10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me - #5 Healing takes as long mentally as physically

10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me - #5 Healing takes as long mentally as physically
Healing takes as long mentally as physically and maybe longer. Take your time. 

There is pressure, when you have had a life altering health crisis, to try to heal as quickly as possible so life can "get back to normal" . You will likely strive for that goal as much as external forces will suggest that is the best route to go.

But I am here to tell you that normal will no longer exist for you. You will question everything in your world -- every situation, every belief, every choice you have ever made. 

The world will feel full of quick sand -- traps seeking to swallow you up, clogging down your steps forward and you may find yourself struggling to make even the simplest of decisions. 

You may question why your body abandoned you......why it betrayed you by getting sick. 

But the harshest of realizations is that you abandoned your body a long time ago. Every indecision and status quo situation lead you to this moment.

You will sit in your disbelief, your grief and your anger for a while ....and there will be more pressure (from inside you and from outside of you) to get back to normal.....but emotionally you won't be ready.

Your body, amazing creation that it is, will remarkably heal -- often without a lot of effort by you -- sleep is your friend. But your emotions will stay rattled, volatile and petulant for a lot longer than your body stays broken. Fractured emotions are the angry child demanding attention -- and I am here to say that you need to give them the attention they tantrum for.

There won't be any "back to normal" but there can be "new and improved" if you heal your emotions alongside of your body. 

Grieving is an amazing process, full of surprising shifts, sudden dam breaks, and a long time quietness that people will question. Don't rush it.   The healing is worth the time and effort. 

Take whatever time you need.

If you liked this blog post and want to get notified when more are ready....click the subscribe button below!


10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me - #4 Sometimes Shit Happens

10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me - #4 Sometimes Shit Happens
#4--Sometimes shit happens for no good reason.  Sometimes it is to teach you a lesson you are resistant to learning.

 It really was hard to accept the second heart attack. After all, I had done ALL THE THINGS -- modern pharmaceutical, western medicine. Holistic medicine. Accupuncture. Weight Loss. Exercise. Stress reduction. I was the model patient regardless of modality.

The ONE question I demanded from my Cardiologist was "WHY"? How could I work to never have this happen again if I didn't understand why this happened. She looked over my labs from days before the attack, and my labs at that moment. She looked at me and said "Shit house bad luck is all". 

What the HELL was I supposed to do with that. If my second, more severe heart attack was caused by bad luck, how could I ever prepare to not have another? It made me angry. I cried a LOT those first couple of days. Was it really that my life was held in the balance of bad luck? 

Over the course of the months that followed, i realized that this was my lesson to learn. Sometimes there is no reason, and that means there is no physical way to prepare for it. 

There is however a spiritual way to prepare for the idea that something so massive could be so random. 

Coming to peace with life and death. Now that might sound silly or magnificent, esoteric or numbing. But really it is about becoming ok that life, my life, was time limited but there was NO way to know when. 

Interestingly I have been working hard at releasing trying to control outcomes in my physical life and this bad luck forced me to realize that releasing the outcome meant I could NOT control the timing of my passing. So my spiritual practice has focused on still setting goals but using those goals to become the person I would be should those goals come to fruition. Because I cannot control whether they do or not. 

Oh sure, I can work towards the goals but I cannot ensure they happen. I can only strive for them. BUT if I become the person I would be should they materialize then I am, at least, evolving myself. 

I was so angry at that Cardiologist for her vague answer. But it made me realize that there is a limit to what healing any modality can bring. None of them could help me create the mindset I need to get up everyday in spite of possibly being on the cusp of another attack and live my life like it doesn't matter what happens. 

I am about 80%, no maybe 90%, successful in focusing on life...and joke that if Death wants me he will have to come find me. But living with this knowledge does make each sunrise more precious, each visit with friends or family sweeter. It makes sunlight feel warmer and snow feel colder. 

Having the knowledge of the shortness of life does make me grateful for all the time I have. I don't think I have ever been more appreciative of the privileges I have and of the place where I live. 

While it sharpens my senses, it also blunts my reactionary tendencies. Mostly, I am content to observe and take it all in. Action doesn't seem as important -- and maybe, as time goes on, that will change. But for now I am happy to watch the world unfold and revel in the beauty. I choose to avoid the ugliness out there and surround myself with nature. 

Releasing the outcome of life is the goal....because it is inevitable. That is such a big lesson and a work in progress. It doesn't matter if i am successful at it. Only that I try.

If you liked this blog post and want to get notified when more are ready....click the subscribe button below!


10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me -- #3 Treating Your Body Well Isn't Expensive

10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me -- #3 Treating Your Body Well Isn't Expensive
I often hear, when I talk to someone about wellness practices like good nutrition, supplementation, exercise or meditation oils that those things are too "expensive".

Number three on my list of Ten Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me is If you think treating your body well, giving it the nutrition it needs, the rest it needs, the peace it needs, the time away from work it needs is expensive  — you need to know that none of that is as expensive as a clot buster med and 4 minutes of CPR (and that’s if you are lucky)

My second heart attack was not they quiet retiring type that my first one was - heck I didn't even believe the doctors the first time and asked them to make sure the lab hadn't made a mistake and someone else's blood test was showing a Troponin of 35000 (it should be zero). 

No, my second one was a huge boxer of a heart attack and once I arrived at the hospital there was absolutely NO question what was going on. Luckily there is a miraculous clot busting drug they give you to get rid of the blockage that is making your heart die. This medication has a 50% chance of putting you into full cardiac arrest -- and because everyone knows this, the medical team was waiting and ready for it. 

I woke up 4 minutes later not realizing that I had been having CPR for all that time....but my chest would remind me of that for three months as it healed from the compressions. (and before you ask - No I didn't see a white light, a tunnel, or anyone waiting for me while I was gone).

My point is this. That medication is about $5000 a dose. The cost of the at least 10 people in the trauma bay with me is significantly more than that. The cost to me -- well because I survived it --  was another year of recovery, several months being very difficult mentally as well as physically and the realization I could never/should never return to the work that put me here in the first place. 

Had I died during this time, the cost to my family would have been measured in decades. 

If you think taking time and effort now to focus on your health, doing what ever you can to reduce and mitigate the chronic stress you are under, putting down your work phone and being present for your family, and feeding both your body and mind with the most nutritious things, is too costly, then you really are on a trajectory to disaster. 

Start by being honest with yourself about how much time, both mental and physical, that you actually devote to what is stressing you out? Do you think about it often when you are at home? Do you go to sleep and wake up thinking about what you need to do? How many times does thinking about this issue interrupt a family meal,  an evening out, a weekend of rest and recovery by sabotaging your mood and your attention?

How many times have you said "things will be better once i get this [insert excuse here] done?"

Nothing you do to improve your health and well-being is ever as expensive as giving up on feeling better.

You are worth more than all of it.

If you liked this blog post and want to get notified when more are ready....click the subscribe button below!


10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me - #2

10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me - #2
Stress accumulates in your body and stress kills. 

When the docs told me my first heart attack was 100% stress related, I thought "Ok, I need to reduce the stress in my life and learn to recognize it earlier" What I didn't realize is that while I was deflecting current stress from my life, I still had 20+ years of stress stored up. 

According to Kerstin L. McSteen, (BSN, MSN, ACHPN, CNS-BC) at the Oncology Nurse Advisor blog stress accumulation goes through three phases (and is SUPER common amongst professions in healthcare) . There are early warning, mild and ingrained symptoms that we can look to no matter what phase we are in.  (https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/home/the-total-nurse/cumulative-stress/)

Early warning signs include: apathy, depression, emotional fatigue and vague anxiety. When I look back on my experience emotional fatigue often came in the form of random crying, mostly frustrated crying (not sad), and very often at the end of the day. 

Mild symptoms can include frequent headaches, colds, and stomach problems, Intensified physical and emotional fatigue, intensifying depression, irritability, more frequent loss of emotional control, Muscle aches, Sleep disturbances, withdrawal from contact with others. 

I call this phase my "peopled out" phase. I could hardly bear to be around anyone outside of work and would retreat to our farm to sit in the yard in total quiet. I couldn't listen to the radio, to music or podcasts. They all seemed so intrusive and I had no mental bandwidth to support listening. I found that repeated watching of movies however was more of a relaxant. I didn't have to think about the plot or the characters, I could just float along inside the story. 

The ingrained symptoms start to become ominous and I am lucky that I didn't have all of them. While elevated blood pressure was an issue, it had been an issue for me for decades and I was well managed pharmaceutically.  

General physical and emotional fatigue had been a way of life in healthcare work due to the relentless demands but Increased smoking (I have never smoked). Intense depression, intense irritability, loss of sexual desire, migraine headaches, poor appetite, relationship problems, skin rashes, ulcers, use of nonprescription drugs or increased alcohol use were never issues in my experience. They can be significant for others. Well maybe I was more irritable, if I am being honest, and my irritability took the form of becoming the "protector" of my team and was quite confrontational with people outside our particular work site. I took on too many small battles became more and more exhausted by them.

Cardiac problems was where my ingrained symptoms showed up big time. And this accumulated stress, this ingrained aspect of stress is something I had never realized. All the years of poor sleep, of worry, of trying to live up to the modern ideal of a "good leader" built up like sludge in my body. 

When the second heart attack came 18 months after the first, after a solid effort to reduce the stress in my life, I was actually devastated. More so than the first one, this heart attack surprised me. I had done everything I was told would help me. I lost 40 lbs. I ate better. I exercised. I meditated daily. I focused on breathing. 

And yet that was not enough to counter the years of neglect that I had inflicted on my body. And what this second heart attack was mostly about was my mindset. I could no longer blame an oppressively stressful work environment. I had to come to terms with my choices, my beliefs, and my behaviours going forward. I remember being driven home from the cardiac unit and thinking "what's the point, if I am just going to have another one...."

While the Cardiologist told me the true cause of the second heart attack was just "shit house bad luck", I knew that like all luck, I had created the perfect environment for that luck to happen....it just took 20 years.

This blog is a way of decluttering my stress accumulation. I am working through it room by room, investigating beliefs and behaviours and getting rid of the ones that no longer bring me joy (sorry Marie Kondo) or at least no longer bring me some warped kind of leadership dopamine fix. I now realize that I took on that stress willingly, thinking I could withstand it and that somehow it just miraculously dissipated once you took a vacation or retired. 

Now I see that it takes as long to clean those rooms as it did to fill them -- at least if you want it to stay that way. 

If you liked this blog post and want to get notified when more are ready....click the subscribe button below!


10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me #1

 10 Things My Second Heart Attack Taught Me #1
This is the first of ten posts discussing the lessons my second heart attack taught me. 

Now you may or may not know that in July 2020, as the first wave of the pandemic flattened out a bit. I had a heart attack at work. 

It was a typical woman's heart attack -- it was silent and had only one undefined symptom: I felt like I had a pinched nerve in my neck. I had this feeling for four days before I decided to go to the ER and get a shot for pain. 

Turns out, I was having a heart attack. I never considered that it could be a heart attack because I have no family history of cardiovascular disease, I had well managed blood pressure and my cholesterol levels were never of concern. I had been well managed my whole life because I had rheumatic fever as a child so I was no stranger to echocardiograms and stress tests.

I needed two stents and then had 18 months off work to remove stress from my life,  I followed the rehab plan, the medication plan, the lifestyle plan. And yet in November 2021, I had a second, much worse, heart attack. 

These lessons are what I learned in coming to terms with the fact that you can do everything you are supposed to do and, as my Cardiologist said, still have "shit house bad luck" 

Lesson 1: It is great to be alive no matter what you experience in your day. 

It is hard to state this strongly enough but the majority of things we allow ourselves to get upset over mean nothing over time and we get wrapped up in them with no results possible. We are in them because we want to be right.  And we want the other person or organization or system or whatever to see our rightness and adapt their ways to ours.

This kind of self-inflicted stress wastes our energy and has us living in a negative head space. 

Now I work every day on letting go of the stuff I have zero control over and have learned to walk away from conversations that are simply argumentative and focused on getting the other person to think the way I think. 

Being alive is the greatest gift you will get in your day. Remind yourself often of that. Feel that in every cell of your body. Honour your body's continued functioning -- even it if it diminished -- and give it what it needs. 

Hear me when I say this -- No work, no task, no other people, no system, no belief, no thing is more important than being alive. And if you continue to sacrifice your body's wellbeing for any of those things, you won't be around to experience them.

Your body has a limit. 

Join me next post for Thing #2 - Stress Accumulates.

If you liked this blog post and want to get notified when more are ready....click the subscribe button below!


Read Older Updates Read Newer Updates