“I’ve been given a second chance of life.”
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.
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I think the unknown can prepare you for
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how people are going to react to you.
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People think that heart
attack survivors are fragile.
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People were always looking at me and
asking me, how are you doing,
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what's going on?
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And you get to the point where you
physically are feeling much better, but
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emotionally you're going through so much.
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I had been put on ice for two days,
so I came out not only being
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told what had happened to me,
but also, I had pneumonia.
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And so it was just so
many things coming at me, and
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I was in the room with friends and
family from Los Angles and
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from Tennessee, so I was very confused.
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The one emotion that I experienced
that I thought was really
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interesting in hindsight
was I was embarrassed.
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I was embarrassed that
this happened to me.
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I went through a major identity crisis.
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I went through a lot of
depression during my recovery.
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I was the workout fitness person that you
would come to to get advice from, and
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all of a sudden I didn't
know who I was anymore.
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It was a real struggle for me.
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I was always the guy that was in control,
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And realizing that I needed help
was something that I had to come to
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a realization early on, and
I really had to rely on my meditation.
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I had to rely on the support that I
got from my doctors, support that
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I got from my friends and family, to get
me through the toughest time in my life.
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I've being given a second chance of life,
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and I know that sounds kind of dramatic,
but it's what I really do believe in now.
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I know how precious this life is.
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I understand that it can
be gone in an instant.
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And I'm not going to
stress on the big things.
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I'm not gonna stress on the small things.
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I'm gonna love being here right now,
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because I know that
it's all gonna be okay.
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Depression After A Cardiac Event or Diagnosis. American Heart Association. (Accessed on February 26, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Depression-After-A-Cardiac-Event-or-Diagnosis_UCM_440444_Article.jsp#.WpP-ZcbMyCQ)