Two years ago on my mother’s birthday – 5 March – my life changed.
Two years on, I can say that it changed for the better. I felt guilty saying that last year, but now it seems so obvious that saying it is just like reciting a learned fact.
Two years ago yesterday, I woke to my mother knocking on the bedroom door.
We were at my parents’ place for the weekend – to spoil her on her birthday.
“Can one of you come out here and give me a hand for a minute?”
Her voice wasn’t panicked. It sounded stressed, like it had all the years can had to bang on the door to wake us up and get us to school on time.
I got up, in a hurry – this was an early-morning request from a woman who rarely asked for help. Of course I was surprised, confused, and curious… what was going on?
As I left the bedroom, my mother pushed one of the dogs in and closed the door. Shutting him in there. Odd.
“[Dad] isn’t well” she said as I followed her into the living room. She had the phone in her hand and was dialing 111.
“Can you get on the floor?” That one was directed at Dad.
“Keep him talking” That one was directed at me.
Dad was having chest pains, and Mum – being a nurse – took control of the situation. She handled everything so well, and kept us all calm.
Afterwards, she told me just how panicked she felt. That she had asked Dad to get on the floor because she knew she’d never be able to perform CPR on the couch, or have the strength to move him if she needed to. She went into problem-fixing mode and words can’t describe how thankful I am to her for that. It’s something I’ve never seen in my emotion-led and people-oriented mother. But at the time, she took control and handled it – putting her own feelings of being scared aside.
While mum was on the phone with emergency services, I made small talk with Dad – really awkward small talk. I don’t have a clue what we actually talked about. There was kind of a big elephant in the room. Sarcastic, awkward humour – it’s our thing.
Not long after, I was running down a gravel driveway in my pyjamas to signal the ambulance on to the property and through the front gate.
The paramedics came into the house and checked him out. I stayed in the kitchen to let them have their privacy.
They led him out the back door and into the ambulance. Mum followed behind in her car.
A transfer to Wellington Hospital and a surgery or two later, I watched Dad continue his bad habits and nothing really change. I later found out that he had been having chest pains in the weeks beforehand – one time while he was out walking so he stopped at Burger King and got a cheeseburger so he could sit down and catch his breath.
If he had stopped and listened to his body then, could the panic that horrible morning been avoided?
I told myself I never wanted to be in that position. I especially didn’t want to be in a position like that and not learn from my mistakes.
The whole thing was stressful for everyone – especially my parents – and everyone was effected in different ways.
My parents started talking a lot about power of attorneys, and where to find the bank records if I ever needed to unravel their affairs.
My brother kept a lot of it to himself, but watched the things my father did closely, too.
I started losing my hair, and realised that something had to change in my life.
I’m not a health-fanatic, but exercise plays a much bigger part in my life now. That fact that is plays any part is a big deal. I was that kid that would use every excuse in the book to get out of PE and avoided all sports like the plague. It got even worse after high school.
I worked long hours while studying, and ate a lot of crap. I didn’t cook. I heated ready-made (cheap) food. The only exercise I got was carrying books to and from the bus stop.
I travelled Europe and graduated at the heaviest I’ve ever been (somewhere over 80kg here, probably closer to 85kg).
Then all this happened. I felt like my body was falling apart from stress and not being looked after.
I was scared.
So I made small changes. I set myself small goals, and I talked about them on here. My world didn’t change over night, but I started seeing results.
Slowly but surely, my lifestyle changed.
And I started respecting myself again.
There were goals in my life beyond my career!
I started setting my goals higher. I got out, and tried new things…
Now I’m having personal training sessions, and really enjoying pushing myself in ways I haven’t before.
It sucks that it took something so scary to trigger this kind of behaviour, but I’m glad something did. Here’s to another two years of improvement, progress, and prevention.