By Shemeka Michelle
Last month, one of my best friends was diagnosed with Stress Cardiomyopathy, aka Broken Heart Syndrome. Hearing that her heart was failing was puzzling to me, to say the least.
Last week we lost a family friend suddenly to what has been assumed to be a heart attack. She was only 50-years-old, and had no real medical problems. I don’t like funerals and I skipped the services.
But thinking about the death of this woman who was so young, I couldn’t help but think that could’ve been me. I was reminded of my own incident of being connected to machines as doctors monitored my heart in the emergency room. I had been volunteering at my kids’ school and initially, I felt fine.
Although I was under a tremendous amount of stress in my marriage, that particular day, I felt unbothered. All of a sudden, I experienced shortness of breath, had very faint feelings of chest pains and I felt flushed. I ended up in the E.R.
While I’m not likening either of the two ladies’ lives to what I was dealing with at the time, the fact that we all have daughters of the same age (one of those daughters is now motherless), saddens me.
The truth is, as women, we take on so many responsibilities of trying to live up to society’s standards that sometimes we don’t realize the internal effect that is taking place in our own bodies.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S affecting 1 in 4 people. On a whole, it affects more men than women. However, Black women are often at a higher risk than white women.
Many times there are obvious reasons such as diagnosed high blood pressure and obesity. However there is another factor that we tend to ignore and that is stress. According to the American Heart Association: “More research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart disease — the leading killer of Americans. But stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating. Some people may choose to drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes to “manage” their chronic stress; however these habits can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls.”
Although women have been told repeatedly how important it is to make time for ourselves, many times there is still guilt attached to putting us first. It’s hard for many women to accept that it is okay to take time on a CONSISTENT basis away from kids, work and spouses to tend and nurture ourselves.
When children are sick, it’s normally the mom that provides the care. When adult siblings have aging or sick parents, it’s normally the female sibling that provides the most care. Imagine if she’s a working woman with kids of her own who is also taking care of her elderly parent. It is important that she has time for herself and a support team in place who also believes this is necessary.
Lady, you are only one person. It’s important that you begin to love and nurture yourself just as you do others. You have to believe that you deserve it and are worthy of regular rest and relaxation. It’s important that we stop lying to ourselves first and foremost. There is no way we can really be okay if we allow everyone and everything to make withdrawals from us but make no deposits. The death of a woman so young has really shaken me. We only have one life; one body. Take care of yourself now. If we constantly take ourselves for granted, we should not be surprised when others do it. We teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.
RIP Angie. Your smile will never be forgotten.
About Shemeka Michelle: I was that chick. Gave it all up, all of it. I put all my eggs in one basket. Didn’t have a Plan B ‘cause I believed in Plan A. Then one day, all of it came to an end. All I could do was take it. I’m a survivor with three kids and I HAD to make it! So instead of dying from pain and hiding in shame, I’ve decided to get NAKED. www.nakedgirlzblog.com
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