This post was originally posted on Medium ( have a look I have a few writings there ) in January 2018. At the time I did not have this website, but now I feel it appropriate to share here too.
Original post title
Heart attack at age 41-the best thing that ever happened to me
This is a story I have wanted to share for some time, and it looks like Medium is the way I want to do that. I will share my discoveries about the stresses of life, what effect it had on me, and how I learned to deal with it.
I little bit of background before I get to the big event. I have been a cyclist for 30 years, yes 30 years. I am 43 and I purchased my first road bike when I was 12. I have ridden road bikes, BMX, and my real passion for road cycling. Spending 10 or more hours riding per week is very common for me. You could say I am fit.
Spring of 2016. I had been divorced for a few years by now and was probably fitter than I ever had been. I had put in the time on the bike over the winter and I felt great. I was excited to race. In the last couple of years, I had been able to win a couple of local races against the local fast guy 26 years old and man was he fast. I was ready to give him a run for his money.
THE BIG DAY
This is the big day. The day I have a heart attack. Every Sunday there is a group ride that leaves from downtown and weaves through the outskirts of the city for challenging 75km ride. Every hill that comes along it turns into a race. At the top everyone regroups, then at the next hill, race time again. The first big hill I give it everything I have as a test for my fitness. As I was hoping, I can keep up with all the fast guys. But today I was not there to prove anything so I back off. About 30 min later, at the start of another hill, I tell my friend I am going to take it easy because I am feeling sick. 1 minute later I am off my bike, another minute later I am sitting on the ground.
I was fortunate that day. I had someone drive me to the hospital. It was confirmed that yes I was having a heart attack. On the 1–10 scale it was probably at 2 maybe 3. But still scary as hell. There were a few times while hooked up to the monitors the alarms went off and all the nurses came rushing in. The second time that happened, I noticed the look on their faces, they didn’t know why this was happening. Not a very reassuring situation. I texted the mother of my children that she should probably bring the kids to see me because, well, you never know…….
After the initial shock, it was time to talk to the cardiologist about the why, and what to do next.
Doctor: “any family history of heart disease?”
Doctor:”any cocaine use?”
Me:” uh, no”
Doctor:”do you eat lots of fast food and junk food”
Doctor:”Well Brandon I have to tell you, we aren’t sure whats happened. You are a low-risk heart attack patient”
Me:” Is stress a possible factor?”
Doctor:”yes it is, but there is no test that measures that”
There is was. Stress.
My life was stressful, I “felt it” every single day physically.
THE WAKE-UP CALL
So wait a minute…..Stress caused me to have a heart attack? My life, caused a heart attack? Think about that.
Well, that doesn’t work for me. But what do I do about it? I have to work right? I have to make X amount of money right? It doesn’t matter if I hate my job, it just has to be done, right? Or does it?
I needed time to heal physically and emotionally. I could have died. On the day of the heart attack, I was going to head home and rest, not go to the hospital. I could have died. I don’t think I like that idea.
The next year was one of discovery. Of meeting new people with new perspectives on life. I challenged all my thoughts and feelings on, well, just about everything. I did not want stress in my life. What is stress? Wow, that’s a huge questions. My discovery? It was my viewpoint, it was my choice on how I reacted to situations. But can that be changed? Aren’t we a product of our upbringing, our environment?
The wake-up call and the awakening are 2 different things. The way I see it, the wake-up call was the universe slapping me in the face saying “hey Brandon, guess what, you need to DO something”. The awakening was me listening to the universe. I had no road map saying what to do next. I mentioned meeting new people. I think you can learn something from everyone you meet. And I learned a few key things from new people in my life that worked form me. Here is what I found.
The DO Something
It can be a challenge to get started-I know it was for me. Try to write every day, even if you write “ I don’t know what to write”. Know that what you write is for you, be honest with the person you are writing to -yourself. Do not judge yourself, let the words, thoughts, feelings flow. Be patient with your self.
I honestly don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book. If it has to do with ways to can improve yourself and manage stress-read it. Here are a few books that changed my world. ANGER by Thich Nhat Hanh, POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle VOICE Of KNOWLEDGE and THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by don Miguel Ruiz.
What? You aren’t a monk at a monastery? Guess what none of us are. Meditation is NOT what I thought it was. Try the headspace phone app. There is a free 10-day trial. try 30 days straight. It changed my life(cliche I know but true) It’s important you have no expectations about what will happen. Make it a habit. This is the single most powerful stress management tool I have found.
It does not have to be riding your bike 10 hours a week. I do think daily is helpful. 30 min walk can make a world of difference. Go explore a nature trail. Oh, and leave your phone at home.
5-Find an artistic outlet
Sounds strange? This was such a great discovery for me. I had paints and canvas at home from my daughter. I tried it one day and you know what, it was amazing. If you don’t want to paint, go to the art gallery, attend a poetry reading. Open your mind to new possibilities. I have reached parts of myself through the arts I didn’t even know where there.
I touched on it a bit in the descriptions of my 5 suggestions, all of these things have an added bonus besides start to help you manage stress. They help you tap into yourself and start allowing you to understand what it is you really want from your life. More on that in a bit.
GRATITUDE FOR THE HEART ATTACK
I can say it now, as I reflect on the past 18 months, a heart attack at age 41 was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was “given” the opportunity to use this event to wake up or let it haunt me. I choose to wake up. I hope you take your situation and choose the same. What is now happening to me in my life is simply amazing. Keep reading, I hope it inspires you to start your journey.
WHAT I WANT
Do you mean to say I have been living my life in a way that I don’t want to? Yup. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it. But we get locked into so many “norms” and “expectations” that society says we need to strive for. If you have read this far, you probably are in agreement with that. The expectations and norms you are locked in could be different for you then it was for me. I am going to save that for another article.
I am not a writer, I am a guy that has lived some interesting experiences and just want to share. Maybe it speaks to you, maybe you can take something away that you can use.
Thanks for reading, Brandon
Addendum to the original post
Damn, a lot has happened since I wrote this. I never knew growth could be such a journey. I now realize it will NEVER end and as long as I am hungry to learn, the growth will continue and that’s pretty exciting. In the few weeks leading up to posting this on my blog and writing the addendum, a lot has happened that has made me realize the growth is non stop. Sometimes that growth comes with some pain, some healing and then the growth. Subject matter for another post.
Other books to read
On my path to mens work, there were some influential books that I believe EVERY man needs to read. THE WAY OF THE SUPERIOR MAN By David Deida, NO MORE MR NICE GUY by IRON JOHN by Robert Bly, KING, WARRIOR, MAGICIAN, LOVER by Robert Moore and Doug Gillette.
You can’t make this journey alone
What do I mean by that? Well I went pretty far reading, journaling and reflecting on my behaviour and patterns within my romantic relationship, and I did improve, but I reached a plateau where I need the next tools, the next breakthrough to continue growing. I stalled out and felt stuck, frustrated that I could not see the blind spots I knew I must have. I searched for a men’s group and fond one that fit my needs perfectly. The SamuraiBrotherhood catapulted me to new levels. More on that in another post. Having love, and intimacy with other men is something our society does not teach in fact make it seem taboo. I am now on a new mission to help shift that paradigm as I have experienced the power of those relationships.
I feel like I have so much write about now!
Gratitude for taking the time to read