Sometimes I think I should stop reading the internet at year’s end: the wildly mixed bag of both cautionary and encouraging articles are all well-timed pressure for Resolution Season, just in case you need to add one more way to achieve unattainable perfection to your list.
I didn’t close the browser fast enough on a past December day, and so was down the rabbit hole of an article about a (seemingly healthy) woman’s fatal heart attack.
Why this article and not all the others about how to hide more vegetables in my desserts? It hits closer to home: I’m a woman who has survived a heart attack, and lives managing a couple of genetic, chronic heart conditions with an assist from implanted borg parts. And besides, I already have a superb carrot cake recipe in my bag of tricks 🙂
And so to Anne, the woman in the article. She was enviably fit, and quite vested, we’re told, in staying so. Her friend, the writer, eulogized her beautifully, telling us also about the big emotional heart this lovely woman shared with the world.
And then (emphasis mine):
“But one afternoon… Anne rode her bike, climbed off, and complained of nausea and fatigue. Her right arm ached. Blaming indigestion, she took Tums. They didn’t help. She vomited. Her husband suggested urgent care. She declined.
The next morning, Anne collapsed in their bathroom and could not be revived.”
I read this and was furious. FURIOUS. Yet another woman died because she didn’t get help. By all accounts, she was doing everything right to earn her ticket to a good life, except perhaps that one teensy-weensy little issue of putting herself at the top of the list.
My guess is she thought she would be embarrassed if it turned out to be nothing (a mistake I almost made during my heart attack 15 years ago).
Or maybe she was over-committed with extra holiday tasks and felt she just didn’t have time to be sick. Or knew that she couldn’t get time off without a notarized letter from an honest politician, inked in the blood of a rare breed of poisonous snake.
Or maybe she knew an ER trip would wipe out her emergency savings and still not meet her deductible.
Or she thought that, as fit as she was, SURELY it wasn’t serious.
On the long list of things that mattered, perhaps she didn’t put herself in the top five.
It’s impossible to know what reasoning added up to not taking a trip to the ER, and honestly, I believe the ways we’re running our society, harmfully and destructively, are the major culprits here:
  • Your self-worth is defined by your productivity, so you better pack your calendar until it squeaks.
  • Your right to take rest must be earned; resting is for the weak and the lazy; taking sick leave or vacation is discouraged.
  • Women are expected to sacrifice themselves for the good of family, job and society, and not rock the boat. Don’t be a bother.
  • Corporate profiteering matters more than taking care of people.
  • Women’s heart attacks have different symptoms, and women presenting with heart issues are taken less seriously (“You’re just anxious – have you tried meditation?”). I had classically male heart attack symptoms and was still told by a male doc that they were going to take out my gall bladder because I was “overweight, over 40, and female.” Talk about misogynistic profiling.
The most massive failure of all is that we have been conditioned to believe we don’t matter enough to make a fuss over how we feel.
So I have just one resolution for you, one to rule them all:
That’s it.
It’s the key to everything else on your list anyway, including the hallowed extra veg in your desserts. And yes, please lavish love on yourself with the occasional piece of carrot cake.
But seriously: I urge you to resolve that YOU matter this year; that you will take time to listen to your body, and take time to get checked out if anything feels out of sorts.
Self care is NOT selfish.
You are NOT a bother.
You BELONG at the top of the list of things to take good care of.
I urge you to read the complete article because the author weaves in strong women-specific info from a cardiologist.