A few months ago I had a heart attack. Well, that’s what the doctors said, based on how I was medically presenting. A plethora of tests and follow up visits with the cardiologist have edited the story to suggest that I either suffered a rogue virus that attacked the outer membrane of my heart, or it was complications from a medication that I have been taking for 10 years for migraines. As with many life situations, there are no concrete answers. All I know is that the bills pour in, I still get migraines, and every time my heart races or I get a twinge of heartburn I immediately take my mind to Def-con 5. It’s a vicious cycle.
One of the reported by-products of heart attacks in women is depression. I have been asked by several people, including my editor, if I’m depressed or have been experiencing depression like symptoms. Haven’t we all? My medical episode took place a few weeks before the election. I was still on the mend when my distraught son called me at 3 am to announce the results of the evening of November 8. I was surprised at how I deep I had to dig into my parenting manual to help my children navigate the range of emotions they were experiencing in the days following that week in November. Then the holidays arrived – always a challenge even if you love them – and after the first of the year, well, here we are a month plus into what essentially amounts to a Constitutional crisis, regardless of what side of the political fence you call home.
Am I depressed? Maybe. Have my migraines increased? Absolutely. Is my health impacted? Probably. I take solace in the gym, so at least defined shoulders and triceps are tempting me to consider a little retail therapy for my Spring wardrobe. But what I’ve been most aware of isn’t depression… it’s anxiety. I have the same sensation of holding my breath as I did in the weeks and months after 9/11. I glued myself to the TV and radio, hoping that if I kept watching and listening intently someone would say something that made sense of the world. I feel the same way now, except it’s Twitter and the NYT app on my phone that keep me in a state of readiness. Is this really happening? What exactly IS happening? Are we living in a dystopian reality or is it all a giant mind fuck? Binge watching House of Cards hasn’t helped the situation. Some nights I go to bed wondering if I was watching Netflix or CNN – it’s hard to tell sometimes.
If asked to describe how I feel, I’d have to say anxious. Anxiety more than depression seems to rule my moods. I’m worried about our world, I’m worried about my children and their place in a world that I no longer understand. I worry that my health won’t allow me to do the things I always expected I would do, and then I begin to wonder if those things will even be available to me, regardless of my health. I feel anxious because not only did my health betray me, but my reference point in the world has disappeared. I wake not knowing who I am because I don’t know where I am, despite seemingly familiar surroundings.
It’s easy to ascribe conditional emotions (is depression an emotion?) to facts and circumstances, such as bad diet, lack of exercise, death in the family, a heart attack, and ultimately treat or heal oneself. The real challenge for me is to identify and treat the symptom when I’m not sure of the cause, nor capable of affecting the solution.