Given how my day went today it is fitting that I wrote this post a few days ago and now have 2 parts to share with you all.
Facebook fools us all into thinking others lives are perfect, some people even think my life is always smiles and fun times…..Let’s open that door and start with……
The story behind my most liked Facebook photo ever.
When you are not sure where to start, start with what makes the most sense. Authenticity.
Marathon Weekend 2016 in Disneyworld. My greatest and most successful moment in my Heart Attack Recovery, finishing the Goofy Challenge.
Great moment, right ? I will agree, in fact over 200 likes, 2400 views on blog Facebook page, a few shares and many positive encouraging comments.
Yay, yay for me right ? Sure. Let’s go with that. I made it look easy of according to some.
This is where most of us make a mistake on social media and I am not immune to it.
Now, I have definitely shared highs and lows and some not so great life posts but most of my Facebook shows more of the great life moments than the struggles. Authenticity of life is thrown out the window because who wants to show how they are struggling behind the photos?.
Comparison, it’s what we do but we shouldn’t. I had one message from someone who, while congratulating me also told me seeing my photo collage made them feel inadequate because they could never do what I did. My response, you can do it but I promise you it is not easy.
Let’s look behind the photo. Rewind a bit shall we ?
January 2013, Walt Disney World. I attempted my first Goofy Challenge. I failed. I got pulled at mile 22, put on a bus and taken to the finish where they gave me 2 medals which to this day, I still think I did not deserve. Those medals stay in a box. My first thought was embarrassment, shame. I had spent time on social media sharing my excitement for the event upcoming. How the hell do I now tell people that I was pulled from the course, not fast enough.? I wanted to be alone, I was ashamed, hurt, crying, angry. After some time, I shared my failure on Facebook. That was so fucking hard, so Hard that I turned my phone off right after to avoid any ridicule or mean comments. None came. People were encouraging and supportive. It took a long time to get over that failure. 2013 became one of my worst years overall. Life sucks a lot sometimes.
Continuing on. Aug 2013, Hear Attack. Starting over physically. I knew exactly what goal I needed to set but I also knew I could not rush it. So behind my successful photo in 2016, here is what you didn’t see.
My first time back on a treadmill where I couldn’t even walk for 8 minutes and had to accept that defeat.
The moments when I walked away from those who said, you shouldn’t do this, maybe you just can’t anymore.
Injuries that I never spoke of. Spraining my knee twice, slipped discs in my lower back and neck, angina attacks ( thankfully only a couple.)
My feet and legs that bruise and swell from running, every single time.
The days I awoke in so much physical pain I struggled to just get through the day knowing it would eventually go away.
The training miles. When you commit to a marathon you commit a lot of time, time you could spend with family and friends.
Sleepless nights where I would go to the gym just to get out of my head.
Did I mention daily pain?
The training runs that I had to stop because I was vomiting profusely
The moments of doubt, so many times I thought “maybe you shouldn’t go for this.” I lacked confidence.
The moments of reaching out to people who rejected my pleas to talk, some of whom I no longer speak with.
The moments when you are trying to share but others make it about them or compare.
Friendships that have suffered because I made myself so focused that I failed at maintaining some important relationships. Some may never recover.
The times I stopped training to help others but received not so much as a thank you which made me question my importance to others. Who thought I was worth their time, love.
Wanting it so bad, the “win” that I got into some stupid situations that could have cause more injury harm than success.
The many times I questioned my own self worth.
I could on and on. The point here is this. Behind most every smiling photo or “doctored” Facebook status is someone’s pain, someone’s sacrifice, someone who is looking for a win so bad so that they don’t feel like the loser they think they are.
Most importantly behind the success at the end may just be someone looking for authentic connection, a talk, a hug, someone just to let that person be themselves so that they can pull that mask off, be vulnerable.
Comparing ourselves to others social media life is unfair because it is rare that you will see the authenticity or vulnerability of someone and usually when we do, we cower and say nothing or think, gee that person is just looking for attention.
Comparison is something I see a lot of in the support groups I am a part of and daily on my personal FB page and it can be so sad to see how people beat themselves up outside of Facebook because thier life is not like someone else who posted a great experience or photo.
One of my goals is to be way more authentic in the coming 6 months. My one promise is this….. I will not “out” anyone but I will share stories. I will talk about what is actually happening and share the wins and the challenges because I believe now that there are no failures, just challenges.
I have failed or faced challenges leading up to finally completing my first Marathon and as of this writing, I have been challenged once again by having my first Did Not Finish on my second Marathon due to injury. I shared this on social media and although I got support, I know there are many who would not. Being that vulnerable was scary but worth it. Sometimes you just have to open up but also listen to those who may need you to step up for them.
Who are you ? Name, current age, where are you from ?
Con Birchall, 52, Ontario Canada
How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?
Big one at 45 but was misdiagnosed again another big one at 47.
Where were you when it happened? Tell me your story.
I went to my family Dr in 2006 complaining of “chest pain”. It was always at rest when this would come on and never with activity. It would gradually ease if I moved around. I was sent for an echocardiogram and a stress test of which both showed unremarkable, plus I was only 43 yrs old not exactly high risk! Because it was chest pain at rest relieved by activity I was diagnosed with GERD and given Nexium. That never sat right with me because it occurred so randomly, not after I ate a particular food etc. The chest pain continued and progressively over the years worsened. Every time I was in to see my GP I mentioned the increasing “chest pain” which still occurred randomly only at rest. I would wake at night with it, when sitting quietly at my desk, or watching t.v. I was working part time in nursing and as a full time dog walker and never once did I have it while walking my 6 hrs a day.
In 2008 I woke up in the middle of the night with horrible chest pain. Did my normal routine of taking an extra Nexium, Tums, Maalox, Gas-X…essentially anything I could get my hands on. The pain was crushing, radiating down my left arm, up into my jaw and mid back, I was sweating and felt like I was going to pass out. I was walking circles in the living room until it gradually passed. Wow that was a bad “stomach episode” I thought and set up another appointment with my GP. Again I was given reassurance it was not my heart…”angina occurs with activity and is not relieved by it”.
The chest pain incidents continued.
December 14, 2010 as I was getting ready for work I had another “stomach episode” that was particularly bad. I did the usual routine and tried to suck it up. We were in the midst of a bad snowstorm. I went out and shovelled our 10 x 20 dog pen which helped ease the pain. Within minutes of stopping it was back. I told my husband my “stomach thing” was quite bad that morning and he commented I should stay home (we worked in the same office) I told him I would go in but he had to drive. Within 5 minutes of leaving the house I started feeling very lightheaded and nervous so I told my husband to pull over and call 911 as I was pretty sure something bad was happening. I then lost consciousness. When I regained consciousness my entire body was pins and needles. I looked down at my hands and they were yellowish and waxy looking. I had been a nurse for 16 yrs and the only time I had seen skin that color was when someone died. My husband pulled off the highway and we saw the ambulance coming. They asked me a few questions and then asked me to walk to the ambulance as the snow was too deep. They hooked me up to the ECG and looked pretty nervous.
Unfortunately EMT’s come in different levels. Mine could only give me an aspirin, no I.V. no nitro…just an aspirin. I was brought to the closest hospital which unfortunately was in the opposite direction of the nearest cardiac hospital. The emerg dr explained I was having a “very serious heart attack” and things were going to happen very quickly. I was hooked up to an IV and the emerg dr kept asking me what my pain level was at. It never change despite everything he did. After a few minutes he said he had only one final option which was a clot buster. He said he needed a verbal consent from me because I had a 30% chance of having a stroke after getting it. I said wow that’s not great. He said “If you don’t get it, you are going to die” Well 70% is good enough for me I said! But it did nothing, the pain was terrible still. Then the strangest thing happened, he started walking around my gurney mumbling “This is bad, this is really really bad”. I remember thinking well that’s really unprofessional lol. I grabbed his arm on the next lap and tried to reassure him. I said to him “It’s okay…I am going to be okay” He looked at me and said quietly “No…no I am sorry…you are not going to be okay, you have no idea how bad this is” That was the first time I realized how bad it was. A decision was made to transport me to the closest cardiac hospital which in good weather is just over an hour away. The emerg dr and a nurse came with me in the ambulance with me. He told the nurse to just keep giving me boluses of morphine.
Because of the storm it took much longer to get there. Every so often he would ask me how I was. I told him each time I was the same. At one point he reached over and held my hands and said he couldn’t believe how stoic I was. I remember thinking hmmm…never remember being called stoic before lol. Within 20 minutes of arriving at the cardiac hospital finally a stent was put into my LAD in which I had a 99% blockage. During that procedure it was then determined that I had substantial scar tissue from previous heart attacks…I was only 47 yrs old. I was told later that I had the highest troponin levels they had seen. At least 50% of my heart has been damaged.
After my massive heart attack, I was sent home 4 days later unable to walk up more than 4 step without becoming very short of breath. I was told by my internist (no cardiologist in my small town) to return to work after 4 weeks. It was awful 🙁 I was so tired and so short of breath and no one was offering up answers! 4 months later I got the call to start rehab at which point I was told I was a grade 3 heart failure so should only do very limited things and that perhaps a few months after I finished my rehab I might be able to return to work!! Ha! What a joke! I had already been back to work for 3 months. My EF was at 30% initially after my heart attack. 9 months later it still sat at 30% so the decision was made to implant an ICD to lessen the risk of sudden death due to low EF.
What were your signs and symptoms? Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?
I had started having chest pain when I was about 40. It was like a wave that I could feel rising from my mid abdomen up to in my mid chest. It was like someone was squeezing my heart slowly. It was always at rest….never once did I have pain while doing anything strenuous, quite often I would be woken from a dead sleep with it. The pain would intensify then climb up to my jaw and down my left arm. I would become very short of breath during this time. Unfortunately it was alleviated by walking. I say unfortunately because that’s the reason it was misdiagnosed for years. Just before my heart attack (say the week before) I was extremely tired. So tired I was worried about being able to get my last minute Christmas things done.
As for pre existing issues, I had been diagnosed with very high cholesterol at 43. I was put on Crestor at that time and this did bring my levels into acceptable limits. I was also a pack a day smoker, at the time of my heart attack for 34 yrs.
Family history-My father had a 5 way bypass at age 60 after suffering a heart attack. My maternal grandmother had bypass surgery twice having suffered heart attacks from the age of about 50. My paternal grandmother had a stroke in her early 40’s followed by years of devastating heart attacks and strokes. How did this affect your life? Physically/ Personally?
Well physically because of the damage I sustained it’s meant I can’t physically do what I could do prior. I get sob quickly and tired much faster. My last angiogram showed my heart was starting to enlarge and the walls were starting to get thicker again due to the damage I sustained to my left ventricle.
Personally I have always had a good outlook on life. I am so grateful to be alive and I view everyday as a blessing. I stopped working 3 1/2 yrs after my ha because besides being stressful and demanding I was struggling to get done what I needed to get done. The problem was not having a desk job, it was the fact life goes on regardless of how you are feeling. I would be so tired and after working 40 hrs a week, my chicken coops still needed cleaning, groceries needed to be bought, clothes needed to be washed etc. Working and being able to function doing everyday things was impossible. What lifestyle changes have you made ? What are your struggles ?
I am physically more active now than when I was working after my ha. I can pace myself and not feel the pressure of having to do certain things at certain times. I quit smoking the day of my ha (5+ yrs smoke free!) I really watch my salt intake because of my CHF related to the damage. I travel more because you never know when your time is up!
My struggles are still asking for help instead of trying to be superwoman. I get shit often from my family because I am too stubborn at times and will do things myself that I shouldn’t do instead of asking for help. I miss being able to do things with my grandkids because I get tired so easily.
Stents/ Zipper or Defib ? What is your situation?
1 stent in my LAD, several other smaller blockages that are 30-40% which they monitor. Yes I have an ICD due to low EF
What do you fear now ?
Being alone and having another heart attack, being unable to get help.
What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?
Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t waste time on negative people, realizing you can’t fix stupid 🙂
Get a bucket list going, if anything this should show you never know if you will have tomorrow you need to do things, see things and not think you have next week or next year to do them.
Educate others! Heart attacks aren’t just for old people or men. There is no age or sex that this happens to exclusively.
Did you do Cardiac Rehab? What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?
Yes 4 months after my Heart Attack and 5 yrs later I am actually doing it again right now.
The hardest part was the crappy aftercare. They send you home and you have no idea what to expect. When I first came home I struggled so much. I had to sit down on my stairs 3 times to catch my breath just to get up them to bed. No one tells you it will get better!
What are your new dreams ?
I actually am very happy with my life. Just to not have my heart function decline too quickly.
What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could? Eg: Skydiving.
Machu Picchu. My husband and I always said we would go. I can’t go now because of my heart failure. I can’t do the altitude 🙁
Who was there for you?
My husband has been amazing, and basically everyone in my life has been there for me.
Did you lose many friends after your heart attack ?
I lost none but that might be because I’ve always had a positive attitude. Too many folks feel bad for themselves after. I am responsible for my own life, I don’t blame anyone for what happened…shit happens lol…move on!
What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?
“I guess after all this time your heart is fixed now right? Like its normal again?” ummm….no my heart was damaged it will never be normal again “You must be so relieved to have an ICD because now you never have to worry about having another heart attack” Well actually the ICD fixes electrical problems…a heart attack is a plumbing problem, my ICD is not going to stop me from having a heart attack…but hey if my heart stops I’ll get a kick start!
Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?
Nope…that’s those negative people I don’t allow into my life thing 🙂
If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?
Well I would follow my gut and insist there was a heart issue and not just listen to Drs telling me it was a stomach issue. I would have never smoked that first cigarette.
What do you want more of in life ?
Honestly I like my life right now! Wait….grandkids…could use a few more 🙂
Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?
Accepting my life was going to forever be different after Dec 14 2010.
What makes you great ?
I have a positive attitude! I genuinely like myself 🙂
What advice would you give to a healthy person who has never experienced something like a Heart Attack?
If you feel something is wrong with your heart push the issue! Don’t assume because you don’t smoke, you eat well, you exercise you are bulletproof…no one is bulletproof!
Heart Attack Survivor to Marathon Finisher ( Goofy Challenge Finisher)
39.3 MIles ( 63.25 Kms) , 2 Days, 4 Theme Parks. 3 Medals. 1 Moment of RAW Emotion.
His name is Mark. At age 38 , he is now a Marathon Finisher. It did not come without struggle, committment and hard work.
One week prior to his 36 birthday he suffered and survived a Heart Attack. Four days later he went into Cardiac Arrest during surgery to place 2 stents in his heart. Only one was placed due to this event. He continues to live with another 70 % blockage in the main artery to his heart but this doesn’t stop him from living and trying to reach new limits.
For the next 2 years and 5 months he went through Cardiac Rehab, made a few lifestyle changes, lost 30 lbs and got back to one of his passions. Running. Mark will admit that none of it was easy and there were some days of having to push beyond what he thought he was capable of.
On January 10th, 2016 in the Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, Mark became an official Marathon Runner and Finisher. Equally as important he completed the Goofy Challenge which requires a runner to do a Half Marathon (13.1 Miles or 22 Kms.) the day before. Some would call this crazy, I guess that is why they call it Goofy.
In 2013 he attempted this same challenge and did not finish. Due to pacing requirements he just wasn’t fast enough to avoid being swept off the course. Some people say they were closing things early because of extreme heat and humidity. “ It doesn’t matter the circumstance, I just was not fast enough and that race, unknown to me would set the tone for my year. I failed but knew I would try again. I just didn’t think it would take me three years to get back here to do it.”
On his Marathon Finish Mark said “This was by far one of my hardest and most proud moments in life. I cried like a baby knowing I was going to finish a Marathon. I saw my friend Jennifer, a woman who I respect, admire and love for how encouraging and supportive she has been. I believe around Mile 24.
She gave me some beer. Yes I drank a beer and it tasted like heaven. Shortly after I hugged her and went on my way, tears began to fall. “
The course was not without it’s challenges. From mile 19-20 he had to fully walk because his heart rate was not recovering as quickly as he had hoped. It is the only point in the race where he thought that he may have to pull himself as his heart rate seemed to not dip back below 125 beats per minute on rest moments. Thankfully his heart rate eventually went down enough to keep going on. “6.2 miles to go, it became harder and I began run/ walk more frequently.”
To run a Marathon requires commitment, a commitment that most won’t give. For the last 9 months he trained while most were sleeping. Midnight and 2 am runs, sometimes he’d go earlier but that was rare. “Some people totally understood and others not so much.” Opinions began to not matter to me. This was not about other people, it was all about me. I was dedicated to finishing, so dedicated that I eventually stopped wearing my Fitbit on those late night runs. I kinda wanted to ensure I was challenging no one but myself. I was obsessed to say the least.”
The race started around 5:30 am with the first wave of runners set to go. Mark was in Corral M. 4 corrals up from the last, he knew he had to go hard in the beginning as to not fall behind and risk being swept. By the time it was his turn to cross the start line, the time was closer to 6:20 am.
Off went the fireworks and it was now time to put all that training to the test. He was nervous but not afraid, strong , focused but most importantly no matter the result, prepared to ensure he still had fun. “ I stopped for a few photos with people who had funny signs, looked on in envy of those who had time to stop to take photos with characters but still felt like a kid seeing the Disney characters on the course. I did eventually get my chance at a couple of character photos but that reward would wait until I knew I was going to finish the race.”
The first 13 Miles seemed to be the easiest according to Mark. 13 miles was a distance he was use to as he had run half marathons in the last but only once since his Heart Attack. As he continued he did experience some knee pain but was able to overcome that by stopping at Medical tents and utilizing bio freeze which numbs the area. He credits that with allowing him to focus on the race and not the pain.
As the remaining miles went by it seemed like forever, he began to run/ walk more frequently but still maintain a pace that was healthy and that would help him succeed.
How did you feel when you knew you were at the point where you absolutely knew you were safe and were going to finish the race without the fear of being swept ?
“ That moment is when I got through the ESPN zone, the most boring part of the course. I left ESPN and shortly encountered Mile 22. The Mile in which I was swept in 2013, I saw the buses that were parked there for those who would not finish this race sometime later. I gave those buses the two middle fingers, smiled and kept going. It was such a good feeling to know that I was now safe and the race was now mine to finish.
To finish this story, I will now leave third person and talk as myself.
As I entered Hollywood Studios my pace slowed, was is my sense of security ? No, I was tired and wanted to ensure a strong finish. They say with hard work comes reward. What was my reward before finishing? I worked so hard and skipped some character stops that I would have loved to do. Then I saw Boo from Monsters Inc. I had to stop for this photo, at least one, for me. Shortly after I saw the Genie from Aladdin outside the boardwalk and I was ecstatic that I could have my photo taken with him. There is a quote in Aladdin that I love . “ But oh, to be free, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.” This sums up how I felt crossing the finish line.
I came running around that 26 mile marker and shortly saw that finish line in front of me. I wanted to stop and admire what was before me but I could not, I knew I had to keep going. As I got closer I looked into many eyes of those cheering on the runners. I was bawling like a baby, I could not contain my tears, I forgot what it was like to actually feel emotion until that moment. My eyes were leaking !!
Just before I reached the finish all I can remember was pushing my arms out to my side in excitement and bringing them back into my body, almost flexing and releasing every emotion I had in me. Lucky for me the photographers caught that moment. Here I was, after almost losing my life a couple years before, accomplishing the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life. I smiled, received my Marathon Medal, hugged the volunteer and almost couldn’t let go. I am pretty sure her shoulder is still soaked from my tears.
Jan 10, 2016, I became a Marathoner. I finished in 6 hrs, 47 minutes and 13 seconds. I was not fast but I never gave up. The training for this race began from the moment I stepped back on a treadmill 6 weeks after my heart attack.
That feeling of finishing was worth all of the late nights, hard work, blood, pain and listening to those who told me if I trusted them, then they would get me back as close as they could to who I was before. That day I left it all out there and succeeded.
If anyone tells me they can’t do something, or that I can’t do something they have said it to the wrong person. Because I will show them what I can do, what they can do….. IF, they believe.
I may not have what others have in terms of physical capabilities but it’s not about that, it’s about my will power. I am proud of what I accomplished but I will never settle. I will always succeed and earn every moment of life. I am still not a finished product, I am striving each day to always be better than I was the day before. In my Heart I do not fear, I love as much as I can and am free.
When thinking about the last 2 plus years since my heart attack, I cannot help but run through the ways I have changed.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Ya, it is totally a cliché, a book has been written and many people will say they don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t anymore. It is funny to think of the things that use to get to me or that I would worry about. Now, most times my first thought is, “ Is this worth worrying about or spending my time and energy on.” Stress, my friends is something I try so hard to avoid. The downside to this is that I become impatient with those who try to make small issues bigger than they are. It does piss people off or I come across as not really caring. In some situations, I really don’t. Nowadays, there are things that I do procrastinate on because things can wait and it is not worth the stress and let’s be honest here, I try to have more fun.
I prefer to be alone.
Ask anyone who’s known me a long time and they will tell you I always had to be around other people. This use to be how I got my energy, my zest for life. Mini loves people ! Post Heart Attack, I find in many social situations I get anxious or very awkward and have to leave early. This is why I never car pool with anyone. I need my escape. I spend more hours alone than I think most realize. I use this time to read more, work on many of my projects and try to sort through my head. I find it easier to be alone than to be in large groups. I know I have become socially awkward and I am ok with that. Being alone allows me to not put myself in an awkward situation or worry about upsetting someone.
I have a new normal.
This took me a long time to accept. I am still figuring out what certain limits are but I accept I am not who I was. I like who I am now. So who am I now ? That’s for another post. With my new normal, I have had to find new ways to do things I enjoy, accept restrictions and learn which lines I can push. Example, I will never run as fast as I use to but I can run. I may accept the new normal but I will NEVER give up trying to succeed at what I can.
I dream bigger.
I have many big dreams. Most are of the humanitarian and Heart Disease awareness type. I have so many dreams I hope to share and work towards in 2016. Some are way out in left field but I would rather put those dreams out there and get laughed at than keep them to myself like I use to. There is one dream I once had that I never made my move on now someone else made it famous. Lesson Learned. So, I may never become famous for a dream I pursue but I really hope one of them leads to creating the life I desire.
I actually like myself.
Most of this could be in another post but here is a start. From 2010 on I actually had a strong dislike of who I was and I had almost zero confidence in myself. I got good at putting on a show.
I like me J I am awkward, I am social, I am fun, I am smart in different ways, I am a good looking guy, creative, determined, flirty, playful, goofy. I am uniquely and imperfectly ,me. I am not for everyone but I do like who I am. This doesn’t mean I don’t have some insecurities but I am more confident than I have ever been.
Experiences instead of Things.
I have always had a hard time buying things for myself. Even when I bought my first DSLR Camera I was anxious. Over the last 2 years I have focused more on spending my money and time on experiences, dinners with friends, coffees. My time is valuable. I would prefer memories with my friends and family than something disposable. It may be morbid but I want to think that when my time comes and I am 6 feet under that I leave those I care about with good, fun and maybe slightly wild memories of “Mini.” No one will remember how many things I owned. After my Heart Attack I questioned how people would remember me.
Now I lay me down to sleep.
It is no secret that my sleeping patterns are messed. Sometimes I go more than 24 hours without sleep, sometimes I nap an hour here and there just to function. I have no idea how I function most days to be honest. The thought of not waking up consumes my brain before bed almost nightly. I want so bad not to think this way but living with heart disease I am aware of what could happen. PTSD is a bitch and that is one way it gets me. Every night I go to bed wondering if the day I had was a good one, did I do something positive? Did I make at least one person smile ? Did I smile ? Did I try to make a difference in this world ?
If I ever should die and not awake when the sun rises, I just hope the day before was a good one.
I want Love but I am Guarded.
It is no secret that I have been single for a long time. No girlfriend in almost 5 years, yep, you read that right, 5 years. I have dated but can’t seem to keep anyone interested long enough, combine that with the fact I keep myself busy. Just like most everyone, I have been hurt before but that is NOT why I am guarded. I am guarded because I want simply to be accepted for me but sharing my health issues has scared some females away. Can’t blame them because there are always things we as people can and cannot live with when it comes to a partner. I am an amazing man as soon as someone can see beyond both mine and their imperfections. I know I need to be a little more open with heart but sometimes it is so damn hard.
Random Acts of Kindness.
I give more than most people realize. I am not one to brag nor share every little Random Act of Kindness I do because I feel that defeats the purpose. One per week, I do something. Whether it is buying a coffee for someone, paying for their gas, leaving a random note or simply giving a homeless person a $10 or $20 bill. I do something. I want to feel like I have made a difference, even if for only a moment.
I care but it sometimes doesn’t come out that way and it sucks.
If you have read this far, then you now get a HUGE TRUTH. I say I Love You more than I ever did before and tell people I care as often as I can. So what is the problem? I have been told what I say doesn’t seem portrayed that way. I have a hard time comprehending this. For example: There was a woman I liked, I tried to show her but even she said she was not sure, that it didn’t seem that way. I tried so hard but I just couldn’t get what I was actually feeling outward by action or expression I guess.
I have PTSD, I struggle with understanding emotion and even portraying certain emotion. If you are emotional in front of me, like crying or upset, my brain is trying to empathize and understand but I just can’t ever seem to figure it out. It makes me uncomfortable in the situation and I am trying to think of a way out of that moment. It’s not that I do not care, it is that I just can’t comprehend why you are upset or even what I am suppose to do. It is not easy to live with and it keeps me up at night. I use to be a very empathetic and understanding human and I kinda miss that guy.
So, if you and I are in a situation like above and my face goes red or I slowly distance myself from you or I constantly look away…… please know I care, I just don’t know what to do, guide me or let me escape.
When you take photos of yourself for 12 months straight or do anything that catches attention from people, unexpected things can happen.
I knew people would roll their eyes, maybe mock me ( which of course, did happen.) I knew different people would like my photos ( they did.) I knew people would say they liked the photos and make kind comments ( some did.) The one thing I did not know…..
There were a few who saw the photos and never said anything. Until it was over. I Inspired some people unknowingly.
4 private Facebook messages and 2 texts that went back and forth for a while.
“I am really going to miss your pictures, they made me smile each day and made my day better, especially when I was feeling like crap. Then, there was your face, smiling.”
“I never commented on your photos but I looked at them each day. It was nice to see someone smile , even knowing that you probably had some bad days. You still smiled, I liked that.”
“ Your smiling face made my hard days better, I am going to miss that.”
“Mark, you inspired me to smile. I had some sucky days and kept thinking, he’s smiling, so I could try. Knowing you and talking with you every few days, I knew not each day was good and you told me that this photo thing was hard but yet, you still tried every day.”
“You are a great guy, have a nice smile, you are inspiring. For selfish reasons, I wish you would keep doing the photos. I had some hard days, you helped.”
“I saw you’re not going to keep posting your daily selfie. Oh no! I was enjoying them! I hope you had a good year and looks like you’re doing awesome staying healthy!”
I didn’t embark on this project to inspire anyone, in fact, that is the LAST thing I thought would happen. I am not one to take compliments well, nor do the words “ Inspiration or inspirational” make me comfortable. They make me squirm actually. I have never once thought of myself as inspiring. I am just me, trying my best to live my life better and trying different things. If someone gets inspired or I make someone’s day then I guess I am doing something right.
I did love hearing that I made some people smile. That, I am ok with hearing. I strive to make people smile or laugh. I love smiling, it is my favorite haha !
So what does “ Unexpected Inspiration.” teach me ?
You or I may not strive to actively inspire but our actions, even the ones that seem crazy or dumb can affect others, motivate them, make their day or inspire them to just smile even when it is hardest for them to do.
Unknowingly people are watching our every move, even more so since the invention of social media. What you do or say can and will impact others just by being you.
My advice ? Keep being you because being you is authentic and awesome. That is what I strive for.
I like to end things on a good note so, I have decided to write about the bad before the good. Which will be part 3.
When you take photos of yourself for 12 months straight you are bound to face criticism or get mocked. Heck, nowadays anything you do consistently and publicly will have it’s trolls. I have definitely faced this by a few individuals and one in particular felt it necessary to comment on almost every photo and then not explain why.
I did receive messages from a few people that my photos were annoying, narcissistic. Some went as far to say they were getting sick of seeing my face daily. Even people who I was not associated on Facebook with sent messages ( good and bad.) That mostly has to do with the fact that I made all of my posts public.
Was I pissed ? No, not me. This project further proved to me I am a long way away from fully feeling total emotion. On the plus side I was able to think logically and not let things get to me.
What always seems to surprise me and I am not sure why, is how people can be so rude and disrespectful even to people they know. Now, I realize of course that not everyone I know on Facebook is a friend and ya, maybe at some point in my life those people may have been friends or a part of my life but are not now. So most of their comments don’t really matter nor do the thoughts of people I don’t know.
Because I am not a believer in public shaming I will not name on my blog the person who felt it was ok to comment on almost every photo saying “ You are a brave man.” Or giving me a generic, elaborate story as to why or why not he kept commenting.
However, I will say this…… He crossed lines when questioned about why he did it. He insulted a friend, a close friend who I have the utmost respect for. A friend who decided to defend me. In messages he said I need to get her Laid and for her to “calm her tits.” This is something that is not acceptable in any way, shape or form.
Insult, criticize and call me all the names you want, I can take it. I can take verbal abuse…wel,l at least right now because I feel nothing. Insult my friends and that is where I draw the line, especially when it is behind their back. If you don’t like being called out for your childish acts by a friend of mine defending me then shut your mouth and hold your insults.
Damn rights I am brave, I am brave to have tolerated some disrespect for almost a year. I am brave because I do put myself out there knowing that not everyone will be pleased with my actions.
In conclusion. I dislike negative things, therefore this post is shorter than most. I take chances, not always smart ones but I would rather fail doing something that sit on my butt and do nothing. If I succeed at a project, then great and if I fail and I show that it is ok to fail every once in a while then I am ok with that too. This photo project in my mind was a success even with the criticism and disrespect I received which leads me to my next post…..Unexpected Inspiration .
August 11, 2015. This day, I celebrated me and 2 years of life post heart attack. I wanted to be alone this day because it is my day, for me.
So how do I share a day so personal to me ? A day in which I think about the previous year and my growth. I also begin to think about how I envision the coming year.
So what did I do ?
I started this day by visiting the beach court where I had my Heart Attack. I sat alone for a while in thought….surrounded by kids playing at a day camp around me. I smiled as these kids played tag, threw dodgeballs at each other and had sand fights. Then it came to me…..sorta. Seeing all of this around me gave me a Happy Heart 🙂
Now, before I continue…..I used the hastag #happyheart for the day but #happyheart is not my original idea. For this, I give credit to my heart sister Sarah Klena from http://heartattackat31.blogspot.ca/. She created T shirts this year to raise money for American Heart Association. Ultimately that hashtag was created by her and I will give credit where it is due. I think about #happyheart a lot since Sarah first brought it forward.
So, after I took the photo below, I posted it to Facebook and asked my friends to share with me their stories that made gave them a #happyheart. I would read these at the end of my day when I returned to social media.
Now, I will get back to this in a moment.
My Heataversary is like my New Years minus any drinking and kissing someone at midnight ( unless someone wants to join me in a kiss. )
The rest of my day was driving through Southern Alberta and stopping to take in the scenery. I wanted badly to just be alone. Alone to be with my thoughts and to go about my day with only having to worry about where or what I would do next. There was no direct plan other than to drive and take photos.
The photos above are from various points along the route I drove and places I stopped. Truth is, I did not think much for the first half the drive, I simply took in the scenery. Whether it was the vast fields, mountains in the distance or the various Horses, Sheep and Cows along the way. It was completely breathtaking and relaxing.
Then came the drive home and although earlier I had thought about the direction I hope to go in the coming year, another thoughts came to me.
You see, I have definitely grown in the last 24 months and come so far but one thing occurred to me. I still play things too safe and don’t take as many risks as maybe I should. I still play it safe. So then my mind wandered as to why.
The answer is not as simple as I thought. I thought I have been taking more chances the last 2 years and yes I have taken a couple BUT I still played it safe by not pushing myself to reach beyond what I think are my limitations and in matters of the heart. I won’t go into too much detail as this is a little personal for now but I will say this……
I NEED TO STOP BEING SO AFRAID OF NOT BEING QUITE GOOD ENOUGH.
I NEED TO MAKE A MOVE
I NEED TO TAKE HARD STEPS
I NEED TO TRY EVEN MORE
I NEED TO BE OK WITH MAKING MISTAKES
BECAUSE ALL OF THIS MEANS……I AM BEATING MY OWN FEARS.
The drive home passed quickly with no stops for photos and although I was deep in thought, I was actually happy. Happy because, if you remember at the beginning of this post I said I wanted to be alone.
Somewhere along that highway I realized I wanted to be with friends, I really wanted to be around people to end my day. Lucky for me, my team had a dodgeball game that night. I had planned to skip the game to be alone, I honestly did not want people to see me at all. I am thankful that I changed my mind.
That game was our first win of the season, it was a fun game and I felt completely in my element being with people I love being around, playing a sport I love. Playing the sport in which I was playing the day my heart attack occurred. Kinda like slaying the demon in my head.
After the game we were invited to a our team mate Jesse’s place for a BBQ and a Beer. I had declined this invite a few times actually but eventually decided to go. BEST DECISION !
Ending my day with these amazing people was the perfect ending to a great day. A day of celebration, reflection and just being one with myself, nature and in the end, my friends.
I am thankful for life, thankful for growth and I am thankful I get another shot at living every single day.
2 Years later I am thankful for my Heart Attack because it was my eye opener and my life line.
Celebrate life and make someone happy, make them smile because as a quote I read the other day said.
“If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that. “
–Don’t know the author.-
Happy Heartaversary to me 🙂 Here is to many more !!
It took me a while to write this. I had to sort through all my thoughts on this race.
I trained hard, I was dedicated, I pushed when I wanted to give up, kept going to the gym even when I didn’t feel like it. Every moment leading up to the race was a challenge. I was as ready as I was going to be. My mind, my body felt strong.
Now, before I dive into this further please understand I am very proud of finishing the race and no one can take that away from me. The pride and the finish.
I spent time before the race meeting friends, taking photos and having my photo taken many times thanks to people loving my race shirt ! The Shirt….that is for another post.
To say I was nervous would be the biggest understatement of the day.
I was ready to take this race and make it mine. In my training I had felt amazing, was running an 11:45 min/mile. I only had a few blips while training but worked through it smartly.
Smart. That here is the key word my friends. I trained not for speed, I trained to be smart, healthy and to ensure I was having fun. Trained not to think too much about my heart attack and what could go wrong. I felt so amazing !
Then came race day. Up at the crack of crazy ( 3am) for a start time of 7:00 am. I never publicly stated I had a goal but in my head I wanted to finish in 2:25. That is what I trained for.
I won’t detail every kilometre, I promise.
The course was amazing, flat, scenic. The weather was cool at the start and quite warm as the race progressed. The first kilometre and a half I ran with my friend Susan but realized her 9 min per mile pace was too much for me and out of my training zone. I let her go ahead because I did not want her to stay behind for me. I really wanted to do the whole race with her but realized she was a lot faster than I was. Respect the pace, respect the distance is exactly what was going through my head.
The first 5 KM I felt amazing, was matching my 12 min/ mile pace and just before the 5 km mark I stopped to see my friend Danielle who was waiting kindly for me by the Starbucks in Bridgeland. It was so good to see my friend Danielle on the course, it gives you a little boost to keep pushing forward. I took a photo with her and off I went.
As I ran back across Memorial Drive I was loving the race having fun with other runners and was still keeping a 12 min mile but that was not to last much longer.
It was slightly before reaching 17th avenue that a little fatigue had started to set in. This was between kilometre 8 and 9.
17th Avenue. What do I say about this part of the course ? It was definitely the worst part of the entire course. It was 2.5 km of uneven roads, pot holes and a narrowing of the course. Pedestrians crossed at a few points from the sides of the street. Just before Kilometre 10 is when my race started to go downhill.
I went to pass 3 runners who were running side by side by side. As I cut to the right I hit a dip in the road hard, twisted my knee, tried to brace myself from falling right over ( BIG MISTAKE !). It took about another KM before I started feeling immense pain. Now in theory this could have absolutely ruined my race but something great came out of it. The Injury? A Sprained Knee which I am still battling the pain of a few weeks later.
As I went to walk to the side once the pain started, I bumped into a young woman, apologized and we laughed. This woman would be one of 2 that I ran/ walked the rest of the race with. Her name was Lindsay. The other girl was Shona.
The rest of the race we paced each other, taking walk breaks and although I admitted being in pain, I downplayed it. I remember at one point, Shona had said I was the reason she was running and staying in it. That was awesome to hear and yes, it motivated my ass to keep going.
My pace slowed to between 14-16 minutes per mile. There were far more walk breaks than I had hoped for but I knew pushing harder would have made this injury worse. So I did what I seem to do best in hard situations.
I laughed. I danced. I chatted with those around me. I posed as I ran past cameras. I hugged a random person. I pretended to be Superman, only, I was missing my Lois Lane. My Knee was my race kryptonite but it would not wreck my spirit. I kept repeating encouragement to my run mates as they did with me. This race was still mine.
The final kilometre was upon us and yes I continued to run/walk right up until the final corner where I ran, in tons of frickin pain but I ran. That finish line looked so close and yet so far away. The three of us kinda split at the end. I would run into Lindsay again at Bag Check and a few days later on Instragram.
Crossing the finish line. OH. MY. GOD. So much awesome that it is hard to put into words.
I Crossed, I Cried ( that is again for another post), crouched to my knees after crossing, got up and walked up to… and this is where it gets really cool.
Her name is Sarah Lynn Stephens. The day before the race she saw me at the packet pick up and told me I would finish and do amazing. Little did I know til later that the girl I got my medal from, who’s shoulder I cried on was the same girl who had encouraged me before the race. A Girl who’s sister is actually on one of my Dodgeball teams. Small World.
Seriously such an awesome finish, I would not have changed a thing.
The Race was fun, tough, but fun. My Heart felt amazing, not once was I worried about my heart. It was my heart that got me through to the finish. My body was up to the task at hand and I had fun for the entire 21.1 km. I made a couple new friends, experienced brief emotion ( again a different post), finished a race and became very proud of what I accomplished even if it wasn’t the goal time I had hoped.
So what else is there to say?
When you set out to accomplish a goal, No matter how hard you train, how prepared you are…..Sometimes things don’t go as you had hoped or planned. Sometimes we search and try for one thing but discover another. There is no reason to be disappointed if you don’t get your time or PR and complete your goal. Use it to move forward but don’t beat yourself up, be proud of what you did accomplish and look for what made the experience great.
For me, it was two women who made me laugh, crossing the finish line, crying on the shoulder of someone who said they were proud of me and in the end……Kicking Heart Disease’s Ass for yet another day.
Thank you. On April 23, 2014 I took a chance and asked you to help me. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and put something publicly out into the world.
As you know Universe, I was struggling in the area of employment. I had a 3 month goal in my head.
As you know Universe, you had other plans. You made me wait, be patient, you had me make a few errors and re asses my worth and what I thought I should be doing vs what I should be open to.
As you know Universe, it took 10 months and a few adventures along the way, even re visiting an old “stomping ground” in July. Little did I know that would be the start of my turning point. You knew.
Thank you Universe for being patient with me.
Thank you Universe for showing me things about myself that helped me regain some confidence. Confidence in my worth as an employable asset. As a human being.
Thank you Universe for allowing me to try a few jobs that got my thought process going. Jobs that didn’t work because I felt constrained.
Thank you Universe for giving me some free time to rest and re charge. I needed it and I fought it but you made it happen.
Thank you Universe for showing me that asking for help and seeking guidance is absolutely ok and not something to be ashamed of.
Thank you Universe for showing me that the value of my friendships and my ability to stay connected on a human level helping others is karma which can be returned by the right people.
Thank you Universe for testing, challenging and kicking my butt in gear. I like challenges and you knew that.
Thank you Universe for giving me the strength and ability to realize I can be myself and sell myself in an interview. To just be Mark.
Thank you Universe for making me open to an opportunity that has so far been amazing.
Thank you Universe for presenting me with a job, a place where I finally feel like I fit in and can be utilized through growth and learning that I am finally open to.
Thank you Universe mostly for helping me to see me and putting me on a journey that has just begun.
Most of all Universe for making me accountable, thank you for having Faith in me when I was full of self doubt.
In a world where we get beaten down, lose confidence in ourselves, we fail to take a shot when we need it most. It is scary and you can be judged. Do it anyway. The only person you are battling is you. You are all that matters. In the end succeed or fail, you gave it a shot. Don’t give up. Thank yourself and the Universe when you see the direction in which you may have been blind to before.
I took it, I made it public. I made myself accountable to what I asked. It wasn’t easy but I am here, I am thankful and I have a job I am finally happy with again.
Thank you Universe for opportunity.
Thank you Universe, I put it out there and you showed me the way.
In the spirit of Heart Month, I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.
My name is Mark Humble, I’m 52 years old from Bloomington Illinois.
My story begins on November 30, 2014, just another Sunday.
My wife and I woke up, went to breakfast, then came home to finish preparing for a harsh winter.
I had just put a new seal on the bottom of our garage door when I started feeling strange…tightness in my chest then down hill quickly. Within a minute I had severe chest pain, nausea, sweating like crazy @ 34 degrees outside, then the pain shot down my left arm. I knew what was going on, and I yelled for my wife. I said ,”Heidi I need some aspirin!” she said, “You have a head ache? you want some Tylenol?” “No Baby I think I’m having a heart attack.” She got the aspirin and off to the hospital. Cardiac Cath was performed and minimal buildup of less than 50% found. Medicine prescribed and sent home December 2.
I felt pretty drained and weak for the next few weeks but was told it was from the meds and HA.
Three weeks later…December 22, I was at work. 8:00am started feeling bad. I knew again what was going on…this was much worse! Same symptoms as before, but this time I couldn’t breathe. I yelled for a co worker and told him I was having another HA. He rushed me to the ER which was only 3 minutes away.
Got to the hospital and collapsed into a wheel chair…V-fib…thankfully after I coded three times they were able to stabilize my condition thru shock and resuscitation.
Immediate Cardiac Cath again, again no damage and less than 50% buildup in my LAD. This time my EF (ejection fraction) was 35. Next day my numbers were getting better. Doc said he’s adjusting my meds and sending me home because he couldn’t find anything wrong with me. What? huh? nothing wrong? Something has got to be wrong!!! I was scared beyond words.
I expressed my concerns to my nurses and told them I felt I couldn’t / shouldn’t go home without knowing. Several hours later Nurse Jill comes in and hands me a brochure for the Zoll Life Vest. She said she got one approved for me to wear home. For those who don’t know, the Life Vest is an external defibrillator that is fully automatic. No outside intervention is needed. This gave me a feeling of hope that I would be OK if I went home on the 24th. By the way, I named my life vest… ‘Hope’.
24 hours later…Christmas Day: Went to my in-laws for Christmas dinner. Everyone was filling their plates and bellies when I started feeling bad. I looked at my wife and said, “Heidi, it’s happening again!” Same symptoms, except breathing not an issue this time. I sat down at the dinner table as she called 911. I popped a nitro pill, and said to Heidi, “I’m going out!” Down I went..V-fib… My wife was trained on the vest, so she knew to have everyone stay away and let ‘Hope’ do her thing; and she did. Blam!! Single treatment shock brought me back after about 30 seconds. (I’m sure that’s a Christmas dinner Heidi’s family will never forget).
It took 7 more minutes for the ambulance to arrive. If it weren’t for God, my wonderful wife, and the Zoll Life Vest, I wouldn’t be here today.
This time a new Cardiologist. Cardiac Cath #3. Placed stent into that “less than 50% buildup”. After two days in our local hospital (OSF St. Josephs) they transferred me to St Francis Peoria and ran every test imaginable. All tests negative. 🙁 scheduled and installed an ICD the next day,(I’ve named my ICD ‘Faith’.) I was sent home on the 30th. Now I wait….
The thing I fear most is the unknown. Still to this day we have no idea what happened.
Most important things for me now., God, My wonderful wife, and my family!
Just started Cardiac Rehab last week, 1/30
I’m not to the new dreams stage yet, I cant. Someday I will, but right now it’s one day at a time.
If I could go back in time; I would never have smoked, and I would have spent every day with my kids.
I have never been consumed by anything this intense. It’s almost impossible to do anything without being aware of every little thing. People say it gets better with time; I hope their right.
What do I want more of in life? Time…My wife and I have a lot of living to do yet. I need and want to be here for her, my kids, and my 3 grand kids.
What makes me great? The people in my life; especially my wife. Without those folks I’d be nothing!
Healthy folks…Do your best to stay that way. and live everyday to the fullest. You never know when….well…