Skip. Like when you hear a loud clap of thunder that makes you jump up out of your chair, but instead I’m just sitting at my desk at work, staring at the computer screen.
Flutter. Like the butterflies you get in your stomach when you’re nervous but it happens in my chest while I’m sitting quietly on the couch, watching the evening news.
Race. Like when you’re watching your favorite sports team hit the winning shot right at the buzzer, but instead I’m sitting in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam.
These are the peculiar sensations I’ve been feeling in my chest lately. For the average person, they’re no big deal. For the anxious person, they’re pretty common. For someone who is about 3 months post-heart attack like me, they’re cause for concern. My primary care physician thought it was due to stress but she made me go to the cardiologist, who agreed that it was probably just stress, but hooked me up to a holter monitor just to be sure.
A holter monitor is a small, portable monitor that measures your heart’s rhythm. I wore this monitor for 48 hours last week. Every time I felt a skip, a flutter, or a racing sensation, I pressed a button on the side to record the sensation in the results and I described in a little journal exactly what I felt and what I was doing when I felt it. Then someone read the monitor and compared it to the notes in my journal to figure out what was causing my heart to act up like this.
My two biggest fears regarding the results were on opposite ends of the spectrum. On one hand, I was afraid that the results would come back totally normal and would not show anything wrong. You’d think this is the best case scenario, but for me and my anxious mind, it meant that I was crazy and/or hallucinating these sensations when I absolutely KNEW I wasn’t. On the other hand, I was afraid that the results would come back showing something catastrophic, and they would give me a few more days to live before my heart gave out completely, all the while wondering how I even made it this long.
I got the results back this week and, luckily, they were right where I’d want them to be which comforted my chaotic mind. They found that my heart rhythm is normal and that the ‘fluttering’ sensations correlated with occasional premature heart beats. These are benign but can feel strange or abnormal. Ultimately, there is no clinical concern but I should try to control my stress levels, as stress exacerbates the prematurely timed beats.
So, I’m not going to die of heart failure any time soon, which is good news. I do feel the occasional skip and flutter but my mind doesn’t automatically assume the worst, and I’m working on addressing the stress in my life. I’m slowly getting to a point where, when I feel my heart make its weird beats, it feels a little more like this:
Skip. Like when I see Nick after a long day and it makes my heart skip a beat.
Flutter. Like when my closed eyelashes lightly brush against Nick’s closed eyelashes during a long kiss.
Race. When Sebastian is about to roll over/crawl for the first time and I’m so nervous for him but I know he’s smart and strong and can do it.