There’s a frog in my chest. It hops around, especially at night, and on bad days makes me feels like a wrung-out dishcloth.
The technical term for this frog is Premature Ventricular Contractions, or PVCs. They’re extra, abnormal heartbeats that are essentially harmless to a structurally normal heart, like mine.
I’ve had them since puberty, but didn’t give them a thought until 2009. Overnight they went from an occasional flutter in my throat to a kettle drum under my ribs, and with each rat-a-tat-tat my adrenaline spiked through the roof.
I finally did a Really Scary Thing and called a cardiologist. A few panic attacks later, all the heart tests came back normal. No reason to worry, the doctor said. Just ignore the drum corps.
Easier said than done. For a handful of years I wavered between rational acceptance and hypochondria. There were a few more trips to the doctor, one ER visit, and another round of tests, but everything confirmed what I’d already been told—my heart was fine. Time to move on.
It’s been a process, but I can honestly say I’ve learned to live with my misbehaving heart. Yes, there are moments I want to rip it out of my chest and send it to the naughty stool, but mostly I’m just grateful it gets the job done.
These last few weeks, that hard-earned truce has been put to the test. Whatever the cause, my symptoms have escalated. There’s a full-on game of Frogger happening behind my sternum, and it’s making me miserable. I’m tired, shaky, lightheaded, and general worn out. Anxiety, so far, has kept its distance, but there’s no ignoring the physical results of a consistently irregular heartbeat.
Last week I went back to the cardiologist for the first time in six years. After reviewing my old tests and listening to my symptoms, he reassured me that my PVCs, while annoying, are still harmless. Unless they increase, there’s no need for intervention, and there’s really nothing that can be done in the meantime to calm them down.
As a precaution, I’m currently strapped to 24-hour monitor (which, I’ve discovered, is the surest way to send that frog running for cover). Assuming the results confirm what I’ve already been told, I’ll be right back where I started—in the land of Just Live With It.
That seems a common destination lately. I don’t know if it’s reality or just my perspective, but it feels like the list of things I can control is losing tally marks by the hour. There was a time when ambition, willpower, and effort were enough to accomplish change in my life. These days, not so much.
To my own surprise, I’m not complaining. Where lack of control once terrified me—especially in regard to my health—it’s also made me quicker to lean on the One who has true authority over all things.
First through hypochondria, and later through legitimate health issues, God has been faithfully chipping away at the feeble pillars on which I’m tempted to build my confidence. He’s teaching me that real peace isn’t found in control, but in surrender. Letting go of my fear, my health, my plan—it’s the only way my hands can be empty enough to grab hold of Him.
It isn’t easy, and I’m not an eager student. I’m Daniel LaRusso, griping about endlessly waxing cars and sanding floors, wondering when in the world Mr. Miyagi is going to get around the teaching me the good stuff.
But this is the good stuff. Small, daily steps of surrender, repeated incessantly, until repetition becomes habit, and habit becomes strength.
Surrender, one heartbeat at a time. That’s what I’m learning from these wires on my chest.