Just about 10 years ago, I had a migraine that lasted two weeks. I have never been in such pain; even an ER visit and a morphine drip didn’t touch it. Then, 6 months later, I had a stomach pain that just wouldn’t go away. Finally I went to the hospital, and it turned out that the stomach pain wasn’t indigestion, and the migraine wasn’t a migraine; both were actually blood clots.
And so I embarked on a multi-year journey to try and figure out why the clots were forming. In the end, after dozens and dozens of tests and weeks in various hospitals, we came up empty — and as a result, I have been on blood thinners as a precautionary measure ever since.
For me, it was the first time I ever dealt with a chronic condition. I had had plenty of injuries before — mostly broken bones and other sports-related injuries — but I’d never dealt with anything internal, and never anything… permanent. Not a welcome feeling.
I would say it has taken me close to 10 years to really internalize this. I have resisted it. Not only is the blood clotting a problem in itself, but the medicine causes its own problems — specifically, constant risk of over-bleeding. In other words: if I don’t take my medicine, I’m at risk of clotting up, and if I do take my medicine, and something happens (like a car crash or bike accident) I’m at risk of bleeding out. My wife put it pretty succinctly the other day when she said: “Anyone could fall down the steps, hit their head and die. That means you need to be more careful than everyone.” Ugh.
Being more careful than everyone has never been my strong suit, and really just isn’t in my nature. But truth is, that’s how it has to be, and I need to deal with it.
Here is the funny thing about making life-changing… changes. On the one hand, it feels lousy, unfair, and like missing out. On the other hand, when I think about the people I know who have done it, I am the most proud of them.
I remember when my uncle, who passed away a few years ago, had a health scare and abruptly quit drinking and smoking (after many years of doing both pretty seriously). I was maybe 14 at the time, but I remember being so impressed by the way he took the reigns and just did it. He knew he needed to, and was almost gleeful and proud about taking a hard right turn towards his health (and for his family).
An entrepreneur I know recently made a huge concerted effort to exercise, lose weight, quit drinking, and doubled down his focus both on his personal relationships and his company. He is thriving, big time. I see an effort like that and I am like, damn, that’s awesome. It takes courage and dedication to make changes like that. But it is so beautiful.
Another friend was in a bad place with his marriage. After close to 10 years and three kids, he and his wife finally divorced. After some time, they are both better off and have things going in a new way, on a more solid foundation. He, in particular, seems so renewed and rejuvenated. Almost like being healed from a sickness.
It feels like it often takes a big shock, of some kind, to make these kinds of changes. I will never forget another time, back in 2008 — I was dealing with a challenging situation at work, and wasn’t dealing with it well — ruminating, avoiding. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, watching my son’s ultrasound, and seeing and hearing his heartbeat for the first time. Right at that moment I resolved to deal with the situation head on because, shit, I was undoubtedly responsible for important things and didn’t have time to fuck around.
There is something about that feeling of being forced to make a big change that ultimately does it. Without that, it is often just too easy to let things be as they are, and to continue sliding through.
So, to everyone out there who is mulling a major change that has the potential to fix something important in your life; I hope to give you just the smallest bit of extra strength as you consider it.