Heart Beats in Time

Back in Uncomfortably Numb I mention my heart was constantly racing and I was dealing with runs of palpitations. I willed it not to be a cardiac problem because I didn’t have the time or emotional bandwidth to deal with it. I convinced myself it was the anxiety flipping switches in the my electrocardio system. I believed once I moved, got settled, got my unemployment paying my bills while I looked for a job everything would settle down back to normal. It didn’t. I’m able to track my heartrate thanks to this cool device called an Oura Ring. I learned about it when I was doing home exams and was told a big research hospital (either Johns Hopkins or Mayo, can’t remember) and the military were using it to predict COVID symptoms days before they were visible. It also tracks sleeping patterns, tells you how hard you should work out depending if you recovered enough from the day before based on your body temperature, restfulness, and heart rate through the night. It also tracks activity, not steps. Steps might be better because when I do a marathon stretch of crocheting it says I’ve walked 5 miles….without leaving my chair.

When I first got the ring my resting heart rate when I slept was in the 45-50 range. When I did my EKG training we had to give one another EKGs and my strips actually were marked as bradycardic (a slow heart rate under 60 bpm) but just barely. I bought it in March 2021 and wore it for about 5 months then it disappeared. I put it on it’s charger, went to the bathroom and when I came back it was gone. I cleaned out my room looking for it and didn’t find it. When I was moving at the end of this May it had miraculously found its way into a caddy I kept under my bed; a caddy I searched twice. Paranoia has provided a list of suspects and reasons, but I won’t go into that now. I charged the ring and when I first uploaded the nights report I was astounded to find my lowest heart rate was in the upper 80’s. Sometimes it would dip to a low to mid 60’s bpm but it still was hanging out in the 80’s. This was the week I was unpacking, so I wasn’t too worried. But it became a constant. I would take my pulse during the day for a whole minute and I would get the same numbers, plus I could feel the premature atrial contractions (PACs) which make up the palpitations. I figured I just needed to settle into my life more and find a job, so I tried not to worry about it.

Once I got the job my heart rate did decrease down to the low to mid 80’s. Still double when my consistent heart rate was when I first got the ring. All through the LabCorp training my heart rate was consistent with my pre-employment rate. I wasn’t having the palpitations as often as I did before but I was still having them when I sat still and cleared my distractions. I started working at my site. And then I got paid. And then my resting heart rate went back down into the low 50s. I’m still feeling the anxiety because I’m worried I’m going to fail, but that’s a normative state for me and I’m still having problems making ends meet right now because I’ve only had one paycheck and several months of bills but my sister C has been helping me (Thankfully!). Having the consistency of a job, of a schedule, of an income seems to the the balm my anxious heart needs to settle down into a normal rhythm.

This is something I’m going to need to keep in mind when I finally do make the big move. I need to have more money in the bank and a job in place so I won’t have to deal with my heart racing three paces ahead of me for months on end until I finally catch up to it.

Training is Fun-Da-Mental

So, I’m employed. I think I mentioned that. If I didn’t, sorry.   I spent one looooong week in a school-like training in front of a computer reading, no thinking required, and it completely flattened me. The second week was learning how to read, and enter orders then mock draw and process the ‘blood’. This week marks my first full week putting the second week’s processes into practice. I draw more in a day than I used to in a week, and after the first few very painful days I’m starting to get the hang of it.  I am picking things up quickly but as per usual with me, never quickly enough.

A question I get from my family is “will you be able to do this job?” Their meaning is are you going to be able to do this long term without going around the bend.  I think I can.  It’s not rocket science, it’s just sticking people with needles. It is very fulfilling when you think you know where it is and you’re right.  It’s rewarding when people say they didn’t feel anything or when they say they’ll ask for you next time because you’re one of three people to EVER to get the vein on that arm.  It is nice to have validation from perfect strangers that I am doing the job I am meant to be doing.  (To clarify, writing and being a writer is who I am, vampire is what I do to be who I am).

I’ve been thinking back to the late nights spent with my  journal planning for after the apocalypse.  The plan was I would go to the two week vampire school, I would get a job, I would move away and happily become who I want to be instead of what I was.   I expected it to take about a year. I was a little short sighted as to  how long it would take and how hard of a slog it would be and, of course, COVID. The joke about parents walking to school ten miles in the snow barefoot uphill…both ways, barely describes the process it has been. (Note ‘it HAS been’, not ‘it is’.) I’m still pushing forward on those plans concocted alone in bullet-proof ink only now I’m stronger, a bit wiser and just a little germaphobic.

Training was an exercise in keeping the anxious ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I’m going to fail’ carefully cordoned off with a rope of self-talk and prayer. I did better than I thought I would even though I over-thought the simple stuff. The last few days of this week I purposely stretched my back and shoulders between the waves of patients, found comfortable shoes and meditated during lunch. Basically, figuring out what I need to do to do my job with the way my mind works. I’m enjoying the people I work with, they aren’t off put by my anxiety and understand I will do more and go faster I just need to settle a little. We had a float/trainer come in on Friday who, I don’t know if she meant to or not, but did a great job in shaking those foundations I had already built. She’s one of those trainers who believes her way is the best way and just barks instructions over your shoulder while you’re trying to learn something. Telling me to put in a code isn’t training me to find the code when she isn’t there. I’m sure I’ve been that kind of trainer when I was younger but I sincerely don’t appreciate it now and I strained to hold back my comments on her ‘training’ skills. How do you tell someone they need to be trained to train? My experience for training is from training volunteers. Two different animals, I know, but the process is the same.

So, the tally is…two weeks at an off-site training facility, one week on site, one paycheck that is already spent and my first six day week coming up. I’m looking forward to September 5…..Memorial Day…..a paid day off. What a concept. I balked at the two week off-site training we were required to endure when I was hired, but because of it the first week onsite was far more fun than mental.

The Rest is Silence

I lost a member of my flock last week. Dotty was a budgerigar which is more commonly known as a parakeet. I adopted her from a foster mom back at the height of COVID in 2020 as a companion for my bird Blu. Blu had lost his mate, Fluffy, a few years before and as social birds I thought having a companion would be good for him. Blu, sadly passed away a year or so later at the beginning of 2021. Dotty lost her mate as well and came from a home where human/bird interaction wasn’t very high on the young families list. I’m a hands on kinda bird owner but I learned to respect her boundaries. She was never let out of her cage before and I’m a big believer in free flight in the house. She smacked into the sliding glass door a few times and resented me having to hunt her down behind furniture to put her back in her cage. Sammy, the macaw, kinda wanted to see how comfortably she could fit the little ones head in her beak so I never let them play together. She liked to be sung to. I used to sing “Hello Dotty” to Hello Dolly. The most remarkable thing about this little feather-ball was she was always trying to talk and master the sounds around her. She always sang, chattered, and made vocalizations which were solid attempts to talk. I should have spent more time with her to aid her speaking ability but shoulda/woulda/coulda seems to be the refrain which serenaded her life.

When I lifted the cage cover to check on her after she had been making odd noises I found her with her wing caught in one of the slats on the bottom of her cage. I extricated her and moved her over to my bed to observe her. She was breathless from the struggle with the bars, both wings drooped in exhaustion but she wasn’t fighting my hold on her, and when I uncurled my fingers from around her she didn’t try to fly away. In fact, she held fiercely onto one finger. She started having some sort of fit where she would try and bend her head all the way back to her tail and fly. The first time this happened she landed on the floor. I got her back on the bed and made a nest in the blankets for her but the fitting kept coming over her and she would get dislodged. I had never seen this kind of behavior before and I was terrified she was dying. Frantic, I found a site that connects people with questions with experts with answers and paid the $1 sign-up fee and was passed off to a vet who wanted to look over the techs notes before she continued. I never heard back from the vet. By this time I had Dotty blocked on the bed with my leg, she was still fighting the seizures but she was getting tired. I took a video of an episode and sent it to the vet. She was against my leg a little on her side when I saw her wing quiver; then she was still. I informed the vet she was gone and put my phone down and picked her up and gently held her to my chest and sobbed. I cried harder over that small bird than I did for my mother or my two brothers deaths. It’s taken me almost a full week to clean out her cage and move her out of my life. I miss her singing.

I wish I could say my mind allowed me to make this all about her. Recriminations rained down on me like a flight of arrows calling to mind every mistake I made, when I didn’t keep her cage clean, when I didn’t let her exercise, when I kept her in front of the window on a hot day, how I never took her to the vet, how I shouldn’t have let her suffer and I should have just rung her neck and put her out of her misery. Then a shield came up and deflected the arrows with comforting words (which has never happened before, at least not this consciously); You didn’t know her age, birds hide their illnesses, budgies don’t have a long life in a cage. You loved her, you took care of her and you were with her up until the very end. I don’t know which voice is true. I know which one I want to believe and for the first time in my life, it isn’t the negative telling me it’s all my fault. The self talk I’ve been practicing in my daily life, when it doesn’t seem important, has built up the muscles of support when I was to weak to block the old ingrained mantra of self loathing and disappointment.

The emotions of mourning have unsettled me, tho. I spoke to my sister about it briefly because I’ve not been able to talk to anyone about it without tearing up, and she speculated it might be an accumulation of all the changes, deaths if you will, I have experienced in the last five or six months. She might be right, I’ll have to talk to Ellen about it at our next session, but having these emotions so close to the surface is troubling for me, well, emotionally. Crying is so foreign to me, I feel like I’m forcing the emotions so I try to stop it and it comes back up to the surface in the most inopportune moments. I’m trying, on one side of my brain, to allow myself to cry when I’m alone and where I’m supposedly safe and the other side decided it wants to watch TV, write a journal entry or a blog, play with Sammy, crochet or do anything other than the needful. I guess I will cry when I cry. Maybe once the tears are all dry I will find the peace which comes with silence.