When do we know there is a real problem with our work habits, daily routines or our general lifestyle? I remember hearing about an investment banker who was in his late twenties and suffered a heart attack. The story went something like this:
Peter (not his real name) was picked up early after graduating from university from a large investment bank due to his high grades and success in graduate recruitment interviews. He climbed the ranks early and was admired for his keen insights and knowledge of the market. He was also very sociable – at all times equipped with a sharp remark, usually with a funny twist. Honed over countless lunchtime meetings and big weekends, was an ability to hold his liquor, no matter the amount or how late the office drinks went into the night before, Peter got to work and drew on what seemed an unlimited energy store. He stayed at the top of his game for a long time.
His burning desire to achieve got him through the “bursting at the seams” schedule, as well as a pack of cigarettes a day, a minimum of 5 coffee hits, lunchtime and after work drinks, jam and cream donuts and a least one heavy restaurant meal a day. On top of this he averaged about 4 hrs sleep, endured high and consistent peaks of stress throughout the day, avoided the doctor and hadn’t exercised in over 10 years.
The signs were there: the bluing of the lips, the bouts uncontrollable coughing, and shortness of breath, dizziness, and pinkish glassy eyes. Peter always put on a brave face and when someone showed concern he reminded them about how much his body could take and the fact he “worked through” flues – a testament to his physical strength and endurance.
Apparently he died at the office working back late – a heart attack.
This story made me think about how we focus on “repairing” disease and mental illness rather than focusing on creating lifestyles that promote health and happiness. How coping with a brave face through difficulties appears more admirable than seeking help and how this mentality is so ingrained in our work ethic but doesn’t really seem to serve anyone in the end.