‘I have a problem. It’s not the worst thing in the world. I’m fine, I’m not on fire.’ – Megan Washington
By definition it is difficult to articulate our problems when they are of a chronic or debilitating nature. Singer/songwriter Megan Washington’s words at a recent TEDx event in Sydney show up that theory, yet it still took some years and more than a bit of courage – whilst to her immense credit, simultaneously pursuing a singer/songwriting career – to publicly discuss her stutter.
Others have articulated their own struggles with balancing lifestyle with chronic illness, far better than I have been able to thus far. My own thoughts on the matter have been disjointed as my experience continues, sometimes with clear determination, at others feeling thoroughly overwhelmed yet managing to cough up a couple of pithy mental notes.
Much like I’m doing now.
Last June I wound up in hospital with sudden onset heart palpitations, barely able to stand and more or less convinced my first major organ was planning on imminently packing it in. I was wheeled into a resus unit, where the decision was made to restart my heart – much like ‘rebooting a computer’ according to the analogy employed by the doctor, one that given my history of trying to revive plenty of computers was somewhat less than reassuring.
A shot of adenosine and within seconds my body seized as, to my knowledge for the first time in my life, my heart stopped. I managed to utter something to the effect of how unpleasant this felt, just as it restarted at a somewhat less horrific tempo. I was back online, albeit thoroughly wasted, like John Cleese’s dead parrot after that long squawk.
The whole incident confirmed what my GP suspected a year earlier, when a similar event occurred twice within a month but not at the convenient time of me being hooked up to an ECG. Turns out I have supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). In layman’s terms, a node misfires in the heart and causes it to skip a beat, then immediately shift into a rapid rhythm to compensate. Generally non-life threatening, it certainly feels otherwise, as even a mild moment of SVT, generally beginning and ending within a few seconds, can leave me feeling exhausted. My most severe episode clocked nearly three hours.
This follows in the wake of a year of suffering bouts of anxiety, which in itself is an interesting turd of a condition to examine, not least because it has been fed by a pre-existing heart condition and vice versa. Stress and nerves have triggered what are considered mild episodes of SVT, where the misfire in my heart occurs for a second or two, then returns to normal whilst leaving me stuffed. Before the diagnosis of SVT, and despite the reassurances of my GP, I tended to suspect a far more severe underlying cardiologic issue at the heart of the matter.
Long-term, SVT adds stress to the heart muscle. If operated on early, however, the condition is effectively neutralised, but for now a daily dose of beta-blockers keep my chest from exploding, leaving a pile of limbs and glasses with an irate expression.
Returning to Washington, in recent months there have been many like her, especially creative types, who have acknowledged their physical, emotional and medical struggles and what action they take to ensure it doesn’t define or dictate their lives. Like others, discovering I have this condition has been the impetus for many changes, and finding a balance in life has been chief among them. What I’d like to share over a series of posts is how I’ve dealt with, or have begun to deal with, those changes, and in particular how it has helped motivate me to get back into pursuits such as art which had long been put on the back burner.
Coz hey, what best to motivate oneself than the threat of complications of abnormal cardiac electrical activity presenting as sinus rhythm above the norm, localised at or above the atrioventricular node?
Photo Credit: Speech Buddies Blog