On Tuesday which happened to be my birthday I awoke at 2:00 a.m. and observed the prospect of more sleep fading like the grin of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. I set aside my frustration and did my best to engage in my usual insomnia treatment – mindfulness meditation. I soon realized that I was suffering from anxiety about my appointment that morning at the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic. Part of it was fear my A-Fib would return. I did my best to practice a mantra I developed while at a circle at Callonish (a centre that provides emotional and spiritual support for people living with cancer. “It may come back, it may not come back, help me to surrender.”
Then I realized there was a larger anxiety. It concerned telling the cardiologist that I stopped taking my prescribed blood thinner. How did I explain my decision to ignore medical advice? I began taking the blood thinner called Xarelto after my initial diagnosis for two reasons. First it seemed clear there was a much higher risk of stroke from a blood clot if you have A-fib, second they would not do the procedure called cardioversion unless I took it. Cardioversion is a treatment where they shock your heart with an electrical impulse to restore the natural rhythm.
The procedure had worked perfectly for me and almost immediately I observed it felt counter-intuitive to keep taking the drug. My heart was functioning perfectly why did I need it? However my fear of countering medical authority was far greater than trusting my intuition so I carried on.
The Interpreter for the Divine Feminine
Then I woke to a lovely image of Missandei (the beautiful Nathalie Emmanuel) from the Game of Thrones with her arms wrapped around my neck. As I recalled the content, I suspected there was something important encoded by my unconscious into the dream.
The dream had begun with me sitting opposite Missandei and noticing how attracted I was to her. I also realized that I had no idea if my feelings were reciprocated. Then she was standing across from me and performing some kind of mystical enchantment with her hands that was directed at my heart. I knew she was trying to assess whether I was authentic – ‘the real thing”. I felt this glow of warn energy around my heart that expanded until it felt like a blissful golden ball. Then she moved and placed her arms around my neck. I knew she had decided in my favour. I exclaimed, “God I love you but will I get hurt?” Her response was gentle and clear, “I will not hurt you.”
The key to the dream I sensed was figuring out what archetype Missandei represented. I knew she must be an aspect of the divine feminine. It was when I recalled that she was Deanery’s’ interpreter that the meaning began to fall into place.
It was an “ah ha” moment. The interpreter of the divine feminine would be my intuition or inner compass as I have become fond of referring to it. One of the guiding principles of my life today is to follow my inner compass. (It was reclusive poet Emily Dickinson who in a poem observed, “The sailor doesn’t see the north but knows the needle can” that gave rise to the idea of an inner compass.
The Sign That Made The Difference
It was a powerful message to follow my intuition yet I still felt too scared to oppose medical advice. A couple of days later I shared my confusion with my dear friend and dream partner who asked me whether my body gave me any signs on how the drugs were effecting me. I replied that there were few side effects although it was a nuisance no longer being able to take anti-inflammatory products.
That evening to my surprise I glanced down at my left forearm to see a huge discoloured bruise. It was a huge shock! I appeared to be bleeding internally. However it seemed like a clear sign and gave me the courage to immediately stop taking the drug. (A nurse friend of mine told me later that it was probably seepage from the vein that had collapsed when the nurse was inserting an IV. The Xarelto had been doing its job to prevent clotting.)
Now two months later I had an appointment with the cardiologist. I realized I could tell him I was still taking the drug, or offer to start taking it again but both responses seemed inauthentic. As I walked to the clinic I asked for support in finding then words to handle this situation.
It is somewhat ironical to reflect that for many years I had been teaching decision-making at Inspire Health in Vancouver to help people feel more empowered when facing medical authority. I had even written a book titled Life’s Little Book for Big Decisions. Suddenly five years later I am experiencing this challenge in person.
Facing Fear and Staying in Integrity
My appointment went well. The ECG proved my heart was still in sinus rhythm. The nurse asked me about medication and I told her I had stopped. She asked if I knew it was recommended that people of my age stay on the drug to lower risk of stroke and I said “yes”. She did not question my decision. One down, one to go.
The cardiologist had been briefed by the nurse and brought the subject up immediately. He told me that A-Fib could return and the medical recommendation was clear that people of my age and diagnosis were more likely to suffer stroke if they did not take the medication. I told him that I was aware of that. “So why stop the medication?” he asked. The moment of truth had arrived.
The words flowed smoothly and easily like a gentle stream. “It concerns my worldview,” I observed.” Much as I respect the value of western medicine, I believe that healing is much more than just treating the symptom. It is about wholeness and I have done an immense amount of work on exploring what was behind my heart losing its rhythm.” (See https://wp.me/phAyS-CP for more on this) Then I shared with him my fear and apprehension, the power of the dream and the sign of the bleed in my arm that encouraged me to act.
The Joy of Empowerment
He was respectful and empathetic. He said they could work with me in the future if required and perhaps if there were a reoccurrence of my condition I could consider taking the drug again. I responded affirmatively saying I had kept my supply. He discharged me from the care of the clinic and we shook hands. I walked out into the sunshine feeling joyful and empowered. It felt like a wonderful birthday gift.