Blogger: Peter Dunn – “The Cynical Dreamer”
For me, it started as just another day. Just another day that I had allowed myself to work myself into overdrive, and to not pay attention to any signs that my body was, simply, tired.
I remember waking up from a one-hour power nap that day (and by power hour nap, I mean that was actually all the sleep I’d had that day), and me telling myself it was ok, cause obviously, I was fine. I remember feeling starved and a little light-headed. But I was headed to a friend’s birthday where I could order a fabulous dinner, and that all I had to do was make it there.
Y’all, that is NEVER a normal response or thought process. It should never once cross your mind “if I can make it there”, but that’s what my brain was teaching me at the time.
I was the most exhausted I’d been in a long time, yet my biggest fear was still how tired everyone else was.
I got into a cab on the UWS, and started making my way downtown to dinner. Around Lincoln Center, something felt, not right. The degree of pain and anxiety that I suddenly started feeling, told me something was wrong. As we drove past the Met and the tightness on the right side of my body sent another wave of warning, I knew something was up. Luckily, the fact that I’m a psychopath and hypochondriac made me think to google “early steps of a heart attack”.
Lesson #1: ALWAYS trust your instincts, especially in medical situations.
So, I did that, and everything I read was exactly what I was feeling. I then called my mother. That will always be what felt like one of the best and worst decisions of my entire life. My mom answered and I immediately said: “I think I’m having a heart attack”. My mama after a couple “what?!”’s instructed me to have the cab go to the nearest hospital, which I was already doing, and stayed on the phone with me the entire time.
I’m realizing now in starting this article that I don’t even know how to properly describe this experience:
- The pain went from 100% to 300%
- The tightness and the constriction that I was feeling in my chest went from extremely painful, to this is the worst and the scariest thing I’ve ever felt.
- My ability to monitor my breathing became a game that I never thought would be a game. I don’t curse in front of or around my mother, but the only word I could find to use to monitor and count my breaths was “fuck”.
- I now know the stream of consciousness thoughts that you have when you think you are dying. My brain was all over the place, but the largest, most overbearing thought, was “I can’t believe I called my mother and she’s going to hear her son die over the phone with her.” I felt selfish. I felt terrible. I felt like anything I had done as a son leading up to that moment, didn’t matter cause this was my defining one, this phone call.
As my cab pulled up in front of the hospital, I was pretty incoherent. However, I will always remember that the fare was $24 and I only had a $50 bill, and as opposed to giving me my change, he looked back at me and told me to get out of the car. I will rightfully argue anything, but the fact that I was worried about dying kept me from that one, and I still to this day am pissed that I didn’t get to give that man a piece of my mind, along with my change.
I stumbled out and made my way to the entrance, only to realize that he had dropped me off in front of a building that was literally closed. A single security guard sat behind the front desk twirling in circles. He looked at me, aggressively signed Closed and continued twirling. It was also a Friday night in NYC at like 9:30pm. I’m sure I just looked like someone who had drunk too much or done too many drugs. The following is why I say, even if you don’t believe in God or something, you should believe in something bigger than us: As I banged on the glass and this security guard enjoyed his carousel chair, out of nowhere every ounce of pain, tightness, and insanity that was going through my mind and soul left for a minute. I was able to focus on everything: what a beautiful night it was. How full and illuminating the moon was. How it lit the clouds from behind. How I could see a single star. How beautifully still the city was in that moment, and on that block, where no people were, how much I enjoyed and craved silence, even though I wished just one person would pass who would help me. What’s crazy (and probably describes me accurately as a person more than anything) is that when that happened, for a second my dumbass thought “oh I should just go to Jessie’s party now”, but after a second thought I realized, nope. Anyway, I was able to ground myself and locate the Emergency Room entrance and make that block and a half walk in the clear, feeling as if I was honestly walking on clouds or something. As I was a couple of feet away, everything went from 0% directly back to that 300%, and I staggered into that emergency room feeling as if I was breathing my final breaths.
Walking into a NYC emergency room on a Friday night is an experience I wish on no one. You’re walking into an ER full of drunks or druggies and everyone’s assuming you are the same. I was told I was having a panic attack for the first 2.5 minutes (which felt like 2.5 years), and told to fill out paperwork when I had no control over the entire left side of the body (I’m a leftie. Cmon team lefties!)
Turns out I had indeed had a heart attack. What’s positive is that nothing is wrong with my actual heart. I had just lived my life to such an extreme state of exhaustion and not properly taken care of myself, that my body was in such an extreme state of stress that it had caused inflammation around my heart, that constricted blood flowing through the pulmonary veins to the heart, and my lil, loving, pretty wonderful heart, was losing the ability to do what it was born to do: beat.
There are so many things I can say about this overall experience. But there are two that I think are most important, and that I most want to draw attention to:
- Listen to your body. If you feel tired, if you feel run down, if you feel dehydrated, if you feel hungry, YOU. ARE. Listen to your body. You have one, and it deserves you to treat it like the temple that it is. I’m still fighting that fight, sometimes every day, but I don’t think anyone else deserves to. Listen to your body.
- Your heart is a muscle. I think about the heart in ways that I don’t think most do anymore. I think about it emotionally and spiritually. But I also just think about it as a physical, beating, organ. Cause I’ve felt what happens when it stops beating. I’ve seen it exist as just an organ. And I’ve known when it’s then transcended to something bigger. I’ve seen someone die from a broken heart, and I’ve felt someone almost die from an overworked one. Take care of yourselves. You are important but you are not invincible.
Feel, live, love, beat. But love the thing that gives you the ability to love. Xx
Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorkers, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.
His professional passions include: film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and all around storytelling
His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).
His current loves are his dog, Domino, a whiskey neat, and in case you didn’t know, his mother is the greatest human being on earth❤