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.