Originally published at www.lisahoweler.com.
A month ago I died from a stress-induced heart attack during a bank robbery and it made me think a lot about the changes I’ve been saying I would make to improve my health but hadn’t.
Let me clarify: my son is currently being homeschooled and our local homeschool group offered a Criminal Justice course that involved a mock crime and trial. During the commission of the mock crime I was tagged to tragically die of a stress-induced heart attack, since the robber was holding a note that said her cell phone was a bomb. I actually volunteered to be the one to die. Why? I have no idea but I almost immediately regretted it because first, I am not an actor and second, because ironically one of my biggest fears is dying of a heart attack.
My son called my acting the worst he has ever seen, which really isn’t fair since he’s too young to remember Beverly Hills 90210.
“I was so embarrassed,” he told me on the way home that day. “You were just laying there on the floor. And everyone was staring at you. It was weird.”
In my defense, I had no idea the instructor was going to record the whole thing and the students were going to watch it several times in class.
And he was right. It was weird. To say the moment was an internally sobering moment for me is an understatement. At the end of December it will be a year since my aunt died in the floor of my parent’s dining room, from what we all suspect was her third, maybe fourth, heart attack. Laying there I tried not to think about how my mom said she had tumbled forward out of the chair and then just laid motionless on the floor. Mom said she knew she was gone even before she fell from the chair.
Outwardly everyone, including me, joked that day as I laid on the floor with children ages 10 to 17 looking at me and giggling, some commenting if I moved or breathed: “The body is moving!”
I had to get up in the middle of it all to use the bathroom because I had no idea I would be laying there for an hour and a half and had guzzled quite a bit of water before the class.
“It’s a miracle!” one of the students said and quoted the Bible “Lazurus, come forth.”
We all laughed some more.
My own child nudged me with his foot to see if I was “really dead”. Luckily the instructor corrected him and showed him that the proper procedure is to check for a pulse by placing two fingers on the neck. A number was placed by my body to mark me as evidence and photos were taken of my body.
For the next couple of classes, I listened to myself being referred to as deceased and while I was not offended and knew the reference was for the sake of the class, it did make me think about where I am healthwise and where I want to be. I’m not a horrible eater, which I know is something all overweight people say, but it’s true. I don’t eat donuts, cakes, cookies, fast food, or even bread. I stopped eating bread and sugar almost six years ago and that first time I lost 30 pounds on a semi-low carb “diet” (though it was more of a lifestyle change). Over time, though, I added in small amounts of bread or wheat products, almost always having reactions afterward – aching joints, heartburn, brain fog. Then I added more and more sugar, always saying it was only a little and it couldn’t hurt me much.
Then there was a piece of candy here, some ice cream there. I have a corn allergy, which is good in some ways because it requires me to cut out almost all processed food but as long as something didn’t have corn it, I felt like it was safe to have it, ignoring the fact that the sugar was hurting me as much in the long run as the corn allergy would.
“You’re alive!” one of the other mom’s said when she saw me in a store a week or so after my “untimely death.”
And it was true, I was still technically alive but there are so many days I’ve felt as if I am slowly dying. The day the class was held my muscles ached like I had been running a marathon. I laid on the floor for an hour and a half and I didn’t even want to move to get up because I hurt so bad. My legs and arms have often felt heavy, like there are lead weights on them and my brain feels stuffed with cotton almost every day.
I’ve worried about an autoimmune disease, or two, being the cause of my issues, or maybe it is perimenopause, because I’m in that age range now, but then, when I stopped and really looked at what I was eating, I realized I was sneaking more wheat and sugar than I realized. Additionally, an over-consumption of dairy wasn’t helping either, so even if I do have an autoimmune issue, I’m not helping it with my “not-as-bad-as-it-could-be-diet”.
So in the last few weeks since I “died” I’ve started shaving the things out of my diet that I know are issues for me – sugar (which is an issue for anyone), wheat and dairy. The wheat isn’t difficult because I’d already eliminated that and ate it very rarely in the past six years. The dairy is somewhat easy, though I had found myself reaching for it as a snack during the day when I didn’t have time to cook a real meal and as comfort food in the evening by adding a natural chocolate syrup or molasses to a glass of it and warming it up.
The sugar? Now, that will be a real problem because I’m always reaching for that when I feel down, tired, happy, sad, weak, strong – well, you get the idea. It’s a serious addiction, but one I overcame once before so know I can do it again.
When I told the instructor how his mock crime and trial had me thinking about how far my health has slipped, I thought he might just laugh and shake his head, but instead he said “Sometimes that’s a God thing.” Since all of this came at the same time I felt God leading me to walk away from Facebook, comparing myself to others, and relying on social media for validation, I think he may be right.
Lisa R. Howeler’s main blog, where she rambles about photography, motherhood, faith and life in rural Pennsylvania, can be found at Boondock Ramblings or www.lisahoweler.com
You can also find her photography at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler.