In 2020 I was the Site Director of a local hospital in BC Canada. I had held and loved that job for 8 years. In July of 2020, right when the first wave of the pandemic started to wane, I had a stress-induced heart attack at work. It was and wasn't surprising.
It was surprising because I had very well managed blood pressure and cholesterol and regular cardiac evaluations throughout my life (I had rheumatic fever as a child so there was always concern over impact to my heart). I had no common symptoms and in fact had only a feeling of a pinched nerve in my neck for four days.
It wasn't surprising because of the massive part stress plays in cardiovascular disease and in heart attacks in general. And my workplace became a vast cauldron of intense and unrelenting stress. I wasn't coping well and it was inevitable that a bad health outcome would happen because of it.
Two physicians confirmed that my heart attack was 100% caused by stress and so I began to really learn about stress and its impact on women.
But most importantly I began, finally, to take my own wellness around stress reduction seriously -- I started a daily meditation practice, I increased my exercise, I lost a LOT of weight, we increased our consciousness around our diet, and I began using essential oils and supplements to support all the body and mind systems that allopathic medicine doesn't.
So it came as a serious shock to me when in November of 2021, while out walking my dog, and just two days after updated lab and ecg results came back very good, that I had another heart attack.
This one, unlike the first, was unmistakable. It was a classic heart attack with chest pain, tightness, shortness of breath and radiating arm pain.
This one required the clot busting medication and then several minutes of CPR when I went into full arrest.
Happily, like the first one, I survived. I received another stent for a 95% blocked artery and after a few days recovery was sent home.
Unlike the first one, however, there was no "good" reason for this one to have happened. The cardiologist summed it up by saying it was just "shithouse bad luck".
So then what do you do when you have done ALL the right things and STILL had another heart attack?
Well after you allow the shock to wear off, have a good cry and stop being angry -- You go back to first principles......and begin to look for the lessons in the event.
The first lesson I had to learn was it WAS possible to do all the right things and still have an attack. That lesson played hard with my mental state for a couple weeks. A lot of "what's the point" thinking was happening and was challenging the very basis of all the healing I had done the first time around.
I am a firm believer that mindset creates your reality and so the question of "what mindset was I having that lead to the second attack" plagued me for a while. Then I realized that the more I sought it out, the more likely I was to re-ignite it in my subconscious. So I decided to let go of finding the root cause and only look forward.
I came to the idea that my mindset would determine how much I enjoyed my life going forward - and I began a mindset of "enjoy every moment -- every. single.moment" whether it was doing the laundry or laughing with friends. It didn't matter. Every moment could be joyful!
The second lesson I had to learn was that stress hides in your body. No matter that I had spent a year meditating with the best possible essential oils, exercising to boost my good hormones, and really being mindful of all that was around me. Stress hid out in my body. I had small residual angina in my teeth when I experienced stressful situations and that should have been my notice but it was so easily explained away that I didn't serve as the messenger it should have. So now I really check in with my body. Not the cursory "I am feeling fine" kind of check in, but a systematic check in of organs, limbs, mental processes, breathing, pains.
I have again recognized that I hold my breath. A LOT. And that is something I am working on. I feel instant relaxed when I take a deep breath but so many times a day I notice that I have been holding my breath. It always feels bad when I notice but makes me curious at to why I do it. I now consciously check in on my breathing several times a day and take a break to do some breath exercises. It is the FASTEST way to reduce your stress level so it is a critical component to my healing.
The final lesson I learned is that no day is guaranteed to me. I started out my day in November with no indications that a heart attack was imminent. I had walked one dog in the morning, done some office work mid morning and was just walking a second dog early afternoon when the attack came. I had no warning signs prior.
My focus now is on beauty and joy. I revel in talking with friends...with spending time with my husband, my kids and grandson, and my dogs. One of my physicians advised "ride your horse like you stole it" and so that is what I am doing.
I seek out pleasure producing activities and ignore ones that I would formally have gone to battle over. I don't have time to solve the problems of the world, and it wasn't like I could anyway. So I try to live my life with a light footprint, with a smile, and with immense gratitude.
I am still passionate about the courses I have developed to help other women Healthcare leaders better take care of themselves and about teaching people about the important uses of essential oils for good health but I approach this work more sustainably. I don't work long hours at it. I don't sit all day at a computer. But it is something that brings me joy so I will continue doing it.
Who knows if I will have another heart attack. At this point I am working very hard to not let that fear derail my life. If I did, what is the point of living.....
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