My Vulnerable Heart

I am, and have always been a very healthy and vital human being. I've prided myself on the fact that I have no pain in my body most of the time, take no prescription drugs, eat healthy, exercise enough and am pretty happy. I like all of that about me. A lot.

Last Friday I got a different perspective on myself. I was at the acupuncturist's office and my heart started racing. It has done that off and on since the mid '80's but in the last year it was doing it more often and for longer amounts of time. Since that was what I went to see her about, I called her in to see what was happening. She came in, took my pulse, checked my blood pressure and said the most awful words to me. She said, "Kathy, here's what I want to do. I want to call an ambulance and have them take you to the ER." I about freaked out. No way was I going to an ER and no way was I getting into an ambulance! She sternly looked at me with her eyes wide open and told me this was SERIOUS.

After much discussion, I took an Uber to the ER. The people in the hospital also thought it was serious. They gave me a medicine that stopped my heart for a second and then it reset to a normal rhythm. They eventually sent me home with some actions to take if it happened again as well as a pill to take. They said if that didn't work to get my heart into a normal heartbeat that I needed to come back to the ER. No way was that happening in my mind.

Until Sunday night around 7pm when my heart started beating like crazy again. I did all the things I was told to do - the Valsalva maneuver, blowing against something even putting ice packs under my armpits and on top of my head. I took the pill and nothing much changed. Well, actually my heart rate went from 195 bpm to 165. Not too comfortable and definitely not close to the normal range of 60-100 bpm. But I did not want to go to the ER again. So I didn't. At least not until Monday morning when I realized that my heart had been exercising like crazy for 14 hours and still racing at around 165 bpm. Once again I got into an Uber and went to the hospital. Sigh.

More medicine administered through the IV, more hours in the hospital and less confidence in my "healthy" body. By the time I was discharged I carried medicine that I have to take twice daily.  I had been really proud up to that point that I wasn't on any medications. I feel like I was just knocked off that high horse. I'm sure there's more learning there for me. Especially because I was feeling better because I now had something to keep my heart beating properly.

As the days have gone by I find myself in a different rhythm, both physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I have to take two pills each day (who organizes their day around pills??) Now, I do. I have to have food with the medication because it makes me feel nauseous. I don't normally eat breakfast but for now I do. I have to accept that, at least for now, I am taking regular medication. And that it's a good thing.

Until now that was for "those other people," not me. In the past few days I've had conversations about my visits to the ER and what the doctor says. Isn't that what old people do, talk about their ailments and who has what? At least I'm not talking about my bowel movements!

One of the weird things was that I found I wanted to talk about my "episodes" as if they were some badge of courage or some cool drama. I still don't understand what that's about. I do know that I don't want my identity to be around this. I want to be healthy and vibrant. And I find that, for now, I feel a little vulnerable. I feel more comfortable taking the pills, hoping that they keep my heart beating comfortably. Even writing that last sentence feels vulnerable to me, like I "should" be better than this. I feel a little more fear, or at least a little less confident that my body might misbehave. Isn't that interesting self talk? I don't want to leave home without the medication they gave me in case my heart starts beating wildly again. And I don't want to live in fear. 

I really want to live knowing that everything is working out for me. Just the timing of this rapid heartbeat while I was on the acupuncturist's table was a kind of miracle. I never would have taken myself to the ER if she hadn't insisted. And I have no idea what I would have done two days later when it started up again.

So my work seems to be to shift the fear of vulnerability to appreciating that I'm here right now. Appreciating that modern medicine is a good thing and that I'm not "faulty" if I need help. And, more importantly, own it if I feel vulnerable or afraid. Talk to the people close to me and not feel ashamed. Appreciating the fact that I have people who care about me and want to know how I am, even when I'm not feeling my best. And to not buy into the belief that this is happening because I'm "old." Because that's not the truth, and I am not old. 

I have some work to do around all of these things. And I'm up for it.