Yesterday was one of those days that did not work out as planned.
All went well, initially. I was in the local, heated, 50m outdoor pool by 6.10am, doing a half-hour of prescribed exercises. I love being in the water. Then I came home, showered, and took Maisie for a walk on the clifftops. I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast and at 9am drove 15 minutes to the equestrian centre to watch two granddaughters at their riding lesson. At 10am I planned to be home, to connect to livestream to watch a grandson play in an international tennis tournament semi-final. I figured I would do some client manuscript editing in the afternoon. My wellbeing cup was full to the brim.
I was happily photographing my granddaughters on their ponies as they went over the jumps in the outdoor ring of the equestrian centre. The lesson finished and I was watching the girls lead their ponies back to the stable.
The first clue that something was wrong was when my sight became blurry. Within seconds I could not see and felt I was being drawn into a hole like one feels when being anaesthetised for an operation.
I managed to grab the timber railing for support and call to my daughter Amanda, a few metres away, ‘Amanda I can’t see’. I don’t remember anything after that until I came around. I was lying outside the arena on the soft, green freshly mown grass, with glorious sunshine above. Amanda was calling, ‘Breathe, Mum, breathe,’ but I could not respond to her instructions and could not speak.
Then an equestrian staff member made her presence felt on the other side of me and she spoke quite in my face, firmly and compassionately. With Amanda and this woman and another staff woman, all of whom had First Aid training, I began to be able to respond. They had called an ambulance and to me, it seemed only seconds before two paramedics arrived and took control, carrying out tests including an ECG in the ambulance. The paramedics concluded I had a choice: either go to the hospital now with them or see a GP “TODAY”. I looked to my daughter, and we chose the GP.
God was smiling on me (thank you, Lord) because a) I had immediate help from Amanda (visiting from the city for the holidays) and equestrian staff when the incident occurred, followed by the speedy arrival of the paramedics; b) a GP appointment was available within the hour and the GP said she needed to check for brain bleed or mini-stroke. She organised an urgent brain scan; c) this scan was carried out within two hours, again only minutes from home; d) the GP phoned late in the afternoon to confirm, “your brain scan is clear,” (relief); e) more tests have been arranged and another GP appointment organised. I’m full of gratitude for this caring support.
I feel for my daughter who had a shock. I was ‘out to it’ but she was in the moment – she later said she didn’t know for a time if I were dead or alive. This was the first time she had been called upon to apply her First Aid training and in catching me, as I crumpled from the fence, she was amazed at how heavy an unconscious person can be. She followed her training by the book.
One moment I was soaking up the beautiful early morning sunshine, happy, doing what I wanted to do, and suddenly I was unconscious on the grass.
I figure there must be a lesson to learn from this experience! My four children, who seem much wiser than me, have been forthcoming with advice. My year’s aims have been remapped to include:
I am grateful to my children for being my cheer squad with this latest little hiccup, and for inspiring me through my greatest battles. They gave me strength when I faced and endured enormous mental health battles over several decades. My children were born to a mother who had a severe eating disorder, chronic anxiety, and depression. They had to grow up with a mother attempting recovery. Together with their dad, who has always been a rock in the turbulence, they all deserve a gold medal. I’m blessed to have their love. The inner turmoil and torment have been long quelled, and I am the most at peace within I’ve ever been.
In many respects, I am continuing to catch up on life, filling the gap the anorexia gnawed in my life over 44 years. However, yesterday’s ‘bombing out’ is a reminder that time is marching on. Every day is precious. No matter how busy the day might be, I always make time to reflect, write and debrief in my diary.
While lying in the ambulance, my mind was already penning an entry to my diary for the day. I thought, ‘The day will come when my diary ends, and that will be when my life ends.’
I don’t know when that final entry will come. Until then, every day is a gift, and every day I will continue to write entries in what is now a family diary. Words are my loyal, long-time friends. When something unexpected happens, like collapsing without warning on a perfectly beautiful day, writing helps me to put everything in perspective and move on.
When I’m gone, the words will live on, and this is a comforting thought. I encourage you to keep a diary, too. The benefits are many — for today and tomorrow.