Letter to myself, before the heart attack and heart failure diagnosis
In a letter to her younger self, Jelica Holmes reflects on how a heart attack and heart failure diagnosis taught her the importance of balance.
Do you remember what it was like when you were a superhero? You had all the powers: a constant source of energy, means to zip around, juggling life and work. You didn’t need much sleep, just a shut eye, then up and away on the next mission.
You felt invincible, like your parents, who were survivors of war, thrivers in a new environment. Nothing could stand in your way. Everyone knew you for your tenacity, your ability to cut through the nonsense and get to the heart of the matter.
Life was crazy, always busy. That’s how you liked it. Spinning plates, layering projects, taking on contracts.
Then the hurdles grew spikes, things became tougher. Suddenly you were no longer in charge of your own universe. Ten years ago the world of economics crashed, parents became ill and despite being a single parent, and only earner, somehow (and with help), you made it through.
But you realised something wasn’t right, lying in bed every night, stricken by grief from bereavement, there was a feeling from under your ribs, a pounding. The GP confirmed high blood pressure
. Never mind, you’ll take the pills and carry on. How inconvenient it was, there was no time to rest. So you kept going, achieving goals in the world of work.
Jelica now enjoys reading daily.
Every now and then your body whispered to you that it was tired, your stomach churned and fired up. So you decided to go on a health kick, diets and such, losing a bit of weight, but still feeling out of sorts.
It will never occur to you, nor to your new and dismissive GP, that the problem is your heart. All it took was one uncomfortable day during which you drove, went to college, shopped. Still the strange sensation of burning in your stomach. You call the GP surgery who tell you it sounds like reflux.
It will never occur to you, nor to your new and dismissive GP, that the problem is your heart.
Later in the evening you were to have a whopper of a heart attack
, saved by the paramedics, hospital and friends plus two stents
A feeling you have never known before will take over your body – one of complete peace, after the heart attack. You notice it when you are sent home and the community cardiac team come to visit you. It will take some time for you to realise the seriousness of the event. You will be in shock, but why, you wonder, is your body so quiet?
Don’t read stuff you find on the internet about heart failure
, it’s often out of date and terrifying, completely depressing. You will wonder how far you can walk, if you can swim, go see your son, go see anyone. But you remember what works for you to get back from the brink. Forget death, that thought can’t live with you on every single breath. “Keep fighting,” says an old family friend, and you will.
Jelica found her way back to knitting and spinning to help soothe her nerves
You will read more again, as if you were that child who loved books. You will pick up yarns and make with them again, because knitting and spinning soothes your nerves. And by 'eck, you will learn balance in life. It’s what the community team will keep saying to you – balance.
You won’t like the diagnosis of heart failure - you are proud, stubborn and feisty right now, this will knock you to your knees. But you will learn balance. Life will be difficult in other ways. There will be vulnerability. Superheroes don’t like that, do they? That feeling of being lost will disappear as you begin to enjoy your own creative path. Your sense of humour will come back.
Some relationships will never be the same again as others struggle to understand the meaning of heart failure, but you will be resolute in your actions because for the first time in your life, you will put your own needs first and stick to balance.
Writing and knitting have been two activities that have helped Jelica find a balance.
Writing and making will pave the way for a new you, more connected to your roots, your deep inner core. A big part of you feels less inclined to socialise as much as you used to before the heart attack, but you will still connect with people of similar interests.
As for the GP surgery, you will find a way to bring in to the open your grievance with them and succeed in ensuring change in attitude happens. Nothing is easy these days, but we all still have to ensure a better future for our children and this you will emphasise to your son.
And the novel, it will be completed and sent out to agents. You will walk daily, work daily, eat sensibly, read and write. You will remember to listen to music, to dance, to laugh. One day at a time and you will be doing just fine.