The Binge

Leaving cardiac rehab, I don’t know yet that I will binge today.  It’s after the binge that I realize it was a shadow clinging to my heel since I opened my eyes and stumbled to the bathroom to pee and brush my teeth.  

The glossy brochures from the surgeon’s office warn that post-surgical depression is common if not compulsory after a bypass procedure. There were a few tears and sobering realizations of how close I’d come to dying. The artery the surgeon called “The Widow-Maker” was 99% blocked.  Had I not Googled “intense jaw pain” which prompted my visit to the ER, I could have been weeks if not days from a massive heart attack, the kind you don’t come back from. I honestly thought I was through the worst of the depression. Today, it is a cloying taskmaster demanding I give my full attention to the assigned work.

I arrive home after rehab with hands shaking.  I notice a text from one of my best friends and she has canceled plans for the fourth time. I still haven’t seen her since I went under the knife.  I fire back with a snarky reply and turn off my phone.  Most of the “bad” or fun food has been removed from the house.  I look for any port in the storm.  A tomato sandwich.  A bowl of kale soup.  Peanut butter and jelly on rice cakes.  Vegan mock-chicken salad.  Steamed spinach.  Despair over a close brush with death and sobs I stubbornly will not release with a baked potato and low-fat sour cream.

I pile the empty dishes into the sink.  I’m not full enough.  I’m not numb enough.  I run to McDonald’s and get a Sad Meal.  None of that food makes it out of the front seat alive.  I throw the shitty plastic toy out of the car window on the drive home. 

My logical mind is far away right now.  I’m know I’m not alone in this.  I have a myriad of friends who want to be engaged, some of them desperately pleading for me to let them in.  I can’t. I’m not there yet.  

I don’t understand how much I want my mother.  Most days I don’t even feel all that close to her.  I haven’t seen her or my sisters since the open-heart surgery.  My mom says she can’t leave my dad alone.

 “You’re my hero, baby. My invincible girl.  I don’t know what to do when you’re not strong.  I sort of need you to be that way.”  

 I need me to be that way, too.

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Janette Schafer is a freelance writer, nature photographer, part-time singer and full-time banker living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Janette is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. Her play "Mad Virginia" won the 2018 Pittsburgh Original Short Play Series.

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