It was 2:37 a.m. I sat with my back against the sofa, my feet propped up on the next cushion as if I were reading, but I wasn’t. My white pajamas with little colored hearts were wrinkled at the elbows and knees, and hung loosely over my pale shoulders. A blanket covered my legs and stomach, my phone sat by my side. The house was warm, glowing in the night, my hands felt like metal airplane parts.
I saw the red strobing light break the darkness, and after what seemed too long, a head appeared through the window. A man looked inside and I waved him in, but he already passed through the door, followed by a women not quite my age. “The firemen are here too,” he said, “standard protocol.” He was tall and his mustache had grayed as if grown in cold air. He brought a metal box, and pulled out cords and adapters with the intensity of a child. He told me his name, but I forgot it by the time I told him mine.
The women had short dark hair, dark glasses, and her face was smart. “What is your birth date?” she said, writing it down inside a metallic clipboard. The man was fiddling with gadgets, and two firemen looked on from the back of the sofa. She said, “Do you have a family history of heart problems?”
“My mom has A-fib,” I told her.
The rest of my family history was useless to her, but was the real reason my heart had revved to such irreconcilable speed. I’ve passed the trauma and the symptoms of PTSD that result from my family’s emotional abuse. In the daylight, I processed the anger and the fear of having to make a change. During the night, I’ve made headway in reliving events and changing them to fit my wishes.
I was asleep at 1:22 when I heard what sounded like a distant train crash. My mind said a hushed, “Oh no”. My heart accelerated into my throat like a running faucet that jerked me awake at 1:23. Believing it was a sign that my elderly father-in-law was in his final moment, I said a prayer for peace. I lied my head back down but my heart continued to surge a constant round of ammunition through my chest.
My head panicked from the sensation. “What’s happening?” “Am I dying?” “Are these night sweats?” “Am I having a heart attack?” The task of breathing was difficult, cut short by shallow inhalations that met the tops of my lungs before being forced to exhale. I became aware that I wasn’t in pain, yet my heart felt like it was going to work itself to death.
The death of my abusive family is surfacing. The toxins that poisoned me are slowly oozing their way out, creeping to a space of welcome outside of my body. Doubts of its reality hammer their way to certainty, evident in each flush of shock I try to tame.
I breathed through the terror. My daughters were asleep in the bedroom, one next to me, one on the sofa, as is their habit every time my husband is out of town. Our dog was in his usual spot on the floor next to me. He didn’t flinch, yet I was floundering inside.
Forty minutes later, it settled. I picked up my phone, still expecting a phone call from my husband, and went downstairs to the sofa. I pulled the brown blanket over my legs folded in front of me, and took deep, slow breaths, grateful that I had the capacity to do so.
“Why me?” I asked, seeing myself not as I always was, but as a victim. Tears streamed down my face, “Why would they do this? Why would anyone do this? Why would they do this to me? Why me, God? Why me?”
God never gave me an answer. He gave me strength.
Twenty minutes later, my heart banged into another round of chaos. I was scared, being home without another adult, and the children in my care. I didn’t want them to witness their mother in the aftermath of a cardiac arrest, or whatever this was. Five minutes into the assault, I dialed 911.
God spoke to me earlier in the day. He answered my questions, but not the way I expected. I was always the victim, I never knew why. My family is stuck, trapped in a world of hurt and pain. And I live in a world of peace and love. I learned then that my family are all victims, but for a reason I’ll never understand, God chose to carry me.
And last night as I slept I wondered, “Why me, God? Why me?”
Happy Thanksgiving and Peace
Aftermath: I experienced my very first panic attack. The doctor told me it is very common and they call it Holiday Heart. I hope to never have one again.
Thank you for reading my blog. You are beautiful.