First, I have to apologize to my readers and to the people I follow for having been incommunicado for a while here. I will catch up with all of you, I promise, but it will take me a while.
So, what was I doing? Well, I was off being an introvert after I was surprised with the news that I actually wasn’t out of the woods with my heart-health after all.
And, I was doing as introverts do. I wasn’t depressed, but definitely worried and befuddled. Quietly freaking out is probably a better description. But introverts need time to absorb information, turn it over in their minds, and think carefully about whatever it is. And I took the time to do just that.
The history of this is that after my “all clear,” one of the specialists called me to his office and told me that upon further investigation, my tests actually showed that I likely had had a heart attack and that there was also heart disease of some sort, as well. Ischemia, they call it. If that isn’t a scary name, then I don’t know what is. Inside you, your own body is scheming against you. Great.
He told me that I had to have another test. This time, a definitive one. An angiogram. A cardiologist sticks a probe into an artery in the arm or leg, then enters the heart and takes a look all around to see what’s going on. Yum.
I couldn’t wait to have this done but at the same time, I didn’t want it done at all.
In the meantime, I had to wait. So I decided to put my health first and foremost.
I walked and did mild exercise.
I read about my condition.
I took appropriate supplements.
I worked at keeping my weight down and eating a mostly green veggie and fruit diet.
I religiously took my myriad of prescription medications, including the one whose chief side effect is weight gain. Isn’t there a story in here somewhere? Ah yes, here it is:
Specialist (aka, God): You need to lose 10 kilos. (For the metrically challenged, that’s 22 lbs.)
Me: Won’t that be hard to do if I’m taking this stuff that causes weight gain?
Specialist: (consults ceiling and gives every impression of an imminent ascension into heaven) What stuff?
Me: This medication. Metoprolol.
Specialist: What about it?
Me: It causes weight gain.
Specialist: Make sure you start losing some weight, now. See you next month.
See what I mean? I think his real name must be Dr. Kafka.
Anyway, I tried to remain calm while I waited for six weeks for this next test. Easily said, not easily done.
Finally, test day arrived. I was on a ward mainly comprised of men who were in varying stages of getting the bad news about their heart conditions. My anxiety began to climb but I tried valiantly to keep my mind off the situation.
Then they wheeled me into their chamber. Lots of monitors, tubes, straps, needles and stuff that was completely unidentifiable but scary nevertheless.
They gave me a sort of twilighty drug that actually didn’t work because I was completely awake the entire time and trying to see the cardiologist’s monitors. Which I couldn’t, of course, because they were placed so that he had a good view, not me. And besides, I don’t know what that would have accomplished anyway – I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at! But human nature being what it is …
So they stuck their mobile forward observer’s post in my wrist and I felt it slide past my shoulder. Then … nothing. Ten minutes of waiting while I thought I was going to crawl right out of my own skin.
A young man’s face leaning over mine – the cardiologist in training – and the immortal words: “Your arteries are pristine.” No ischemia. No heart attack. No damage of any kind.
I gave M the big thumbs up as they wheeled me back to the ward for a couple of hours of recovery. I couldn’t stop grinning. I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop feeling grateful. The next day was my birthday and I couldn’t have had a better present.
It turns out that my heart went a little glitchy because I did too much physical activity on a hot day and a nerve in there started to act out. It’s what the techs who originally tested my heart had thought – nothing really wrong.
I can actually have this nerve fixed if there’s any more trouble from it, but right now I’m just going to wait.
That gives me time to think. I think about the men on that ward that day who didn’t get good news. I wonder about how they’re doing. I wonder about the two cardiologists. One who told me that I’d likely had a heart attack and was suffering from clogged arteries. One who proved that I wasn’t. I think anout the friendly nurse who coached me on keeping my arteries pristine. I think about my M, who sat beside me the entire time.
I had the last of the tests on my heart yesterday, and the techs and the supervising cardiac specialist indicated to me that they couldn’t see any damage from the period of dysrhythmia that I experienced! Yay! 🙂
A bonus is that they couldn’t find any underlying problem that might have caused the dysrhythmia in the first place! Yay yay!!
I can’t tell you what a relief that was. Or maybe many of you have experienced something similar.
So, the way I understand it, some nerve endings in my heart misfired for some reason. This had never happened before, and there’s a good chance that it may never happen again.
It was likely just a glitch. In the scheme of health things, a very small one. And I’ll talk to the cardiac specialist about all this stuff when I have an office appointment with him.
But this little glitch forced me to re-evaluate many things; to be more mindful. I feel like I’ve got a second chance.
My husband is presently commuting to his new job that is four hours away. We only see each other a couple of days a week. Do we really want to keep doing that?
Do I want to stay in a job – I’m a high school teacher – that’s incredibly stressful and is “lead” by some of the most dogmatic, short-sighted, otherwise-unemployable people anywhere? I have one year left. The pragmatic decision is to stay. That way, the numbers will work out much better.
After many years as a private pilot, I have prepared a second career as a professional pilot. By the grace of someone or something, this issue with my heart is unlikely to affect my long-term medical status with respect to this career. Again, the pragmatic decision is to wait for a year before starting it.
My deep-down sense is that stress caused this situation in the first place.
But I have to be able to live my life, too. I can’t act like a delicate hothouse flower. I never was one of those and can’t see any value in starting that now.
Maybe I’m just talking about living a more balanced life, and the big question for me is how to do that.
What about you? Have you faced a situation where you’ve had to re-evaluate how you live your life? Have you felt like you’ve had a second chance? How have you handled it?
One of the great things that this blog is forcing me to do is to think through the “relationship” that I had with my narcissist, and as a result, to think through other prominent relationships that I’ve had in my life, as well. It’s useful to take a hard look back, to see what I’ve done and not done, to see when I behaved and misbehaved, to see what I learned and didn’t learn. The saying that hindsight may be 20/20 but that it’s also only for assholes, is wrong, I believe. Otherwise, as with any history, if we don’t learn from it we’re doomed to repeat it. Okay. So I’m finished now with the d’Arty-Cross cliché review. Nevertheless, it’s important to every now and then do some looking back, as long as it’s not obsessive or overly critical and as long as the intent is to apply whatever you get out of this exercise only to yourself – don’t do any narcissistic projection! So today, I’m going to leave off the defining that I’ve been doing and share with you one of my behaviours, a behaviour that I was only barely aware of, that lead to my involvement with a narcissist. It was only through looking back that I really got what it was that I was doing, or should I say, not doing.
I had trouble with setting boundaries. Not that I was crossing other people’s boundaries, no; certainly not any more often than most people, and it usually happened inadvertently. I had trouble stopping people from crossing mine, especially the people I love. So yes, this boundary thing wasn’t just confined to my interactions with narcissists, it was a character trait, a way of being with those whom I love/loved. I am referring to it in the past tense, but I shouldn’t do that because it’s still very much in existence; it’s just that I now have it on a leash.
Boundaries. We think we know what that word means; I thought I knew what that word means. But if there’s one thing that I learned from my narcissist, it’s that I had very poor personal, mental and emotional boundaries and was utterly clueless that I had an issue with them. I was a “yes” person of the highest order. “Yessir!” unquestioningly, and unquestioning; that was me. I thought it was my function in life to run around after everyone else’s needs, to fix, to be on call for whatever had to be done, even if it made me feel undervalued, angry, disrespected or just plain pissed off. I didn’t know how to say “no” and felt that even if I tried, I wouldn’t be heard.
Now, this makes me sound like some sort of doormat or puppet, but really, I wasn’t. I was a respected professional person with a great deal of responsibility who had absolutely no trouble with saying no at work. But love relationships? That was an entirely different story.
My upbringing conditioned me to say yes to pretty much anything I was asked. Both my parents were WWII veterans and their sense that they were providing a much better life for me and my siblings caused them to think that I sort of “owed” them by behaving well, which meant that I had to do as I was told or asked. It sounds like I am blaming them for this but that’s not how I feel. I believe in taking adult responsibility for my behaviour; in the end the problem’s genesis didn’t matter because I still had to deal with it anyway.
My parents were products of their generation and believed what they were doing was best. To them, my siblings and I were raised in the lap of luxury and had nothing to complain about. However, they were setting me up to be rather non-thinking where my personal boundaries were concerned and when this was followed by a marriage to an older man who expected the same, I started to see myself as a lesser person who needed to take my direction from others. I see now that he was occasionally very disrespectful, but over time I had begun to buy into his treatment of me.
Eventually, I became afraid (see my post “Is There a Narcissist in Your Life?”) of making my own decisions about interpersonal boundaries. It seemed like everyone else knew better than me and I began to rely heavily on the mental and emotional judgments of others with respect to how I should behave. For a long time, I did not recognize this issue and went blithely on taking my emotional and mental boundary cues from others. It became a habit that was character-defining. Eventually, it also became a gap that my narcissist was able to easily recognize and exploit.
As always, the narcissist starts with baby steps. He began by asking me to pick up small items for him – he was working for weeks at a time in an isolated area – “on [his] dime,” as he always said. A pair of gloves, a book, some specialty shampoo. However, once I had given him these items, he just wouldn’t reimburse me. I chose not to see the issue. I chose to think well of him and to trust him. I was in love with him. But he had already crossed a boundary – a minor one, yes, but a boundary nevertheless.
Later, I was buying for him, on request, items that were much more pricey – tools, expensive clothes, a camera. After a while, he stopped working and then moved in with me. He asked me to pay a sizable debt of his and I did.
He flew to Toronto to deal with a legal issue and wound up stuck in the airport with no money and with no way for me to transfer any money. I flew there, money in hand, to rescue him.
He had an accident in his vehicle and started driving mine. Then the collection of photo-radar tickets started appearing – thousands of dollars of them. He wouldn’t stop speeding but kept using my vehicle anyway. He mistreated the vehicle and its condition started to deteriorate.
I still wouldn’t acknowledge the issue and continued to rationalize and minimize it and shortly after, we got married. We honeymooned in Hawaii because that’s where he wanted to go. I paid for it. Then the spending got really out of control. I was completely supporting the household, paying the mortgage, the taxes and the insurance while trying to keep up with the mounting pile of bills that he was generating.
He wouldn’t get a job or even look for one and preferred to do “projects” around the house which mainly consisted of him taking something apart and not putting it back together or only partially completing it. As usual, he had to spend a lot of money on the proper tools for these projects, with me footing the bill.
He is a car hobbyist of sorts and also started spending money on all kinds of parts and pieces for it, many of which had to be shipped in, in one instance from as far away as Australia. Again, I paid.
My stress levels began to go through the roof. I am not wealthy by any means and I began to really worry about how significant our debt was becoming. I’m sure you can see where the lack of boundaries had gotten me. I finally was forced into calling a halt, at which point he returned to work. Not to help out with the household expenses or the debt, not a chance. It was so that he could continue to finance the luxury items that he wanted to purchase for himself.
I now understand how people get themselves into these abusive relationships and in my opinion, it begins because there’s a lack of boundaries. Anyone with a strong sense of herself is going to heed the warning signs – and believe me, they are always there – of narcissistic abuse (or any other kind of abuse, for that matter) and will tell that narcissist to take a hike.
But I was a fixer, a rescuer, a yes-person. I believed that if I loved him enough, if I was unconditional enough, everything would be fine. Look at the financial crap I put up with, and that was only part of it! I literally invested everything I had into him and was arrogant enough to believe that with me, he would find happiness. It was difficult to give up on him, to finally get him out of my life, because that meant that I was giving up on what I thought I knew about myself, that I was giving up on the dream, that I had to admit that I had been taken.
And that was scary. It was humiliating and I was afraid. Almost afraid enough to stay in it. But not quite. Thank-you, good friends.
So, those of you out there who have been raised to be good little yes-people, beware. This particularly applies to women because we are raised that way more so than men but this can also apply to men. If it feels like you’re being taken advantage of, and especially if you feel angry or upset at what you are asked to do, listen to yourself and examine what it is you’re feeling. That’s your warning system kicking in. You may save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache.