Dying

So this past Monday, July 13th, was the 4 year "anniversary" of my husband's sudden death. (I'm putting that word in quotes because I don't like that word to describe the day someone died. It makes it sound like a great big party or something to celebrate.) My once a month session with my grief counselor happened to fall on that day, so I decided it would be a good idea to keep that appointment and have somewhere to go and vent. I also planned a cocktail hour gathering at a local NYC restaurant on their outdoor patio. About 7 friends met up with me and we basically hung out, made a toast to Don, and caught up with one another. It was nice to be with friends. 

But all day long, I felt this feeling of impending doom. I didn't really know why, other than the obvious reason that it was the day my husband died 4 years ago. I had that nasty sick feeling in my stomach the whole day and the night before, like I had swallowed a nail. I am sure some of you are familiar with this feeling. Like something is stuck inside you and it just won't move or budge. You feel like you can't swallow or breath correctly. It's a silent feeling that nobody else notices, and maybe I looked a bit pale or tired. I don't know. But I felt like I might be dying. 

I know you probably think I am exagerrating, but really, I am not. I managed to hold it together during the gathering with my friends, because at that point, my impending doom feeling was only slightly elevated. I should have felt somewhat relieved and euphoric, but I didn't. You see, two weeks before, I had gone to see a rhumatologist about this weird pain and pulling feeling I have been having in my legs and thighs while walking and doing steps. She did a series of blood work on me, and Monday, as soon as I left my counselors place, I noticed I had a voicemail. It was the doctor, with my results. She said they were "remarkable" and the listed all of the many things that were excellent with my blood work. She said that whatever is going on with my legs, it is definitely NOT something auto-immune. I was in the city while listening to this message, so I must not have heard the whole thing through the outdoor noises and traffic. That night, I went home and I kept feeling "off." Just very sad and very not like myself. The Pay It Forward for Don Day that I had created 2 years earlier was going on all around me as people were posting on my Facebook page and email about the Acts of Kindness they did in honor of my husband. Usually, these stories get me through the day and give me such purpose. But Monday, I just couldnt get it together. Reaading the stories was still incredible, but I just felt so empty. And then I became annoyed with myself because last year on that day, I had turned a corner. A major shift in my grief. I woke up and watched the sunrise. This year, I woke up in a panic again, just like year one and two. What happened to all the progress I had made in the last year? Why was I feeling triggers and trauma crap again? 

Tuesday was worse. On Tuesday, the impending doom feeling became stronger. I made the mistake of posting on Facebook about my leg pain, because I honestly thought that doing so would help, that I might hear from some other people who have had the same type of pain and maybe know what it is. Well, I did hear from those people, and they all scared the living shit out of me. I heard horror stories about M.S. and clogged arteries and blockages leading to heart attacks, and on and on and on. My heart started racing really fast just reading about all the possible things that my leg issue could be. Then, out of nowhere, I thought to myself: "I think I need to listen to the doctors message again, in case I missed something." So I did. And turns out, at the very end of the voicemail, she says that the only test that came out "high" was my hemoglobin A1C, the test for diabetes. Anything above 5.5 is considered pre-diabetes, and mine was a 6.5, right on the borderline of pre-diabetes and diabetes. So now I start really panicking, because this thing called PAD, this artery diesease that eventually leads to stroke and heart attack, is common in people who are overweight with diabetes. Fantastic. 

So then my left arm starts hurting and then Im in my bedroom and start sweating like crazy. I keep thinking about all these symptoms and then thinking how Don died from a heart attack 4 years ago and the only symptom his coworkers said he had was that he went into the bathroom a couple times with diarrhea. Then a few minutes later, they found him collapsed on the floor in one of the aisles of the Pet Smart store where he was doing part-time work. So then I start having diarrhea too, and now Im convinced that Im having a heart attack and that Im going to die exactly the way he did, one year and one day after he did. Then things got really weird. I started packing a bag for the hospital. I put my phone charger in it and a book and some socks and a second shirt. I sat up in my bed and kept my shoes on as I tried to sleep, because I was so convinced that I might have to call for an ambulance for myself. My heart was racing and I couldnt stop crying, and I just had this feeling of doom. Then I looked up "signs of heart attack in women", and on the list it said "feeling of impending doom - anxiety." Really? It also said diarrhea and of course, the left arm thing. I started crying at the thought of having to go to the E.R. and the thought that I might die tonight, and I didnt want to. Then I started thinking about how it was GOOD that I didnt want to die anymore, and that I really would like to live even though I miss my husband terribly. It went on like that for hours. 

Right after he died, I had a bunch of panic attacks in those first few months. It is the most terrifying thing ever. For real. Because it FEELS like a heart-attack, and its really hard to tell the difference. But this was the first panic attack I had ABOUT having a heart-attack, which made it 1000 times more frightening. Eventually, somewhere around 4am, I was able to calm myself down and focus on my breathing and slow it down too, and then I knew it was in fact, a panic attack. 

But the whole thing scared the crap out of me. I am so unhealthy. My weight at the doctors visit was a number I am ashamed of and will not print here. I'm more scared than normal to get on that plane next week to San Diego for Camp Widow, because what if Im now too fat to fly? Flying already terrifies me and gives me anxiety. What if Im next to someone who thinks Im too large and decides to humiliate me about it? I started to freak out even more. I went through my refrigerator and threw away my awful food choices I had hidden in there. I made an appointment at a doctors clinic for this weekend to get the diabetes test done again (they recommend doing it twice because its not always accurate on the first reading), and I also made an appointment to have the test for PAD done. I am hoping like crazy that this leg thing isnt being caused by blockages, but I need to find out. I need to get healthy. 

Im kind of scared, and I really just want my husband here with me. I know there are worse health things to go through in life, but when you dont have a primary care doctor and you dont have any money and no insurance and you dont know what the hell is wrong and you just dont feel right - it is terrifying. And I want my husband to tell me it's okay. But he can't do that, and it isn't always going to be okay. And I need to figure out how to be okay with all of that. 

I do not recommend feeling like you are dying on the anniversary of the day your partner died. 

Nothing about that was fun. 


Showing 7 reactions

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  • commented 2015-07-17 20:48:22 -0700
    Kelley,
    Thank you for writing about your experience. I was beginning to wonder if there was anyone else out there who, like me, is a widow with health problems and anxiety, I too have experienced the kind of panic attacks that you described. The symptoms of my autoimmune disease were so much easier to handle when my husband was alive. I could keep the anxiety under control because he was lovingly at my side. A recent frightening ER visit (low potassium-dehydration) has made me determined to take action to get as healthy as I can. I hope you find your way to better health too. I really wish there was a support group for widows\widowers who are dealing with chronic illnesses along with their grief.
  • commented 2015-07-17 19:01:43 -0700
    Kelley,
    Hate to say it, but triggers will be there for a loooong time. We used to have a music store, so I have a massive music collection. Can I listen to it? No way, same half dozen cd’s are in the car for 5 years. Over and over. Music takes me back to the “us” years, so much that I leave parties and wedding receptions when songs come on. I’m beginning to believe I will never get out of this rut, each person (4) I’ve watched die in the last 5 years brings back memories of all the others. I begin to turn the corner, and then get slammed once again.
    You got that right “it isn’t always going to be ok”. Here’s hoping you get back on track health wise, and have safe travels west.
  • commented 2015-07-17 17:23:12 -0700
    I swear, Kelley, that grief is really nothing more than complete insanity, don’t you think? Or at least, we end up feeling like we’re insane. I so get what you’re saying, about the anxiety, the wild imaginings, all of it. The first time I went to the gyn after Chuck died, she walked in the room and asked how I was doing and I went into meltdown. I don’t know how we get through this with any sense of normalcy left. The smallest things can loom so largely in our minds. Panic attacks were a regularly scheduled event in the first year and so after Chuck’s death, and I’ve been getting them again lately, so I carry my homeopathic remedies for grief/trauma with me. (on a side note that I just thought about, it’s weird but I find it strangely soothing to be able to take a remedy that is for trauma. Somehow it helps me not feel like I’m imagining all of this).

    Anyways, girl, I’m out here in this world and I read what you write and I know you’re there, and I’m standing with you and somehow we’ll all get the fuck through this clusterfuck. (on another side note, that’s one of my favorite military terms that Chuck taught me).

    Sending love to you always,
    alison
  • commented 2015-07-17 17:23:09 -0700
    I swear, Kelley, that grief is really nothing more than complete insanity, don’t you think? Or at least, we end up feeling like we’re insane. I so get what you’re saying, about the anxiety, the wild imaginings, all of it. The first time I went to the gyn after Chuck died, she walked in the room and asked how I was doing and I went into meltdown. I don’t know how we get through this with any sense of normalcy left. The smallest things can loom so largely in our minds. Panic attacks were a regularly scheduled event in the first year and so after Chuck’s death, and I’ve been getting them again lately, so I carry my homeopathic remedies for grief/trauma with me. (on a side note that I just thought about, it’s weird but I find it strangely soothing to be able to take a remedy that is for trauma. Somehow it helps me not feel like I’m imagining all of this).

    Anyways, girl, I’m out here in this world and I read what you write and I know you’re there, and I’m standing with you and somehow we’ll all get the fuck through this clusterfuck. (on another side note, that’s one of my favorite military terms that Chuck taught me).

    Sending love to you always,
    alison
  • commented 2015-07-17 17:01:13 -0700
    Oh Kelley, how AWFUL. On top of everything to have health problems, the scare of it all and not having our guys here to support us just SUCKS. I’ve been going through things myself I’m not ready to write about yet. And I’ve had panic attacks too since Mike died…scariest crap in the world. It all makes me think about my own demise and like you am surprised how much I DO want to live now. Wish I could give you a big hug.
  • commented 2015-07-17 12:41:08 -0700
    Thank you very much for sharing, it makes me feel a little better knowing some of the stuff I am feeling and thinking others are going through as well. My husband died 9 months ago, we didn’t have any children so I am struggling with not having anyone around, scared that if something happens to me who will know who will be there…..
  • commented 2015-07-17 01:03:23 -0700
    Kelly that must have been so frightening for you. The scariest moments for me are when I realize there is no one there for me to count on any more. No one to just hold me and make it all better. Take good care of yourself. Hugs to you.