Almost fifteen months ago to the day, my life as I knew it was changed forever. It changed in a way so powerful and unforeseen, that one would imagine being brought to their knees by this shock. Shockingly enough, it didn’t. The nature of this experience had me knowing very little ahead of things unfolding, which placed me in the challenging yet unavoidable position of living through the unknown one day at a time, learning more and more along the way. And, boy, did I ever!
Here’s the Scenario: Over the course of a week, life was flipped upside down. My husband was managing what appeared to be some flu-like symptoms that were ultimately a sign of something far worse and unexpected -- sepsis. This was an infection so vigorous and severe; it eventually spread to his heart. The pumping of his heart would then hastily send that infection everywhere into his body, creating abscesses in his legs, internal organs, and spine as well as four different strokes in his brain. There were four separate times when his care team wasn’t sure if he would make it through the night.
Of course, all of these facts (so easily reported in hindsight) weren't known at the time, nor could they have been predicted. They played out in an undulating manner over the course of three months between an Emergency Department, a Coronary Care Unit, a rehab facility, numerous doctor offices, and in our home. And even after those three long months, the journey still wasn’t over; after Steven arrived home, it would be another three months of rehab before things would settle.
The three months in and out of the CCU and rehab were trying in their own ways, but the three months rehabbing at home did not come without their own set of challenges. My already-slim husband had lost 30 pounds, along with a lot of energy, endurance, and physical ability (having been literally in bed for three months). But the challenges weren’t merely physical. My husband returned home without the sepsis, but with a different kind of infection in its place. He was emotionally infected with anger, and unwilling or able to discuss it. If you think watching loved one almost die is tough, watching a loved one angry and resentful in the aftermath is even worse.
Six months after his initial hospitalization, my husband decided to go back to work. While his schedule was reduced quite a bit, it left him weary, and by the end of the initial few weeks, exhausted. In turn, I felt exhausted from his angry, negative and destructive energy and unwillingness to discuss what happened to him, to me, and to us. It was like a weight hanging in the air, a heavy, dull blanket that seemed to even shroud us from the sunlight on some days. I felt as though I was living with a stranger, which was even more taxing than the six months of illness and rehabilitation leading up to it.
I found myself sinking -- emotionally and physically. I felt so unwell -- like I was age 100 instead of 64 -- and couldn’t understand why. It was all I could do to walk our dog; the last part of the walk uphill left me breathless. I finally realized that it was time to shift the focus back to taking care of myself, and I reached out for help.
I knew it would be important for me to reach out for help that was specific to each of my needs. In an effort to get to the root of my physical exhaustion, I employed the help of a kinesiologist. To soothe and fortify my emotional self, I prioritized spending more time with my coach, while my spiritual self took refuge in reaching out to those closest to me who understood my spiritual nature. I made the firm decision to let everything else go that was not part of this healing regimen. That included work, volunteer efforts, and entertaining (I am an avowed entertainer and love giving dinners and parties for friends). This decision to prioritize my own self-care led to an ongoing journey, which led me to another highly sought-after physician who practices both Eastern and Western medicine via a referral, a therapist for my husband and I, and a renewed dedication to setting boundaries and letting go. To polish things off, I upped my spiritual practice and envisioned peace and ease in my life.
Coming out on the other side, I, like my husband, considered myself one of the lucky few who experiences a “happy ending”. He got to live, and I got to live through it well (as best as possible). But things would not be the same if we had not been open to asking for and receiving the help we needed, in all its forms. My husband, of course, had help from all the medical professionals fighting to save his life. As for me, I had help from my Higher Power, my Alanon program, my life coach, my friends, and my prayer team.
If I had to do it all over again, I would actually say that while the experience may not have been the best thing that ever happened to me (or one that I care to live through again), it led to an important discovery about what I had been allowing in my life energetically, and in turn what I was putting out into the world. So often it’s in our most trying times where we are offered these important lessons that get us back on track even further than we were before the hardships hit. And there’s still so much more to learn!
This journey of re-awakening and re-orienting in alignment with our Higher Self is a process, and has proven to be a true modality of recovery in and of itself. This is perhaps one of the most critical and time-withstanding journeys we must all take (often more than once), and I look forward to exploring and embracing this facet of recovery with you all here in weeks to come.