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Emails to my Therapist

Sadness In Disguise (TMI alert)

Dear Nicholas, I had no idea I was storing up a couple of years of emotion. I thought I was reacting to Husband Bob’s illnesses and heart crises in a fairly calm and competent manner. Certainly I was doing the best I could. Then after a strange course of events I discovered the pent-up emotion, the long tension, the sadness in disguise.

A Long-Awaited Visit

Three weeks ago on a Monday afternoon we came home from an appointment with Bob’s cardiologist. I’d been pinning a lot of hope on this meeting, for finding out why his heartbeat has had episodes of sputtering that are frightening and dangerous. After many ER visits, the reason was still a mystery.

Mixed Message

I did get some hope from the meeting: the doctor came up with a new strategy for identifying the problem. Hurrah! The sun shone!

He also said, “This is a challenge….I can’t fix everything.”

A mixed message. I mainly paid attention to the positive one: a plan to find a solution.

The Physical Siege

But within an hour of arriving home, I was suddenly immensely tired. And then in short order began a barrage of physical troubles. A baker’s dozen of them, coming and going. Feel free to skip this list:

blurry vision

double vision

drooping eyelid

various aches

 bloated stomach

difficulty doing familiar tasks online

huge fatigue 

muscle weakness



bad balance

flushes of heat

disorientation in darkness

I’ve felt so healthy for so long and suddenly I was twenty years older, holding onto furniture to keep my balance. And weirdly, stupidly, I felt ashamed to be in such a state. (I think I suspected I’d done this to myself.)

“You Need To See Someone”

You might think I’d have gone straight to a doctor. But these problems came and went in turn for a week so I kept thinking the siege was over. Then a doc I was speaking with on another matter said I’d better see my family doctor, that it could be a TIA, a tiny stroke that leaves no damage.

So on a day when, predictably, I was feeling perfectly fine, I did see my PCP, who rolled her eyes at my not having come sooner and said, “It could be a small stroke, or a thyroid problem, or myasthenia.” Myasthenia?  Of these, a small stroke seemed the preferable.

My Old Brain

She ordered a brain MRI, which happened that night. Report: normal 75 year-old brain. No stroke.  I was relieved, though would have preferred hearing that mine could be the brain of a 25 year-old. Or maybe 50?

Blood tests also looked normal. Symptoms disappeared.

A few days later, I was making a routine drive on Ten-Ten Road and I caught some of the words of a song on the radio, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” and erupted in tears that lasted for the thirteen miles home and longer– two years worth.

When The Dam Breaks…

A few hours later: euphoria. Lightness!

I hadn’t realized the weight I’d been carrying, now gone.

And now I’m my usual every-day self again, except far more aware of every nuance of my own feeling and of the sadness that everyone carries.

In the meantime, Bob has steadily been feeling pretty good. He has a tremendous ability to live in the moment. Nothing’s wrong right now. So what’s to worry about?

Wrung-out and, at least temporarily, a bit wiser,



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  • May 24, 2024 at 7:15 pm Reply

    Bless you, dear Peggy! What a mind- and body-wracking ride of symptoms and worries! No wonder you finally broke down and wept. Keep listening to your body and your spirit, as I feel assured you intend to do without my or anyone else’s telling you. You are a good, strong, kind person.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 24, 2024 at 9:51 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for these kind words, Morris! And I’m doing what I can to listen better now.

  • Ann B Hammon
    May 24, 2024 at 7:19 pm Reply

    I wish I could cry and finally mourn my husband who died ten years ago. Tears ran down my face then, but not the weighty gut-shaking sorrow I still carry. I root for your Bob, but have known that fear. Be well.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 24, 2024 at 9:49 pm Reply

      Ten years! I do wish you some relief from the weight of sorrow that you describe so well. And thanks for rooting for Bob! I believe in the power of such messages.

  • Tam
    May 24, 2024 at 7:20 pm Reply

    Such a great walk through your stresses . . sorry you and Bob have to go through this . . but it feels good that you are able to talk it out!! Puts out hope for all of us!! Big hugs and much love to both of you!!!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 24, 2024 at 9:45 pm Reply

      Thanks. It’s amazing what a relief it is to write stuff down, Tam. Does photography function in that way for you?

  • Mary Lambeth Moore
    May 24, 2024 at 8:27 pm Reply

    Peggy, I’m deeply moved by this post. I’m so sorry for what you and Bob have gone through, and it makes sense to me that you were carrying a boatload of feelings without realizing it. This is a great testament to the healing power of tears. So glad you and Bob are in a good place now! Best wishes to you both, and now I’m wishing for a good cry. 🙂

    • Peggy Payne
      May 24, 2024 at 9:44 pm Reply

      Thanks, Mary. A good cry can be hard to come by, for many of us. Certainly for me. What most often stirs me to tears is anger, which is frustrating but probably has kept me from doing some verbal damage. And BTW, did you and Bill watch the Neanderthal series?

  • Brent Bill
    May 24, 2024 at 9:07 pm Reply

    Thanks for the honest sharing. It helped remind me to take care of myself while Nancy is in in-home hospice and I’m doing most of the care-giving.

    Be well, dear friend!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 24, 2024 at 9:36 pm Reply

      Oh, Brent, you have such a difficult challenge. Please do take care of yourself. I think of you.

  • Gail
    May 24, 2024 at 11:45 pm Reply

    As I wait for my surgery to remove a kidney that has a cancerous mass, I’ve been positive and pretty upbeat. I keep wondering when the tears will hit. I’ve only cried once for a few minutes. I’m guessing I’ll get through the process and then fall apart. I won’t mind falling apart since it’s healthily to be scared and worried.
    Hope you and your love have many days to laugh and cry.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 25, 2024 at 12:54 am Reply

      Gail, I’m sorry you and your love are having to go through this. I’m betting you’re going to come through it fine. I hope so! Sending healing vibes…

  • Polley Maltese
    May 25, 2024 at 4:14 pm Reply

    I recognize myself in nearly every word of this post. I will keep your brave eloquence close to my heart as my dear husband and I navigate his journey with heart disease and Parkinson’s. Thank you.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 25, 2024 at 7:39 pm Reply

      Polly, your response here means a lot to me. I do wish you and your husband well in all you’re going through. Heart disease and Parkinson’s both–too much!

  • May 26, 2024 at 5:25 am Reply

    I’m so pleased that you found out what was causing all those symptoms. Maybe now that you know, you can control future problems in a more satisfying way. I certainly hope so!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 26, 2024 at 2:22 pm Reply

      Thanks, Judy. I hope you’re doing as well as can be.

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