It has been 1,095 days since my last Aortic Valve Replacement Open Heart Surgery. There have been some scary points since them, like when I discovered that a little blood clot was hanging on my mechanical valve. Or that time when a fellow mechanical valve cyclist friend died from a stroke, also due to clotting issues. Then there’s the recent news of the actor Bill Paxton dying from a stroke soon after his heart surgery. He had the same condition as me (Bicuspid Aortic Valve), and the same or similar surgery. Then there’s the letter I received from my hospital notifying me that a faulty machine was used during my surgeries that could cause a deadly infection up to four years after surgery.
Life is going to always be like this. There will be close calls. There will be risk. There will be scary times. There will always be the possibility of complication.
I recently begun to see a therapist. She’s been helping me identify my anxieties and we have been discovering strategies that have proven useful to me. I was already doing some very helpful things to ease & work through my anxiety: Blogging (journaling), yoga, exercise. I have now begun working a regular meditation practice into my life, which has proven to be phenomenal in my general well being. Check out this video (also embedded below); it is a simple guided meditation video that I have used. Think of it as training wheels for meditation. Sometimes I use guided meditation videos, and sometimes I meditate in silence, or with soothing music. I’m still a beginner in this practice, but this mindful meditation has done worlds to help my anxiety. I also seem to be happier in general, and more pleasant to be around (in my opinion).
I think I have learned a thing or two over the past few years. I am a better, happier person despite the anxieties associated with living with a chronic health condition. I’m no guru, but here ya go anyway.
Here are some lessons that I have learned:
- Life is short, but (often) only when one realizes this fact do they do something about it. Take chances. Don’t let life happen to you. We are not in control of so many things, so for the things we are in control over; take action! Go for it! Apply for that job across the country if it is calling you! Ask your crush out on a date even if they seem out of your league! Open up to your friends and family. Don’t waste time. If you want something, go get it now. Act now.
- Be true to yourself. Be honest with who you are. Don’t let societal norms control your life. This comes into play with so many aspects of our individuality. We tend to hide our true selves from the world due to fear of judgement.
- Live in the moment. Practice mindfulness. This is where yoga and meditation come in to play for me. Depression occurs when we focus too much on the past. Anxiety is when we focus too much on the future. Now is the only time that exists. All that there ever is, is now. Look around. Put your phone away for a bit. Make a friend. Enjoy the day.
- Relax. You don’t have to make yourself better. You don’t have to go for that promotion. You don’t have to find the meaning of life. If you are kind, mindful, and follow your passions & heart, you will find great joy in life.