I did something foolish yesterday, but I had to test my limits. Since I was sick, I’ve been very careful and cognizant of my physical limits, as have the Guys. They have been especially watchful that I don’t overdo it physically, that I don’t jump in too fast back to my regular routines, or try to do too much. And I’ve been careful, too, because it was damn scary, being in the hospital that way, being told that I could pass out or even have a stroke if I push too hard physically; being shown the pictures of my lungs being filled with water, feeling the weight of the water in them, and wondering–what if I really can’t breathe? People do die of this, even in the hospital.
But damn it, that was a week ago and I feel, well, fine. I feel like me again. And the memory of that fear, of that feeling (being unable to catch my breath, the heaviness and weight in my chest, the fullness and pain) has receded. I’m ready to start walking again, I decided. Really walking, like I used to, not the slow, careful ambles I’ve taken with Ad and W.
So, while I am waiting for Ad to get home, I set out on a two-mile walk at a brisk pace. This will be the farthest I’ve walked since it happened, but I haven’t been short of breath at all lately, and I feel good…and, a little, like I have been babying myself too much. Like, maybe it wasn’t as bad as everyone (and I) thought. Maybe I am just giving myself an excuse to be lazy.
And at first, it seemed that way. I had some shortness of breath at about a mile, but nothing extreme, or even unheard of, as I was stepping out pretty quickly, and after over a week of non-activity, that is maybe to be expected. I made the turn toward home, and was feeling really good. The heat had dissipated, I was feeling strong…and so I did something foolish. I switched my iPod from the audiobook I was listening to (I can’t run and listen to books, only walk) to a music playlist. It wasn’t any of my running lists, just music I enjoy. But one of the tracks is on my running list, and when it came on…damn I just wanted to stretch myself. Run a little. I’d stop if I had difficulty.
But lo and behold, I was fine. I kept a very slow pace, but I felt great! Sharp breathing, but no weakness, and I slowed to a walk at the end of the song. Maybe I really have been babying myself too much! I walked through the next song and was within 500 yards of our driveway. “I’ll just run this last little bit,” I thought. And started out again.
I admit I was still breathing a bit hard from my earlier exertion, and I had deliberately kept up a fast walking pace afterwards, in order to keep my heart rate up. But I was totally unprepared for what happened. Not more than a hundred yards in I started gasping for breath. My lungs would not pull in enough air. I slowed, gasping, wheezing, my heart pounding. My vision began to swim as I hyperventilated, trying desperately to pull in enough air. I heard my heart and my blood pounding in my ears and I couldn’t get enough air, my lungs just could not do it. I sank to the ground and Cooper ran back to me, whining. I wondered what would happen if I really passed out…
I put my head down and struggled to calm myself, realizing that my panic over not being able to breathe was causing me to hyperventilate and making it worse. Slowly, slowly, my breathing deepened and slowed, my heart stopped its pounding, the darkness at the edge of my vision receded. Cooper nudged me, worried. I looped an arm over him and pulled myself to my feet and slowly, unsteadily, we walked the rest of the way home.
I got home and burst into tears, so frustrated and mad at myself, for scaring myself, for not being able to run that little bit, for my body being so fucking weak. I hate it. I hate having to be so careful. Ad was home, and of course concerned, and upset at me for pushing myself, for going out alone, for not having my phone with me if something should happen. All legitimate concerns, of course. It was just so unexpected. One minute everything was fine, the next I truly was afraid.
I’m walking again today. He said I can’t run without supervision, but promised that he’ll go down to the track with me so I can do 1/4 mile slow runs interspersed with walking, with him watching. I’ll get back to myself, I know I will. I’m not hating my body anymore for being weak. I know it’s to be expected. I’ll take it slow and love myself enough to give my body time to heal properly. But I had to know what my limits were, I had to know that I wasn’t just being a baby.