How Striving for Perfection Almost Killed Me
Every woman has a moment where something so drastic happens it changes her life forever. For our Bombshell, Janelle Mason, a Success Coach for determined and driven women, that moment happened when she was 28 years old.
On the outside it seemed this radiant beauty had it all. On the inside, her body was saying something different. Her story inspires us to tune into ourselves and always pay attention to what we need, even if it's finding a happy balance. This is her story.
At 28, I suffered a heart attack and nearly died.
From the age of 9, I knew I’d become a lawyer. Climbing the corporate ladder, and achieving my childhood dream, consumed me until I started practicing at 21 (I fast tracked my degree and finished early#overachiever)
I always did a million things at once, prioritising career over sleep, and anything else that kept me still.
Pushing my limits and running on empty, was something that became normal. I always knew I could perform at a high level, and tested these limits, like doubling my University workload (14 subjects in one year, instead of eight) or as a lawyer (16 hour days was my life).
At the time, how I worked and lived my life didn’t seem bad, especially since I wasn’t the only one in my office with this lifestyle. It felt like I was living how I was suppose to.
Shortly before my heart attack, I worked for a global company, lived out of a suitcase, and worked round the clock. While I wasn’t entirely unhealthy, I knew I could have found more balance by prioritising sleep and meditation.
Then the unthinkable happened.
I’d been feeling unwell, like struggling to breath at times, and experiencing severe pain between my shoulder blades.
It took me 12 days before I went to the doctor.
During this time I’d also had farewell drinks with friends, boarded a 10-hour flight to Japan, got a massage in Tokyo thinking it was muscle pain, and saw a GP who sent me home with antibiotics and sleeping pills…
There wasn’t one moment I thought I’d have a heart attack.
I was 28!
On that flight, during that massage, and if those two sleeping pills had have worked, I could have died.
Looking back, it feels like something bigger than me kept me awake and alive. There was this strong gut reaction and little voice in my head that told me to go to the hospital and get a proper check up.
So I listened.
I had a 100% blocked artery, and was nearly dead when they rushed me into the operating room.
I never once thought I was about to die, which I guess helped me!
As women, we put a lot on ourselves.
We pressure ourselves to work harder, be better mothers, wives and friends. We strive to climb ladders and build businesses, while changing the world and striving to be perfect.
All the while we beat ourselves up for not achieving perfection (because it doesn’t exist).
We consistently raise the bar, our minds go non-stop, and our bodies struggle to keep up.
My heart attack was a huge sign for me to slow down.
In real truth, I’d adopted a people pleasing attitude because I love helping others and strive at being the best I can be. Without realizing it, I was seeking praise. I wanted the top marks, the top career, and didn’t want to stop until I achieved everything - flawlessly.
My body taught me otherwise and I view my heart attack as one of my best life lessons.
Now that I’ve recovered, I feel wiser and more in control of my life.
This experience lead me to start my own business so I can dictate my schedule. I’ve learned to set clear boundaries and give myself permission to slow down when I need to.
Our bodies are wise and are always giving us signals to pay attention.
It’s up to us to listen.
As women, we already know there is a lot of pressure on us to keep up and have it all. It sometimes feels like we’re searching for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, that turns out to not exist. It’s all an illusion we play out in our minds.
Your internal dialogue either builds you up or beats you down. It can lead to burnout, and dare I say, heart disease.
If I can pass on advice in terms of life, health, and lifestyle choices, it would be that you can have it all, but you can’t do it all.
You can’t be the best version of yourself if you continue to take on more than your body can handle.
Today, I outsource tasks to save my sanity, and still achieve my goals. I prioritize time for mindfulness, either in a 10-minute meditation or an hour long yoga class. I stop and take a breath, pause when I need to, and strive to remain present in the moment. This helps me reduce my heart rate and lower cortisol (one of our stress hormones).
I am more aware of how my habits contribute to my body and overall health. I can’t turn back the clock, but I can use my heart attack as a lesson.
My biggest takeaway is life is precious and so very short. While we aren’t in control of our future, we can control our present.
My decisions are now made based on how happy and healthy I feel. I stand strong in my power to make choices that feel good, and love witnessing the transformation they’ve had on both my personal and professional lives.
I am grateful for this experience and everything it has taught me, and hope this story helps you!
Janelle's story is part of the Bombshell Diaries - real health stories written by real women. If you know an inspirational woman who has a powerful story, contact us and tell us all about her!