After three years of medical trial and error my doctor prints off my chart and stares at it blankly. He takes off his glasses and squints at me the way you look at an old dog who’s started to pee on the carpet again.
“What are we going to do with you?”
I have reached a place in my recovery where my body and mind are at a stalemate. On the current prescription my heart rate is slow enough that it won’t kill me, and just fast enough that I don’t become morbidly depressed. My doctor and I sit, hesitant to prescribe something new for fear of disrupting the little balance we have taken 3 years to attain.
In my exploration of this heart condition I have been through many stages of recovery, all of which I will see repeatedly throughout my life, but the one that I deal with the most, is denial. In the waiting room that day I made a deliberate choice to deny my heart condition. I have decided to stop any further diagnosis and live my life by my own accord.
Technically this would be called denial. It is not the first time I have ignored my life threatening heart condition. When I was first released from the hospital I was in an aggressive state of denial. 3 weeks after my cardiac arrest, you might have seen me on the news, amongst the swarms of people being chased by police during the Vancouver playoffs riots. I abused my already weakened body to the absolute limits without any thought of the consequences. I was blind to my limitations, and so in some ways, it was as though they did not exist.
There is a difference however, in denial and calculated refusal to let something run your life.
Being in denial is like having a superpower. I did whatever I wanted for 3 months, it was only a matter of time before I found myself in back the hospital. Since then I have spent three years trying to find a cure for my situation, only to come out on the other side with only a greater understanding of how fucked up I really am.
It is a painful process realizing that I am no longer the physically adept, carefree 18 year old that I once I was. Inside of that loss however, I have found direction. I have wanted to travel since waking up from my coma, but have never been stable enough until now. This year I am finally going to make that happen. At the end of september I will be leaving the comfort of home to spend three months traveling in India.
How do you travel India with a heart condition? I’m in the process of figuring that out. Even getting on the plane is a challenge. I have to be legally deemed “medically stable” by my doctor for at least 4 months before leaving in order to be eligible for travel insurance. Even if I get on the plane, India is not only a logistical struggle, it’s an emotional one.
My choice to go to India is out of a selfish need to prove to myself that I can do it. My mentality during the trip could be the most dangerous part. I need to be extremely careful to not take any unnecessary risks while under third world country healthcare. One ego driven choice to do something I know is a risk and I could be in serious trouble. I have to be sure that my choice to deny further treatment in order to live my life doesn’t kill me.
I have spent 3 years pushing the envelope and finding the limits of my ability within my lifestyle here, but self control, and an awareness of what my body needs, is going to be crucial to my survival in a place like India. I know what kind of things my body is capable of doing, but in India every choice has to come from the acceptance of my condition in mind.
It is insanely scary to educate yourself about any medical issue that you may have experienced, but it’s really insane to ignore that it ever happened, but most insane of all is to stop living your life once you have accepted that it is truly there.
You need to continue with your life but you need to put your health issues in front of you and do it with them in mind. Many of the people around you will encourage you to get back to your schedule, to your job, to your routine life as quickly as possible. The most beautiful part of a life changing event is that your life is changed. You don’t have to go back to the way that things were. With the acceptance of your new circumstances you now have the opportunity to create a new future.
To deny the occurrence of something negative is to deny the opportunity to grow and learn, which is inherently, the denial of life.