Life Personal Development

What Heart Problems at Age 24 Taught Me About Stress

What Heart Problems at Age 24 Taught Me About Stress

I know I don’t write much anymore, (or at least lately) but this is a big month for me and of course I have a story explaining why and a lesson to share that goes along with it. This month marks two years since my heart procedure. Not many people in my life besides some family and close friends know about this procedure and I even hid it from most of them as it was happening. A few months later – “surprise! I had some crazy heart abnormality but don’t worry I already had surgery to fix it.” 🙂 

Sometimes it’s hard for me to let people in to the darker parts of my life until it’s over and done with and I’ve had time to reflect. When I share personal things with people, I like them to be a story and a lesson. I don’t like talking about anything negative going on in my life in a present tense. I like turning negative experiences and difficult things I’ve been through into something positive I can share with others. Naturally, when I found out something was wrong with my heart, I wasn’t ready to share that information with anyone until I found a way to look at it in a positive light.

Two years later I can say I’m truly grateful for the experience and what I learned from it, so here’s the story.

Most of my life, I’ve been an extremely healthy and active individual. I’ve always had seemingly endless energy and never let anything stop me in my tracks. I loved seeing what my body was capable of, learning that many of my perceived physical limitations were really just limiting beliefs in my mind. I never really got tired or worn out from strenuous workouts every day because I believed I had endless energy. I never really got sick because, well, I believed I never get sick. Everything was (and still is) about optimistic faith and good energy to me. You feel good and believe everything will be okay, and everything will indeed be okay.

But a few years ago, I went through a period of time where I really let stress get to me. (AKA – I made myself stressed – because we do in fact create our own stress by choosing how we react to a given situation or how we choose to let it affect us) I was “stuck” in a job that didn’t pay enough and I wasn’t too happy with but it was comfortable and I was good at it. I was in a long-distance relationship where I allowed myself to drown in anxiety because of our circumstances, and was constantly worrying about every little thing. Now, by this point, I was 24 and had spent years teaching myself to handle life in the exact opposite way that I just described. I knew that I wasn’t doing myself or my life circumstances any good by being so stressed out about everything and I needed to change before anything in my life would change, but there I stayed.

I stayed in that deep dark hole of stress, anxiety, and self-pity because it was comfortable. It was familiar. And deep down, I knew the steps I had to take to improve my situation: actually try to get a new job that would challenge me (and pay more), and end my relationship because we were not right for each other at all, but both of those things scared the crap out of me. Why would I want to get a new job when I’m comfortable and good at the job that I’m at? I should just stay, because it’s safe and secure, right? And why would I end my relationship and risk being alone and single even though I let it cause me so much stress and I knew deep down we weren’t right for each other at all, when it was comfortable, secure, and good enough? What if, god forbid, no one else wants to date me, ever, and I die alone? *queue massive eye roll*

We stay in situations and mindsets that cause us stress because they’re comfortable. We tell ourselves, eh, who cares if I’m stressed, that’s just the way it goes, right? Life’s a bitch and then you die, blah blah. But all this stress does so much more harm to us than we realize. It’s not just mental stress, not just emotional stress…. Stress majorly affects our physical body. Remember how earlier I said I never got sick? That’s because I understood that stress is a negative energy – a negative energy that does things like weaken your immune system, and make your body sick. Negative thoughts and emotions manifest to your physical body. I didn’t let stress touch me, fully believed I never got sick, never worried about getting sick, and guess what? Yeah, for those few years, I never got sick. (Never got the flu shot either 😉 how bout dat? Don’t tell my mom though)

So what happened when I entered this spiral of stress? Well, my body tried to warn me by giving me constant heart palpitations for a few months. Heart palpitations are where your heart basically feels like it’s pounding out of your chest. Most of the time – heart palpitations are caused by stress. (or anxiety, or way too much freaking caffeine) Mine were caused by stress, and I knew that. They were constant. It was hard to sleep because my heart was constantly pounding, and working out was getting to be pretty difficult too.

Even though I knew my heart palpitations were caused by stress, after a few months of them being so constant, I decided to go in and get checked out, just in case. My doctor gave me a heart monitor to wear for a couple of days. After sending it back, he examined the results and told me I need to go see a specialist because there was some sort of arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, in the results from the monitor.

I was fucking terrified.

I had always been healthy. How could anything be wrong with me? I still didn’t know what was actually wrong with my heart, if anything, but I let myself become completely consumed with stress and anxiety about this. I was in the mindset of being constantly stressed – so that’s exactly how I handled this situation: by reacting with more stress.

Over the next couple of months, I had a series of various types of testing done, to find out I had what is called WPW Syndrome. People with WPW (Wolff-Parkinson-White) Syndrome have an extra electrical pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers that is present at birth and can cause the heart to “short circuit” or have irregular heartbeats. Often these extra pathways, called accessory nodes, are too weak and go unnoticed. But some, like mine, are stronger and can cause problems.

WPW occurs in 0.1% to 0.3% of the worldwide population. Most cases occur randomly in the general population for no apparent reason and do not run in families.

So after learning that I have WPW, I was told I need to get a surgical procedure as soon as possible to get rid of it. UUUHHMMMM… WHAT?!?!?!

I have never had surgery before, (besides my wisdom teeth) and didn’t plan on having surgery – like ever. How the hell do I react to learning I need to get surgery on my HEART?!?! I’m young, super healthy, and despite being extremely accident prone I would have never imagined needing a procedure like this.

The procedure I needed was called a cardiac ablation – which thankfully was not an open heart surgery but I still had to go under. Basically they went through an artery in my leg all the way up to my heart, to “burn” off the accessory node with radiation. Technology is pretty crazy if they can do a whole surgical procedure like that through an artery in your leg, right??

Anyway, the procedure came and passed, I will not say it was the best of times or easy by any means but I survived, there weren’t any complications, I had an amazing doctor, and recovery was pretty quick. Getting my cardiovascular endurance back was probably the most difficult part as I had to take a little break from working out, and when I came back to it I just didn’t have the same strength and endurance as before. That was humbling but a tough pill for me to swallow because at that point in my life, working out pretty much WAS my life.

But telling the story of this heart procedure is not why I wanted to write this post. I wanted to write this post to turn it into a lesson that I learned from it – as I do with most of my life experiences. The biggest lesson that came out of this experience for me was this:

NOTHING IS WORTH STRESS. EVER. EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER.

Life is precious and literally NOTHING is worth stressing over. Nothing. I’m so grateful that I found out about the issue with my heart, had a successful procedure to eliminate it for good, and that I never have to worry about it again. But really, I’m just glad to be alive. I’m not saying I had some life-threatening experience because I didn’t, but the chances of my WPW syndrome causing my heart to go into cardiac arrest or sudden death were high enough that I needed the procedure sooner rather than later. I also know that shit happens, humans are not perfect, humans can make mistakes, even surgeons. Getting surgery is literally trusting someone with your life, which was terrifying for me as I’ve always been a super independent “I’ll do it myself” type of person and let’s face it, a bit of a control freak. Having to completely trust someone else with my life was an insane concept for me to grasp. Sure, we trust people with our lives every day when you think about it… Uber drivers, pilots, etc, but these doctors had control over whether I wake up or not. That was my chronic overthinking side coming out, but I had to learn to let go and trust someone besides myself. I couldn’t stress about it because, what good would that do me?

What if I hadn’t woken up from the procedure, but I had spent the last few days/months beforehand stressing terribly about the procedure and how it would go?

After looking at stress in those terms, it made it a lot easier for me to put things in perspective.

I realized that cheesy saying is actually really true… our lives are short… we all can really die tomorrow, or today, so why waste any precious moment stressing, or being anything less than happy and enthusiastic, about anything? Is it worth it?

Years from now, we’ll all be piles of bones and dust. It could be hundreds of years from now, it could be three years from now. But really, it makes no difference. We are so small yet we feel like our problems are so big, like they’re the end of the world. They’re not of course, we are just choosing to perceive them that way.

Part of me wonders if I would have ever found out about my WPW Syndrome if I hadn’t been in such a severe state of stress and anxiety for all those months that my body reacted with heart palpitations. Sometimes I wonder if I should be grateful for those things, because they led me to a procedure to fix something that could have potentially cut my life short.

But I’m not only grateful for the potential “longer life” this procedure gave me. I’m grateful for the shift in perspective it caused. For me to be able to see just how much of a difference it makes in all areas of your life, when you choose to be happy and at peace with life, instead of stressing about it.

Life is beautiful and messy and challenging but we’re here to experience and enjoy it and nothing should ever be worth stress, because everything you go through is all part of this incredible experience.  

 

xoxo, Nicole

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.