Do you know what it’s like to live in fear?

To feel like you are one heartbeat away from disaster? To feel like you are only safe in that tiny space between breaths?

This is what happened after I lost consciousness: A doctor came and determined that I was fine. The nurse had injected a mixture of drugs, one of which I was apparently oversensitive to. She didn’t know that; I didn’t know that. There was nothing to do but wait for the drug to clear the bloodstream. I just needed to sleep it off.

Totally anticlimactic. Which was totally fine with me.

I recount this matter-of-factly because that’s how it was told to me. When the drugs wore off, I woke up. Somewhere along the way, my heart had converted to normal rhythm. Even my headache was gone.

See, nothing happened.

That was what they told me — and I liked that version. I repeated it to everyone around me, whoever asked, over and over. I repeated it to myself over and over, too. It felt very scary but nothing bad really happened. It was the same thing I kept telling myself with each cardiac episode: It’s not life-threatening. It feels scary but nothing bad is really happening. Always grasping on to the same hope: Everything is under control.

I was lying to myself and I knew it. It was scary. The scary part wasn’t the heart thing, and the scary part wasn’t the drugs. The scary part was the vulnerability. The scary part was that no one in the whole world knew what they were doing. The scary part was that anything could change at any moment.

That’s how I was living. Like I couldn’t even depend on the beat of my own heart.

On Succos, my sister-in-law Mindy hovered in the kitchen as I plated desserts. “Wow, how long did it take you to make that?”

“Oh, you know, not too long.” As long as I needed it to. The more time I spent concentrating on perfectly puddled sauces, the less time I could spend counting my pulse.

“I serve store-bought ice cream in plastic cups and call it fancy if the kids demand sprinkles.”

I hate it when people pretend to be superwomen — it gives everyone else a complex for no reason — but now there was no other game more important to me to play.

“It was nothing, seriously.” I could even read an EKG. Deconstructed strawberry shortcake was a joke. Seriously.

“And you work. I don’t know how you do it… it takes me hours just to get everyone dressed in the morning.”

I manufactured a chuckle. “Totally.” I get everyone dressed the minute I wake up. Just in case.

Mindy sighed happily. “I’m so happy you invited us. It’s so fun to be here.”

“Aw, thanks. You know we love having you.” My husband thought I should take it easy, but if we didn’t have guests to keep me extra super busy, I would have lost my mind.  

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 575)