It's been almost 6 years now since I had my heart transplant. Today, while I was putting together my daily regiment of assorted medications (anti-rejections, blood pressure...) I tried very hard to remember what it was like before I had to take all of these.
I couldn't do it.
They have become such a natural part of my life that going without them seems almost foreign to me. Yet, every day that passes, I find myself further and further from that fateful episode. To look at me, you would have no idea that I had a transplant, much less a heart attack or stroke. The only long-term damage that I deal with is that I no longer have the short-term memory I once had. But many men at 45 (and I women, I suppose) have the same trouble. Even though I still have some numbness in my left side, I no longer have a significant limp and my scars are the only true reminders I have left (along with my memories).
Does this mean I'm passed it? For a long time after my transplant, my illness characterized who I was. "Oh, he's the guy who has the new heart," or more often I would see the shock or amazement in their faces from either pity, surprise or a look of "thank G-d it's not me." But it defined who I am in a way that my career, my family and everything else in life couldn't.
As I begin a new chapter in my life - going from a married man to now just a short time away from my divorce being final - I'm starting to wonder again who I am. I don't feel broken and I don't feel like I'm the "guy with the new heart." The question is, how do other people define me? I would like to be thought of as just a sweet guy who overcame adversity and got better. But deep down, I wonder if I try too hard to show I've overcome it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm happier today than probably any time in my life. I no longer question why I went through what I did. I simply accept that it happened to me. Although I'm very lonely (aside from spending time with my children), I don't want to become desperate and I hope that I don't come across that way.
But I also "feel" more than most people and I wear my heart on my sleeve (no pun intended). So I generally take things to heart and am more sensitive to rejection than most people I know. It really isn't easy being me and there are many times I wish I could completely change.
But what I truly believe is that I didn't survive all that I went through just so I could live the rest of my life lonely and sad. That really was the way I lived for many years before my illness. But when I looked at my medications all lined up today, it was hard to see the optimism. I guess that's the reason I still write my blog - to help me not to define who I am, but to overcome who I was.
Does that make sense?