I’ve been thinking a lot about fate lately. It’s hard, because I can’t imagine a world where something like an untimely death is “destined to be.” Yet, at the same time, I feel like fate is the exact word to explain how Emily and I met to begin with.
You see, Emily and I ended up sitting next to each other in group therapy in August, 2018. It wasn’t a glamourous meeting, nor was it one of those stories people make movies about. Honestly, though? I don’t care, because it’s our story, and I absolutely love it.
However, the reason we met has a backstory… and the gist of it is that 2017 sucked.
Emily’s Year of Heart Problems
For better or worse, 2017 was the year Emily went from being a fairly typical college student to “the transplant kid.” Although I knew from fairly early on in our friendship that this label wasn’t her favorite part of her identity, I also know that it’s a very prolific chapter in her story.
Emily told me she always wondered why she couldn’t run as fast as her peers or why she often felt short of breath and tired when she danced or exercised, but she always chalked it up to her small stature and lack of endurance. However, as she went through a physical exam as part of the candidacy process to become a UMC minister, she learned that these issues had nothing to do with her size or the shape she was in — it had to do with her heart.
Throw in some trips to see cardiologists and multiple rounds of tests, and Emily learned that she had a congenital heart defect — a bicuspid aortic valve. She had surgery and was told everything would be great, but it became apparent within a few months that it wasn’t. In the fall, Emily had a heart attack and was put on the transplant list.
She spent six weeks on the transplant list before receiving the call on December 23, just before Christmas. Although the surgery was a success, and she recovered quickly, I know that the stress and trauma of everything really took its toll on Emily’s mental health.
Megan’s Year of Heartache
Meanwhile, in the very same town, I was dealing with my own issues. 2016 wasn’t a great year for my marriage to say the least. Then, I found out I was pregnant in January. A happy accident, but it made my heart soar nonetheless. Unfortunately, I lost the pregnancy right around the eight-week mark.
In the months that followed, I lost myself completely. I spiraled into the worst depressive episode I’d experienced since high school. I had a hard time focusing on work. I felt like a failure as a mother and a wife. And, despite the heartache of this loss affecting both my then-husband and I, it seemed to drive an even bigger wedge into our relationship.
By the fall, I hit rock bottom. I enjoyed a “fun” ride to the emergency room in the back of a police vehicle. I went in and out of the psychiatric hospital three times between September and January. As I prepared to discharge from an intensive outpatient program, the next step of my journey was staring me in the face: dialectical behavior therapy.
The Stars Aligned
In January of 2018, I started attending weekly therapy sessions and going to a weekly dialectical behavior therapy group. If you aren’t familiar with DBT, it’s a very regimented therapeutic modality consisting of four modules. It takes around six months to work through all of them, and most people go through the cycle twice before moving on to an advanced group or a lower level of care.
So, as I started my second round of DBT groups in August, several new people entered the group. One of those people was a sweet, albeit quiet, woman finishing her bachelor’s degree at MTSU after having a heart transplant the previous December — her name was Emily.
To be honest, I was shocked that Emily sat near me, let alone talked to me. She seemed so warm, charming, and kind. Meanwhile, I felt like a hot mess of a 30-year-old whose life was falling apart. According to Emily, I still seemed less weird than everyone else in the room, which is why she sat next to me.
Looking back, it’s incredible to think about how many things had to happen at just the right time in each of our lives for Emily and I to end up in that same room in August of 2018. Yes, a lot of it was painful and traumatic for us both, but I think, in a weird sort of way, the fact that we were both going through our own stuff helped us connect in a unique way.
I realize that believing in fate is often taboo. But, honestly, I can’t think of another way to explain how a 22-year old and a 31-year-old who otherwise would have never crossed paths ended up becoming friends and, eventually, lovers planning to spend the rest of their lives together.
Because Emily and I both had a terrible 2017, we got to meet. And for that? I will be forever thankful.
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