Friday, October 17, 2014

Ode After An Arrhythmia [poem]

Ode After An Arrhythmia
Oh, my heart, you are sillier than Cisneros’s clown.
You flitter at the slightest provocation.
Some boys were blasting bass, their speakers
bouncing thumps, and it set you off.
You picked up the
You are such a sympathetic girl.
You cause me such
both the you-you muscle and the metaphorical you,
the Valentine, ring-finger you. When
will you ever settle down,
find one slow rhythm? You love
to flash and flirt, show off.
Here you go again, you dangerous stranger, you skittish,
startled kitten you, you muse. 


Old Picture from one of the many times I've worn a Holter monitor.

I haven't been feeling well lately, so while I've kept up with writing poems for the project, I haven't been posting blogs.  Today I'm enjoying a bottled water and the free Wi-Fi at a Dunkin' Donuts, and trying to catch up. I think my next poem may've happened here, too.
In any case, I have a condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.  It's a form of Dysautonomia, which is a cluster of disorders, all of which are associated with some form of dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, the system of our bodies responsible for controlling "unconscious" processes such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, temperature, etc.  POTS simply (or, not so simply, it's a mouth full) indicates that my heart rate rises dramatically when I stand, but I also deal with many other aspects of autonomic dysfunction.  I struggle with digestive issues, fatigue, hot flushes, etc.  It's a chronic condition that waxes and wanes - for weeks at a time I may be "fine," (this is a relative fine that those with chronic health conditions know well - it is a "fine" that does not train for triathlons or trips to Fuji), but if something like an acute illness or another anomaly (cold, allergies, large meal, etc.) occurs, I can have a flare of symptoms.  Essentially, my heart overreacts - everyone's body is put under a certain amount of stress, and mine simply doesn't  respond well to that stress.  I often end up in the emergency room, receiving fluids. 
Despite years living with this condition, I still get very anxious when I have a flare, or know that a flare is coming.  If I think I'm getting a cold, I get very, very anxious anticipating the hell of what I'm about to go through compared to others who stop by a gas station for a dose of Dayquil on their way to work.  Intravenous fluids in an ER room are my Dayquil. 
Of course, the anxiety only makes it worse, and it also makes it difficult to receive recognition and treatment from doctors, friends, etc.  Like any little known, mind-body connected condition that comes and goes, people tend to stress the mind over the body.  You know, It's all in your head.
For example, at a testing earlier this year, the Tilt Table Test, which is the official test to diagnose POTS, my heart rate did in fact increase dramatically upon simply being raised to a standing position.  I became lightheaded and felt sweaty, clammy.  I struggled to stay conscious. There were three nurses in the room, and one of them popped her eyes out of her head as she watched the monitor, which began to beep wildly.  The nurses instructed me to breathe, and modeled breathing for me.  After my heart rate had begun to slow, part of the test was to introduce a small dose of a drug that would raise my heart rate - just to see how I would react to mimicked exertion.  As the nurse was pushing the drug into my IV, my heart rate shot up into the 180's from the sheer fear of it.  This anxiety response caused the cardiologist to conclude that I was suffering from "some" POTS and some Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, which I take to mean that my heart is inappropriate, which is entirely fitting to my own understanding of my heart. 
So with my recent illness, I experience a flare of symptoms, and with those symptoms on my mind, I wrote this poem.
I'll tell you about a little confusion I have.
I am unsure in regards to whether or not tachycardia is technically considered a form of arrhythmia. The cardiologist I've seen seem to regard tachycardia as either normal, occurring on a small scale as the result of breathing, rising, exerting, or fighting of a virus, or abnormal, occurring in extreme measures, outside of an appropriate cause, but none of this is an arrhythmia, which they seem to regard as strictly skipped beats of the heart.
However, on the paperwork I've received upon discharge from the multiple visits I've experienced to Emergency Rooms, the terms "palpitations" (pounding heart) and "arrhythmia" and "tachycardia" are used almost interchangeably.
Whatever, I used it in the title of this poem because it sounded good.  It's a heart thing that has the word "rhythm" in it.  That's like, a poet's dream.  How could I not take that up?
Also, I don't know if you noticed, but I phrased the lines to purposely throw the reader's rhythm off - some of them long and reading smoothly, some of them dropping off to another line which is simply a short, quick word.  I was hoping that reading the poem would mimic the experience of arrhythmia.
Does it?
Oh.  And that first line?  That's referencing Sandra Cisneros's poem Little Clown, My Heart, which is stupendous.  STUPENDOUS.  And can be found in her equally stupendous and stunning collection, Loose Woman
This poem was written on October 17, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project.


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