When people email me, or talk to me after they’ve heard my story, I get a lot of the same questions.
“Do you have a family history?”
“Do the doctors know what caused it?”
“What did the heart attacks feel like?”
But the most common question I get (in emails especially) is “What is your life like now?”
This is a hard one to answer. My life has done a complete 180 after the heart attack. A lot of these changes aren’t obvious to people who didn’t know me before and a lot aren’t even that glaringly different to those I’m closest to. But for lack of a better description, my insides are differently configured. Not in a bad way, but just…different. I thought I would try to explain these changes as best I could in a list. If I digress, it’s only because it’s hard to explain. So here we go…
1. Every day is a gift. Yeah, yeah…blah blah, put it on a magnet, I know. But it’s true. We all know I hate mornings (can I say it enough on this blog?!) but I am thankful when I open my eyes. I went through a few months where I was scared to go to bed because I worried I wouldn’t wake up. The morning gratitude has yet to wear off, I doubt it ever will. Each day is another day to make life great.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Easier said than done. In general, I don’t get worked up about deadlines, bills, money issues, to-do lists or errands. These are all just bumps in the road and don’t affect my viewpoint on the bigger picture-enjoying life. They are just necessary tasks. I used to be so upset if I didn’t cross everything off my lists or if things weren’t just right. Now I have a messy closet, dusting that needs to be done and errands that will get done…eventually.
3. Anxiety. On the flip side, I’ve been struggling with a lot of anxiety since the heart attack. Right after everything happened, I had a year where I was depressed. If I wasn’t feeling numb, I was crying over anything. After the depression subsided, the anxiety sunk in. I don’t get anxious over anything in particular, it’s more like random anxiety attacks that are overwhelming and cause me to bail on running, hide in bed for the night or stare at a TV screen for hours. It’s not linked to anything in particular, like stress at work or school, it just comes on randomly and stays a few days. Then, if something stressful happens during that time it is heightened. For example, the week before the Good Housekeeping shoot I was a complete and total mess. So on the one hand I’m much more relaxed every day, but when the anxiety flares I’m a mess. I know, I don’t get it either. #confusing
4. Senior Citizen status. This one intrigues me. I’ve always been super extroverted, out of the house every night, here there and everywhere. I love socializing, dinners, drinks with friends and just being OUT. After the heart attacks, I’m a total homebody. I love Netflix, snuggling in bed, my Keurig and a fuzzy blanket. Part of me wonders if that’s age or anxiety, but I actually don’t mind it. It’s nice to slow down a little (says my bank account).
5. Self-esteem issues. I’ve always struggled with my self-esteem and self-concept. I have had serious body concept issues, from the time I was in middle school. I know I’m probably the weight of the average American woman but I can’t help but think that when people hear me talk or see my pictures they think, ‘well no kidding she had a heart attack, she’s a fatty.’ Screwed up, I know. My amazing friends try to help me with this one but it’s tough to control when you’ve dealt with it your whole life. I often don’t pursue jobs, blogging opportunities, even invitations from friends because I truly think I’m not skinny/pretty/funny/charming enough to go for it.
6. Sliiiiight hypochondriac. After going through something major medically, it’s hard to think your body isn’t failing you. Lump in my neck? Red blotchy spots? Knee pain? Pimples? All of these become major in my head and I ended up googling symptoms and self-diagnosing myself with some rare disease from Mongolia. Not. Cute.
7. Love deeper, stronger.
I think I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I had a hard time committing to anyone or trusting people before the heart attack. I kept friends at a distance, sometimes even ignoring them altogether. I didn’t go out on a lot of dates and if I did I found a way to reject them quickly. Even my relationships with family members were distant and strained. After the heart attacks I guess my heart was literally and figuratively unclogged. Only 9 months after the heart attacks I started a relationship and we’re living together, even talking about marriage. I’m not afraid of it, and I’m all in.
8. Pursue the happiness. If I want to go on a trip, I book it. If I want to stay in bed all day, I do it. If I want to paint my nails blue, they’re blue. If it feels good, I will do it.
I hope this sums up my experience. It’s hard to explain, but I’m a different me. All in all a happier, forward-thinking me.