Saturday, August 6, 2011

Just Breathe

Brian died at home from a pulmonary embolism.  Blood clots traveled to his lungs and stopped his breathing.  I was home when it happened, along with our two cats.  Now I live in a state of fear that it will happen again -- to someone I love, someone I'm with, or maybe to me.  Every time my leg hurts, I think I have a clot forming.  Every time I don't hear "Antonio" breathing in bed next to me, I have to put my hand on his chest to check for a heartbeat and the feeling of his chest moving up and down.  I have a hard time getting restful sleep in a room with a snorer, knowing that the apnea causing the noise and the sudden, noisy intakes of air (that most people would just consider a nuisance) is happening after a temporary cessation of oxygen to the lungs.  If I hear someone snoring, I feel compelled to lay awake and listen, waiting to make sure the silence is temporary and that the next breath is taken, that the person is still alive.  If I see one of my cats sleeping but don't see her chest moving up and down, I sneak over to make sure she's still breathing, still alive, that she too hasn't been suddenly taken.  I constantly wonder if I've got a clot forming and don't know it.  I worry that I'm going to imagine symptoms, and also that they will present and I will think I'm imagining them.  I think about how stupid it would be for me to let the same thing happen to me that happened to Brian, how I could never forgive myself if it happened to anyone else while I was there, and I worry that if it happens again, no one will want to be in my presence.  How do I stop worrying about this?  How do I stop thinking it will happen again?  And what if it does?


  1. Wendy,

    I've been reading your blog for a while now. My husband died in February this year, and it has been incredibly ... "comforting"... to read your thoughts and almost compare and contrast where I am in this process and the similarities/difference of choices and paths we've taken.

    I saw several posts ago that there was another girl in Austin that wanted to email you. BTW, I live in Austin, and I'm 29. It's so bizarre and unnatural to be this age with such a weight to bare... It's almost a relief to know I'm not the only one. I'm wondering if you/y'all would consider maybe meeting sometime for coffee or drinks. It would just be nice to have one of those moments when I'm not the only freak of nature. :)

    Your blog is lovely. And I'm sorry to know you're in one of those low moments.


  2. After my mom died, I lived in a constant state of fear like you're describing and was ALWAYS checking my pets to make sure they were still breathing. I was sure that any second I would lose someone else. I still fall prey to it now and then. And God help me in a few weeks when I give birth to our baby; when I babysat one of my nieces as a baby, I woke up literally every 20 minutes to check if she was breathing. I'm planning on spending a huge chunk of money on a special baby monitor that will tell you if they haven't moved in a while just to give me some peace of mind and help me sleep.

    What really got me over it (for the most part) was a series of experiences - books I read, hypnotherapy, etc. - but especially one particular phone conversation I had with our vet. We have a lot of pets, and she tends to them at our house, so we've gotten to know each other fairly well by now. After one of our dogs unexpectedly got sick from an incurable disease and passed away, I confessed to her for whatever reason that since my mom had died I'd been struggling with that intense fear and was afraid it would be worse now that he was gone and that I was afraid my constant state of fear could actually create the reality. I told her that every morning when I left the house for work, it was all I could do to leave them and also let my husband out into the world and that I spent my drive fervently praying for God not to let anything bad happen to anyone...I'd go so far as to spell it out...don't let there be a fire, a car wreck, a break-in, etc., and I'd list by name all those who were important to me. She said I needed to turn my plea of desperation into a THANK YOU..."thank you that we are all safe and healthy"...say it once and leave it at that. Don't allow myself to dwell on it. Put gratefulness into the universe, and you get more things to be grateful for. That conversation changed my life forever. I'm a very different pregnant person than I'd otherwise be and able to stay relaxed and positive for my baby. I won't say I never check the animals when they're sleeping. But my days are filled with way more gratefulness than worry now, and I can tell you how exhausting living that way was now that I know what it's like not to. Unfortunately, death is part of life and it damn sure isn't fair. The next time I have to face it, I don't know how I will be. But I know that at least in the meantime I am able to enjoy life a lot more and my loved ones who are still here, as well as be even more grateful for the ones I had who passed on but are NEVER really gone.

  3. Darcy -- yes, let's get together! I have had breakfast with another young one of "us" in Austin, and it was refreshing and nice. My e-mail address is wboka at hotmail dot com. Please e-mail me!

    Jen -- thank you so, SO much for this. I've read it multiple times! I especially like the thankfulness prayer, and leaving it at that. I will try to focus on that and use that advice when these feelings come up. Very practical advice.

  4. My husband just passed away 6 weeks ago and I can relate to this post. I am so afraid of something happening to someone else that I love.