So this is what a heart attack feels like.

“Babe, babe, something is terribly wrong with me. I need to go to the hospital, like now. I seriously can’t feel my legs...I can’t feel my legs! I think my arms are going numb too. We need to go, now. I can’t really breathe. Babe, I can’t breathe. I’m scared. We gotta go now. Let’s go!”

Rewind to earlier that morning, I was having the most stressful day of my life. Not only that, but the months leading up to this moment in time were finally paying a toll on my body.

You see, I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve generally always worked 24/7 ever since I could remember. Putting in the all-nighters even back in the college days just to make sure my designs were above the rest of the class. Nothing’s new here. But when it comes down to not having food on the table or money in the bank for my new family, there’s no letting up and it’s game time.

On this unforgettable day I had 5 career breaking projects due that evening. Not just any regular project, I’m talking projects like redesigning a site for National Geographic, or making a sci-fi user interface for the new Transformers movie. Projects that would turbo boost my career. You know, brain rattling creative thinking. You could imagine how much off brand coffee was consumed that day. At least 4-5 cups. On top of that, I had a bad diet going for the past few months being that I was in crank mode. What creative doesn’t though. We spend our lives getting critiqued which makes it tough to always stay high spirits and we’re always trying to out do ourselves on each pixel. It’s tough work.

Fast forward to later that night, those projects are just getting to be in a spot to where I can send them off to the respected clients. However my biggest project, the one with National Geographic, took a turn for the worse. I had a lot riding on this project. The year before, they covered almost my entire salary. And this year, I had to maintain all of that. But what I didn’t know, is that my developer working with me would become no where to be found with the deadline right around the corner. Time to panic. We already had the client on our bad side for slow development time prior to this.

I had just started a new business as a small design agency and this was one of our biggest projects. If we pulled this off, it would of set us up for major success. Unfortunately, we failed miserably. Since I was the leader of it all, it took a major toll on me emotionally. Mix the failure, stress of making clients happy, having zero dollars, poor diet and no surfing (exercise) for 6 months - time for a heart attack. Or at least I thought so.

At around 2am that following morning, I had awoken from a light sleep having trouble breathing. Frantically waking up and gasping for air. Pacing back and forth in our loft trying to figure out what was wrong. Suddenly, it’s not just hard to breathe, but my body starts tingling. My knees begin to buckle as my legs are going numb. It’s impossible to walk in a straight line or walk at all. My chest feels like a huge Mack truck is parked on it and mashing on it’s horn with all the extreme thoughts running through my mind. The sharp pains in my chest are beginning to become unbearable and now my arms were going numb. Any minute now I know I’m going to black out, or worse, head out.

“Babe, babe, something is terribly wrong with me. I need to go to the hospital, like now. I seriously can’t feel my legs...I can’t feel my legs! I think my arms are going numb too. We need to go, now. I can’t really breathe. Babe, I can’t breathe. I’m scared. We gotta go now. Let’s go!”

Before I knew it we were in my Jeep driving through a quiet Gaslamp District night over to Coronado island in San Diego. It was the closest ER according to Google Maps.

“What are you doing stopping at the red lights! I’m not sure how much longer I’ve got. GO! GO!”

Bless her heart. My sweet wife, being the good citizen she is, stopped at all the red lights when not a single soul was on the road.

Fast forward a few moments later I’m lying on the hospital bed with being pumped with some relaxers. I wasn’t having a heart attack. I was having a severe panic attack, not dying, as much as I thought I was. Apparently all of that stress had finally gotten to me. At least that’s what I was told. It wasn’t until 6 months of smaller panic attacks and terrible chest pains later that I finally had found a doctor that really knew what was wrong. Yes, I did have a panic attack that night but it wasn’t because of that stressful day. It wasn’t because of all the hard work I was putting in 24/7 and the highs and lows. It was strictly because my esophagus was majorly inflamed. My body was trying to tell me for so many months about this problem but no doctor could figure it out. They just said what all doctors say, it’s just stress. Yea, okay, sure that’s all it was. Whatever you say doc.

I had actually developed chronic gastritis and GERD mainly due to my bad eating habits, lack of exercise for that time period and consuming too much coffee and caffeine. Stress of course did pay a factor here but not the main culprit. It was a genetic thing. Bad acid problems ran in my family. Now it made sense to why I was having heart attack symptoms with no heart problems. One of the major signs of gastritis is you feel like you’re having a heart attack. It mimics it exactly. If only a doctor would of listened to me carefully enough it might have prevented me from having this for good.

It all started to make sense now. That year prior, I was paying over $2,000 a month for my personal trainer/surf coach. I was in the best shape of my life. Surfing like a champ and just overall feeling amazing. I even just got married to the love of my life! Unfortunately though, just less than 6 months after I stopped training, I was in the worst shape of my life. I let work and the thought of not being able to provide take over my soul. My body simply couldn’t take that much of a drastic negative change and it had to let me know in the loudest way it could. My body dropped a bomb on itself.

Since then however, I’ve created my own diet, and have calmed my “chronic” gastritis and GERD. It’s amazing what a good diet can do. My doctor told me I’d have these pains for the rest of my life but already with my new diet and a lot of faith, those inflammations only come back for a few days about every 3-4 months and hopefully soon, never again.

Diet and exercise, it does wonders.