It started in my dream, the boom, boom, booming in my chest. Before the Dream Me could finish googling 'heart pounding' and 'anxiety attack', it shook me awake and I realized it was real, not a dream... my heart was actually pounding so hard, so fast and furiously, that it woke me from a sound sleep at 1AM.
I lay there feeling like a Mexican jumping bean was trapped in my chest, wondering what I should do. Apparently the Dream Me suspected an anxiety attack, but I actually felt less stressed and anxious than usual. We'd spent the day and evening relaxing with friends, celebrating their daughter's high school graduation. Nevertheless, I took some deep breaths, hoping to slow the thumping. No luck.
Instead, the pressure of each beat shoving against my rib cage was increasing, expanding, pushing up into my throat. My heart was trying to run away! Any minute now it would blast right out of my mouth and that would be that.
A childhood prayer came to mind...
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I felt Tom stir beside me. "In case I die tonight, I love you," I told him.
"My heart is pounding. Feel it."
He put his hand on my chest. Bent his ear to my back. Took my wrist. "It's going so fast I can't count your pulse!" Not good... and especially when you consider my "normal" pulse is so low the nurse reset the 'low' alarm point on the monitor before my colonoscopy... it kept beeping and annoying everyone.
I sat up. I laid back down. Turned to my side. Rolled onto my back. It didn't matter - the pounding continued, separate from the rest of my body.
Tom gave me two aspirin. I chewed some Tums. We discussed what we should do - should we wake our friends to find out how to get to the nearest emergency room? It was the logical thing to do, of course, and yet... ah, man, it hadn't been that long since I'd spent 24 hours in the hospital with "my dear one"... I really, really hated the idea of sitting in another waiting room for hours. Even as I thought it, though, I realized how silly it was to be thinking that way when I feared my heart was on the verge of exploding.
And yet I still hesitated. I thought of my dream. "Google it," I told Tom, so he sat at the computer and read off possible causes to me - too much caffeine (none since before noon and less than normal), asthma medication (none since that morning), smoking (not since 1978)...
Nothing applied to me. And I was already taking all of the preventative measures it suggested! What the heck was going on?
I didn't want to die in my friend's daughter's bed. That just wouldn't be cool. As much as I dreaded stepping foot in another hospital, I knew it was the smartest thing to do. But before I could rise to dress, I noticed a change. My heart had left my throat. Slipped back into my chest where it belonged. The beats were softer, slower. "It's over," I told Tom.
He turned off the computer and crawled back into bed. Somehow, I fell back asleep and didn't wake again until sunlight warmed my face.
I drank de-caf that morning. Skipped my asthma inhaler. My heart had become a stranger to me, a crazy stranger, and I wasn't sure how to treat it. I didn't want to set it off again.
But since that morning, it's been its old self... slow and steady. I've had coffee (although I've cut back)... used my albuterol inhaler for my asthma... pushed myself on the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes yesterday and jumped rope today. Nothing. I'd think it had all been a dream if Tom didn't vouch for it.
From what I've read, I don't think this is a life-threatening issue, despite the scariness of it all. I think it falls under "heart palpitations" and might be related to low blood pressure (my normal is 90/60) or a valve problem.
I'm not taking any chances, though; next week I'm seeing a cardiologist. I'll keep you posted...