We're two weeks into my wearing a heart monitor, and the biggest comfort I have is that they have to be getting lots of good data from this contraption, because my heart has not calmed down at all in the meantime.
The key thing in all the literature about heart palpitations is that they're not fatal. Almost every website you read about palpitations stresses this. Prolonged periods of palpitations can strain the heart and eventually lead to damage, but the individual palpitations will not kill you. This is a certain amount of comfort as you lie there feeling like you're going to die.
Of course, I'm lying. It's no comfort at all. Because the principle characteristic of feeling like you're going to die is that it really truly feels like you're going to die. You lay there, thinking about how everyone is going to respond tomorrow when they wake up to find you died over night. You wonder how your funeral is going to be. You lie there, thinking that this is probably going to happen--that this is what it feels like when it finally happens--and you can't really do anything about it but lie there and let it happen. You hope it doesn't hurt much more. Knowing that you probably won't die hardly enters into it at all.
However, because these palpitations afflict me almost entirely when I'm sleep deprived from lying in bed hoping to eventually pass out from exhaustion, the mixture does strange things to my brain. Rather than terror, the primary emotion I feel is resignation: I might die tonight. I'm not really okay with that, but I don't seem to have any choice about it and so I'm either going to get through this or I'm not. I'd prefer to get through it, but if I don't, I guess I can resign myself to not existing any more.
I can see why people with chronic pain commit suicide, because after an hour or two of unrelenting heart palpitations, the word that comes to my mind most is: unendurable. Or possibly intolerable.
Kevin Federline was hospitalized this past weekend for more or less the same issues that I'm having. It's good to know that I'm in such august company.
Choking Out, and Shitting Myself
So of course after a little bit of this, I decided to call my doctor just to check in, and to ask him if any of the data that was being sent over was of any use. He promised to consult with the electrocardiologist (which when you think about it it is an awesome title) and get back to me in a couple of days.
"That's all well and good, doctor, but is there anything you can do for me now? These things are really unpleasant to go through."
"Oh, didn't my colleague give you any pointers?" my doctor asked.
There was a silence on the phone, which, if my doctor could were more perceptive, he would have picked up that I was mentally screaming every single swear word I've ever known, all at once. "No. She didn't mention it."
My doctor then went on to explain the two techniques that could help calm down my racing heart. The first was what he called a carotid massage. It involves massaging the carotid artery in my neck in time with my heartbeat. The idea is that the massage will increase blood flow to my brain and convince my brain that my heart is beating even harder than it actually is, and signal to my brain that it's time to calm the heart down (why my brain is incapable of noticing that when my heart is fucking pounding in the first place I'll never know).
The second is even more simple. I'm to put my hand on my stomach, and push out with the stomach as hard as I comfortably can. The hand isn't even necessary--I'm just to make my belly distend out as much as I comfortably can without straining myself. The idea behind this is that, as part of the process of defecation, the body needs to relax as much as possible to move the bowels. The heart will calm down along with everything else that relaxes. The act of pushing out your stomach can mimic that bodily function.
The downside of convincing your heart to calm down because the body is about to shit itself is that the heart is not necessarily the only part of the body that can be confused by this.
Doctors, as a whole, are not people who go out of their way to fuck with you, but at times it's hard not to suspect that that is in fact what they're doing. I double-checked my doctor's instructions: they are, in fact, legitimate. It's only a coincidence they involve me choking myself out, and quite possibly shitting myself. It's preferable to dying in your sleep--they key is to do one, but not the other.