Apologies for combining Weeks 4 and 5, but as I was due to be travelling in Week 5 and 6, it all got a little bit manic at home and at work, so I’ve had to combine the two. Training did not stop, it just had to fit into a different schedule and took different forms.
PTSD – Part 2
Part of living a healthy life is looking after your body and mind by getting enough sleep. The trouble is PTSD can causing hyper-vigilance which I suffer from hectically. I know people who could sleep if a Boeing drove through the room, I however will wake up to the slightest noise and even worse, the slightest change of noise, for example when someone’s breathing pattern changes. The doctor says there’s nothing they can do about that other than sleeping pills, I am very anti-sleeping pills so I just accept it as my new normal. A normal caused by something horrendously abnormal. I continue to work on it and hope to get on top of it one day, I guess as you process things to finality, you can begin to let them go. I wish I could say that it is only the PTSD caused by Sarah’s death that plagues me now, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 2014, the year after Sarah died, I decided to go to Colombia for Christmas. I didn’t want to be in London in the cold and alone with my thoughts at Christmas. Even if I wouldn’t technically be alone, I would not have activities and distractions to keep me occupied. Colombia was top choice because we’d had an amazing Colombian student live with us in Cape Town during the 2010 World Cup and I had promised to go and see him in Colombia. The opportunity presented itself so off I went, via New York and on to Bogota.
Charl had arrived from South Africa, on an ancestral visa in the October of 2014 and I left him in London while I travelled. On the January weekend that I returned from Colombia, I was due to have lunch with a friend and Charl was due to have his work Christmas party. As I was getting ready, Charl had said he didn’t feel very well and wanted to lie down. I went out to check the weather and when I returned to check on him, I found him non-responsive with his eyes wide open in bed. I thought he was playing so performed a little test on his Achilles tendon that a doctor taught me many years ago, but when it did not work I was straight on the phone to 999.
Charl was rushed to hospital as he was tachycardic (his resting heart rate would hit 240 – not normal) and bradycardic (his resting heart rate would drop rapidly to 0) at the same time flipping from one to the other within seconds and he flatlined several times that day. It was an unusual arrhythmia and after an extended stay in Resus, he was admitted to the Cardiac ward. I was by now far too familiar with Resus and seriously considering a career change. The diagnosis was Atrial Fibrillation. This meant he would eventually be given a Pacemaker, he did not want one believing he was too young (MEN!!!) and many fights ensued. The doctors acquiesced (to him – GRRR) and instead of immediately inserting a pacemaker, Charl was given a recorder which monitored his tracing. This however, did nothing to relieve my stress as I knew (thanks Google) that he could have a repeat episode at any time and there was nothing this tracing recorder could do to prevent it or save his life. GRRRR! After a couple of months (?), maybe it was weeks I don’t remember, he had his recorder checked and the nurse was slightly panicked too discover that Charl had had a 6 second pause in his tracing at some point since hospitalisation. So with a diagnose of sick sinus syndrome, there was no further room for arguing against a pacemaker and in July 2015, Charl was given a permanent pacemaker which has to be checked annually for battery life.
In the meantime, I was waking with every noise or lack of noise or apnea noise and shaking him awake and checking that he was breathing. The pacemaker surgery did not ease this entirely. If anything, it made me more agitated and he nicknamed me “The Doctor” because he is not allowed to medicate himself or do anything that could compromise his pacemaker without checking with me first. I listen for changes in breathing and the lack of breathing but that all happens at the expense of sleep, I honestly have thought about retraining more than once, partly hoping to improve general cardiac health, but also so I can get some sleep. I suppose it doesn’t help that my own father died from a myocardial infarction when I was 7, so I am all over heart symptoms and health like it’s my job. I trace my own rhythms daily and make sure I know what’s happening. I’ve even had a Cardiac MRI provided by the charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young who described my heart tracing as being that of a Black, African Male Athlete – there’s only two problems with that apparently. We aren’t entirely sure what that means for me, just that it is powerful and healthy. Heart health is something of an obsession for me, this is why I constantly harass people about their dental health, there is a direct correlation between plaque on the teeth and plaque in the arteries, just get those pearly whites checked – trust me.
One day, I will sleep through the night just not yet.
My weightless is slow as anticipated due to the as yet unanswered thyroid question but I am really enjoying my journey. I am down 5.7kg this year overall which is great news, but only 1.9kg (I have lost 1.5 dress sizes and counting), since I started this programme with Claire (@claireburton_figurepro) and David (@focus_on_positive_health or @davidpacquette). The difference though is palpable, mentally I feel more powerful than I have in a long time and I feel empowered too. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of a team and couldn’t do this without them, they are the best of the best.
Week 6 is going to be a big challenge for me, I am Stateside battling jet lag and faced with foods that are different to my norm and have higher sugar and salt content than they do in the UK and the meals are enormous. So abnormal sleep cycles, dehydration and strange food don’t bode well, but I’m hoping the break from my highly stressful job and lifestyle will do me some good. So far there has been no shortage of walking but back in Dallas, I’m not sure that will continue. I have been promised a steak the size of my head, I’m not sure that all my day’s calories in one steak is a great idea but it’ll make for a great photo.