When left to my own devices, my brain wanders the hallway of worst case scenarios. This happens at night when I am trying to fall asleep. Unless there is something specific for me to worry about, my mind always opens the door that contains thoughts about death. My death… My wife’s death… My family… you get the point, no one is off-limits.
This in itself is a story for another day, however, it is important that you know this little bit about me for today’s story.
The first apartment that my wife and I lived in the year leading up to our wedding was a whopping 825 sq. ft. But, hey, it was new and it was ours.
The apartment complex had a “gym” that was just as small. This didn’t bother me because I had weight to lose for our upcoming wedding day and no one else seemed to use the facilities. It was like my own private gym.
The gym contained the following: an all in one workout machine, a treadmill, a stationary bike, an elliptical, a sit-up bench, a TV and a water cooler.
It should be known that we moved into this apartment the summer I graduated from college or, as I have come to refer to them, the worst three months of my life. My summer was spent sending resumes, going to interviews and getting rejected repeatedly. To say that I lived an inactive lifestyle would be the understatement of the century. Depressed and feeling like a loser led to a lot of weight gain.
With our wedding day approaching fast, I decided to buck up and start getting in shape. I needed something to do since I had yet to find a job.
The first day, I walked into the gym ready to get in shape but with no clue how to do it. It had literally been years since I entered a gym.
I went for the elliptical because I had never used one and it seemed like the easiest work out (you don’t get a body like mine by pushing yourself hard).
After about fifteen minutes on the elliptical my toes started to tingle. At twenty minutes, they had no feeling at all. I stepped off the machine and learned immediately how important our toes are for balance. I stumbled across the gym and caught myself on the treadmill… thankful that no one else used the gym.
Never being one to over exert myself, I decided that we would wrap up the first workout. I most likely celebrated this accomplishment with pizza and beer.
The next day, I forced myself back into the gym. My options were now narrowed as I would not be risking the elliptical again. I decided to go for some weight training and stared down the all in one workout machine.
It had seen better days. The wires and chains that held it together looked unreliable. I tried all of the functions to, you know, really get a full body workout. I ended with lat pulls. Here’s a diagram just in case you don’t know what that means –
If you’ve ever done this exercise, you know that it is extremely easy to cheat and do a ton of weight. I did my best not to cheat, but did a little more weight than I probably should have. After the last rep, I let the bar pull my arms up as it snapped back into place.
My arms felt like jello and I decided to call workout number two a success.
I went to bed feeling good about myself for actually walking the 150 feet to the gym and forcing myself to exercise. I promised myself that I would make this a routine and go again tomorrow.
What is happening? Why am I in pain?
I lay in my bed with an excruciating pain on the left side of my body. Trying to stay still, I stared at the ceiling shaking off the cobwebs of sleep assessing exactly where the pain was coming from.
You’re okay. Just relax.
The most obvious pain was in my left shoulder, which radiated down into my chest and ribs. My fingers were tingling and as I lay there the pain moved up to my neck.
This is bad. This really hurts. Am I having a heart attack? No, I can’t be. But am I? Could I be dying? Is this is it?
(I should mention that I was 22 years-old)
I decided to go to the bathroom and take aspirin because I have decided that the aspirin will help with the heart attack that I am having that will most likely be fatal.
Take deep breaths. You will be fine. Unless this is actually a heart attack, then, you will be dead.
Every deep breath ignites the left side of my body with pain. I stare at myself in the mirror. I fill my hands with water and splash it on my face in an attempt to calm myself down (because that’s what they do in the movies and I am dramatic).
The pain is getting worse. I walk to the bedroom door and call to my fiance in a timid voice.
“Somethings wrong, I have pain on the left side of my body.”
I have reverted to a ten year-old.
“Wh-what? What time is it?” she says, half awake.
“I think… I think I am having a heart attack or something…”
She sits up, glares at me and says, “you are not having a heart attack. Go back to bed.”
She rolls over and goes back to sleep. I head back to the bathroom.
She’s right. I am not having a heart attack. Unless, I am having a heart attack. What if I die in this bathroom because I didn’t do anything. I don’t want to die.
Every thought causes my heart to race, which makes me think that I am having a heart attack. My panic increases exponentially.
It is now 4:00 AM. I walk back to the bedroom.
“I am going to call my dad.” My dad is a pediatrician and I will not be convinced at this late hour that I am not dying until I talk to him.
This time my fiance doesn’t even roll over and says “it is four in the morning. Do not call your dad. You are fine.”
She’s right. I am fine. But maybe… I don’t want to die.
I call my dad.
At four in the morning.
He lives two hours away.
Two rings, then the familiar answer that I had heard so many times growing up when my dad was on call, “hello?”
“D-Dad?” I am now 8 years-old, “somethings wrong, the left side of my chest hurts, I think I am having a heart attack…”
He sighs, “Tim, you are twenty-two years-old… you are not having a heart attack.”
“Did you lift something heavy today?”
“Not that I ca-“The lat pulls. I lifted weights today, “Yeah, I lifted weights.”
“You pulled a muscle, lay down or take a hot shower. You’ll be fine.” He hung up.
I got back in bed.
“I told you.” My fiance says with her eyes still closed.
My dad was right, of course. I had badly pulled or torn muscle on my ribs. Most likely from the lazy way I finished my lat pulls, allowing the bar to snap upward into place with my arms still attached. I spent the next week in the shower, as it was the only thing that would stop my muscle spasms that caused terrible pain.
I am convinced that it if would have been light out when the pain hit, my mind wouldn’t have immediately jumped to my impending death and I would have come to the logical conclusion.
I worry. It’s what I do.
Thankfully my wife doesn’t… obviously.