My past partner of five years and I were on a break from our relationship when the pandemic hit.
We had our issues, which are not worth nit-picking at and getting into. He’s a good man, and I just needed some time to myself to think, get back to my essence, and ground, which I did for about five months.
Then, in May of 2020, we decided to reconnect…with some ecstasy. I’m not one for party drugs or drugs in general, but we had dabbled previously and made the choice to engage that evening. Neither of us drank alcohol, so that wasn’t in the mix. I think I rolled a few joints; we listened to music and played cribbage.
He was a big guy with a fast metabolism so the effect of the drugs wore off at a faster rate than my body could, and he was ready for more. This is when things started to turn south, and looking back on it now, this is where I carry shame, guilt, and some other ill feelings I harbored toward myself for not listening to my gut.
But hey, this is all a part of the learning process.
I remember him weighing out some more for us, and I questioned out loud whether or not it was a “good idea” to take more just yet; it had only been a few hours since we first dosed. He insisted that we’d be fine, and although my initial intuitive response was “Eleanor, no,” I went ahead and joined him. We drank our orange juice, exchanged some words, and went back to playing cribbage on his bed.
Some 30 minutes went by, and I went from a lying down position to shooting straight up like a rocket out of his bed, struggling to breathe. I swear it felt like my left lung wasn’t inflating. The experience in my body was akin to what my family members who suffer from asthma would describe—suffocating slowly, like trying to breathe through a narrow straw.
Because the pandemic had entered the scene and Mister Fear was in full swing, I started to panic, thinking I was experiencing symptoms of the virus. My then partner reassured me, with a hint of annoyance at my reactiveness, that I was fine and I was overthinking it, that I needed to just calm down, drink some water, and chill.
But I seriously couldn’t breathe.
Not only did it feel like I was down a lung, but my heart was pounding and skipping beats, my skin was flushed, I was dizzy, and my brain felt broken, like it completely went to sh*t. I couldn’t make any logical sense of the words he was saying nor could I process my own thoughts. I tried explaining this in the moment, but that too was extremely difficult.
I felt crazy. I didn’t understand what was happening, and the fear that consumed me started to cloud my ability to act rationally.
The energy in the room went from calmness to chaos. I called upon a few breathing exercises my brother taught me, hoping that my body would stabilize, and I could feel normal again. But the breathing seemed to exacerbate my state of being, increase in dizziness, and my arms and mouth began to seize. At this point, I stood up.
Although unstable and walking like I had one too many drinks, I headed outside to get fresh air. My legs couldn’t hold my weight, and I immediately met the pavement. Curled up in a ball, I told my partner he needed to take me to the emergency room.
“No, we can’t go to the ER. We just took Molly (MDMA).”
Looking back at his response, I now understand how fear played a role in his lack of responsible action.
A whirlwind of emotions flooded my entire system. What was going on in my body? Why couldn’t I breathe? Was I just having a panic attack?
He helped me get to my feet and we went back inside the room to lay down, thinking this might help. Brain still not firing on all cylinders, lungs still unable to fully expand, and although the sympathetic nervous system was in full swing, my body was logging the entire experience. And I was scared. My partner, bless him now wherever he is, was completely annoyed with me, or at least that’s what I perceived.
My “overreaction” had ruined the high, and now it was time for bed.
Lights went out and to bed we went, and I was still actively engaged in rounds of box breathing (four count inhale, four count exhale with a pause at the top and bottom of the breath).
This is where things got dire.
I was getting tired and really wanted to sleep this off—whatever was going on in my body. However, as soon as I started to drift away from consciousness, I sat up, gasping for air. This happened over and over, each time feeling worse. It’s as though my lungs would not work unless I was consciously making an effort, literally telling myself to breathe. It’s as if the autonomic nervous system was failing.
Breathing, heart beating, digestion—so many functions of the body happened automatically and yet my lungs seemed like they were offline, not functioning on their own, or more like that part of my brain wasn’t firing.
I spoke this out loud and was yet again met with: “No, you’re overreacting, just go to sleep.”
But I couldn’t sleep.
I couldn’t breathe.
The left side of my chest started to feel extremely heavy, like a weight was crushing my left lung and my heart. When I closed my eyes and pictured that part of my body, all I saw was blackness, dense and immobile energy, mucky mud and sticky goo, like the cells and blood were dying.
This went on for a few hours—breathing, dozing off, gasping for air, and so on. Meanwhile, he slept, and I felt badly for ruining the evening, for periodically waking him up and causing irritation with my “overreactions.”
Around 5 a.m., I decided I had had enough.
My body was shaking wildly, and I still struggled to receive the fullness of the breath.
I drove myself to the ER, the entire way there barely feeling my hands on the steering wheel. My body felt light and tingly, and I wasn’t sure I would make it.
After I registered and got into a room, a nurse came in to take my blood and hook me up to oxygen. I was expecting the typical waiting routine because the ER is usually so busy (and this was all in my head…overreaction, right?).
Two nurses and a doctor came rushing into the room where I lay.
“Ma’am did you take anything this evening?”
Filled with beloved fear and shame, I lied and told them no, that I was just hanging out with my partner, that I had fasted all day and then engaged in deep breathwork, so maybe that’s what triggered this episode, that or I had the virus.
I was wrong.
My potassium levels were 2.7.
Potassium levels of 2.5 or lower, the brain and vital organs started to shut down.
Immediately, I was hooked up to an IV drip of potassium chloride, and for the next four and a half hours, I lay quietly in the cold, stale ER room, arm burning uncomfortably from the IV, still struggling to breathe.
At that moment, I was both relieved that I drove myself to the ER and listened to my instinct that something was wrong, and I was also angry with my partner who refused to drive me, and I had not heard from him since I left for the ER.
More than anything I was ashamed of myself for not following my gut from the beginning. That little voice inside told me “no more,” and I ignored her. That same little voice told me to go to the ER several hours before I finally did, and I initially ignored her too.
And here I am, writing about this now.
I feel incredibly grateful to be alive, although I still feel incomplete. Up until this point, I had been harboring these emotions within my physical body: the shame, guilt, resentment, anger, fear.
My body has been trying to get my attention since that happened. I still experience a heaviness on the left side of my chest, in my left lung and left side of my heart. I see the physical symptoms in a variety of ways that reflect to me the continued malfunction of these organs.
But I want to live. I love this life. I have a purpose—to be, and by simply being present, a living example of now-ness, which is where healing takes place, I can help guide others home into their sacred hearts.
We all have the ability to heal ourselves.
And acknowledging that this happened is part of my healing: I am actively forgiving myself. I am welcoming the gift of breath back into my soul and holding deep compassion for my heart.
At this moment, I choose to forgive and love myself for my past actions. I understand that every experience that has led up to this point in time in my life has served a purpose for the highest good, even when it might not appear as such.
In the midst of pain and sorrow, there is ease and joy. These essences are, I believe, two sides of the same coin. Both are necessary, and in fact, are created by me. In recognizing this truth, I am able to take full responsibility for my reality. I have the opportunity to look inward and consciously respond to the circumstances I’ve created.
The ball is in my court. The magic wand is in my hand. And although there is a greater Universal Consciousness supporting my existence, I believe, feel, and trust that my intentions, thoughts, and emotions make a significant impact on my life and ability to heal.
The healing force that runs through my veins, beats in my heart, and pumps air into my lungs is love.
And with that, I send love into the deepest parts of my seemingly fractured self and pray that I feel this love wholly so I may then send it out into the world tenfold.