My physical heart is okay

From my journal dated January 20, 2003:

Yesterday was an awful day. I woke up at about 5 a.m., and my heart was doing this weird, intense quivering thing. It lasted about a minute or so, and then I fell back to sleep. I woke up again at 5:30 a.m., and the entire left side of my head was numb – my lip, top and back of my head. Sort of that just-coming-out-of-Novacaine feeling. So weird!

It freaked me out! I’ve been so concerned about my heart. I’ve had pain of some kind in my chest practically since the accident. I know grief puts so much stress on the body. I’ve been worried my heart can’t handle all pain and stress.

I waited a little while to see if it went away, all the while assessing every ache and pain I was feeling to see if it was tied in somehow to the numbness. I didn’t know if I’d had a stroke or was on the verge of a heart attack or what it could be! Finally, I got up and took a long, hot shower. Thought it would relax me enough to figure out what was going on or to take away the numbness…plus, I would be ready to go to the emergency room, if needed.

Anyway, about 6:30 a.m., since the numbness wasn’t going away, we decided not to take any chances and headed to the emergency room at Evergreen. They put me in a room and hooked me up to a heart monitor. The ER doctor was really great – very thorough and asked lots of questions.

When she asked questions about breathing and commented about my body being “air starved,” I told her that sometimes I have to really concentrate on my breathing; otherwise, I breathe so shallowly. It’s like I breathe shallowly because it hurts too much to breathe deeply. It doesn’t really hurt my body; it hurts my broken heart. It’s hard to explain. I know I don’t breathe deeply enough and haven’t since the accident. I have to actually concentrate on getting enough air in my lungs. How strange that I have to actually make a conscious effort to breathe!

I told her that it’s hard to separate some of the symptoms, especially when it comes to my heart and pain in my chest. It’s hard to tell which ones might actually reflect something going on in my physical body and which ones are from my broken heart. She agreed. I told her that I think grief is really hard on the body, and she agreed again.

They monitored my heart for a while and then ran an EKG. My blood pressure was actually lower than it’s been in a while, and (other than an irregular heartbeat) everything else checked out okay. The diagnosis was heart palpitations and hyperventilation syndrome. At least I know my physical heart is okay. Can’t say the same about my broken heart.

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

3 thoughts on “My physical heart is okay

  1. I just wanted to tell you that I have an almost constant tightness in my chest. Sometimes it goes but for the most part it is there, just some times worse than others. It’s anxiety, I’m sure of it. Not sure how I would be able to tell the difference between heart trouble and anxiety at this point, but I’ve stopped worrying about it and have accepted that it’s now part of my new reality. I also do my best to befriend it (sounds dumb I know) and pretend that it’s Stefanie I’m carrying around in my heart and she’s heavy – hence the pain. What else can I do?
    As for the numbness, have you ever had a migraine? And I don’t mean a bad headache, I mean an acute migraine with an aura that precedes the pain? I ask because I get them periodically and I’m always left with paralysis on one side of my face and sometimes down my arm. As I get older, sometimes the pain doesn’t come but the other symptoms always do.
    Just something to think about.

    • Patricia, I used to get horrible migraine headaches when I was much younger – the beginning with an aura, knock you flat on your back for hours, pain so bad your feel like your eyes are crossed kind – up until I was about three months pregnant with our oldest son. My doctor told me that, for some reason, the chemical changes with being pregnant altered my body chemistry enough that I haven’t had one since. The thing I’ve just touched on in my reading lately (and intend to pursue more) is how the body chemistry changes in reaction to grief. Just as our bodies react chemically when we are pregnant, we also react chemically when we grieve. Stress, for sure. The “fight or flight” reaction. absolutely. Higher disease/cancer rate, maybe. I’m sure there are many more. Our bodies are complicated instruments; grief is complicated, too, and I’m not sure its impact on our bodies is fully understood yet.

  2. Pingback: Yes, you can die of a broken heart | Grief: One Woman's Perspective

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