Coping After a Heart Attack: Bob Harper’s Rollercoaster of Emotions

“I’ve been given a second chance of life.”

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After a heart attack, it’s natural to want to out yourself on the road to recovery ASAP. While you can start taking your medications right away or identify risk factors that may have led to your heart attack, no one can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster that often follows.

Bob Harper, fitness expert and former trainer on The Biggest Loser, had a near-fatal heart attack on February 12, 2017. It was unexpected, and completely threw him for a loop. “I went through a major identity crisis; I went through a lot of depression during my recovery. I was the workout/fitness person that you would come to to get advice from, and all of a sudden I didn’t know who I was anymore—it was a real struggle for me,” says Harper.

In fact, studies show that up to a third of heart attack patients develop some degree of depression after their event, according to the American Heart Association. “You get to a point where you’re physically feeling much better, but emotionally you’re going through so much,” Harper says.

As Harper began to process what happened with his heart attack, he got hit with more surprising emotions that he didn’t expect to feel. “The one emotion that I experienced, that I thought was really interesting in hindsight, was I was embarrassed—I was embarrassed that this happened to me,” says Harper.

Harper says he’s always been the guy in control, and being able to relinquish it and accept help from others was a challenge. “I really had to rely on my meditation, I had to rely on the support that I got from my doctors, [and] support that I got from my friends and family, to get me through the toughest time of my life,” he says.

Since his heart attack, he’s not only made some serious changes to his already-healthy lifestyle, like his post-heart attack diet and modified exercise routine, but he’s also decided to put his healthy living influence to good use.

Harper has teamed up with the awareness and advocacy cause Survivors Have Heart (supported by AstraZeneca), which helps educate other heart attack survivors on the importance of working with their healthcare provider and staying committed to treatment and the lifestyle plan prescribed by their doctor.

“I’ve been given a second chance of life ... I know how precious this life is, I understand that it can be gone in an instant. And I’m not going to stress on the big things, I’m not going to stress on the small things, I’m going to love being here right now, because I know that it’s all going to be OK,” says Harper.