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.


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.

Julia NusbaumComment