of action is to rest, take it easy, and ride it out.  This is where I made a discovery.

As I mentioned, this has been going on intermittently for almost 10 years.  I have reached a point where I am just sick and tired of this stupid unfaithful partner.  So rather than let him rest in his unfaithfulness, I decided to make life miserable for him.  I have started to continue my gym routine when Chester goes out of rhythm, even though it is a very difficult thing to do.  Even though it goes against my grain.  Even though it is counter-intuitive.  Even though my doctors would advise against it.  I go to my gym, Plain Old Fatness (Planet Fitness), and I push myself as hard as I can, and I jack up my heart rate.  In A-Fib, the heart races anyway, so now, I am really pushing it.  Since I am on meds to regulate the top heart rate, I am protected.  So, how does Chester take this “tough love” approach?

Amazingly, he has returned to sinus rhythm consistently.  This has happened several times over the last few months, and it happened just this morning.  I have found a key that is working, at least for right now.  And I have found a key that seems to be reinforced in other areas of life.

Very often, when we face a problem, we are afraid to face it head on.  We are afraid of blowback, misunderstanding, exacerbating the issue.  We acquiesce to the problem, thus letting it rule us.   What I have learned from my issue with Chester is to face the issue head on.  Face the music, the consequences, the potential heart attack and force it to come to a head.  This approach is counter-intuitive.  Like George Costanza discovering all of his impulses are wrong, so he does the opposite.  But the results for me have been undeniably positive.

So the takeaway for you, is have some self-respect.  Don’t let your Chester walk all over you and control you.  Don’t let him manipulate you, and shove you down.  Get up, exert yourself, and show Chester who the boss is.   I will leave it to you to figure out who these players are in your life.

Stop being a victim.  Go on the offensive.

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