This post originally appeared on my Tumbler.
Not everybody can truthfully say their life changed drastically, and dramatically, over night. Yet I can. It happened on the last day of September 2014. All day at work, a library archive at the time, I had felt weird. It was if my upper body was somehow compressed and my breathing felt somewhat laboured. I tried hanging from the beams supporting the archive shelves, I tried to press my arms as far back as I could as this felt like it eased the pressure over my chest. I tried laying on the hard floor to get that cracking noise, maybe that would help? But it didn’t crack at all. Nothing helped.
As the afternoon wore on, the feeling was still there. But as always I pressed on. After I went to my voice class, glad for the artistic relief. However, something didn’t work there either. I couldn’t breath proper. My voice wouldn’t perform the way I had become used to. Even my voice teacher noted this. I brushed it off with a rough day at work and perhaps lack of concentration.
The commute home felt extra long and my back was killing me. I felt utterly exhausted. But since my job mostly meant standing or walking all day, I figured I might just need to get a pair of new shoes or possibly a day off to rest. Not that I would take one… My family had had to ‘force’ me to take a summer vacation that summer. They helped me pay for it, they saw to it that my sister could come along so I didn’t have to travel by my lonesome, and we could stay for free at my uncles flat in Paris. And that was probably the first real vacation I had had since 2005 unless you count my so-so honeymoon week in Denmark back in ’06. What I’m saying is taking time off was not something I felt comfortable to do. I tended to work a lot, I tended to not take time off and offer to stay late to let others have vacation or time off. I blamed it on my not having a family. I didn’t need the time off. The reality was different, as I was soon to find out.
When I came home I ate, fixed my lunch for the next day. What was then called The iTunes Music Festival was in full swing, and I decided to watch Nicola Benedetti perform. I remember this extremely vividly, because my back felt so sore and achy that I actually lay on the floor watching. But to no avail. It just felt tense and rigid, and the feeling of pressure over my chest would not subside. My mother just shook her head as she came upstairs and saw me. Neither of us thought much of it though.
In the end I decided to call it a night. In those days I rose at a quarter to five in the morning, meaning my days mostly consisted of rising early, a long commute, going to a job I didn’t particularly like (I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t really offer me anything, it didn’t play to my strengths nor did it pay particularly well.), a long commute home again, eating, possibly catch some show in Netflix and then crash. I did sneak some writing in during my commute (I even managed to write my first book draft during the summer!), and I read when I could, mostly though I listened to podcasts because it was all the energy I had. If I’m honest now, though I would never have admitted it at the time: I was very unhappy, but I forced my self to not think about it in any way.
Then it all happened. Around eleven that night I woke with a start. Something felt wrong in my entire body. It felt like a strong fluttering in my chest, as if my heart didn’t have an even beat. Almost as if it was trying to pump blood but ever so often struck a pocket of air. I still had the pain in my back and the pressure over my chest was even worse; but more seriously, I had now developed a piercing pain in my chest. A pain that felt like it was rushing from around my heart, up via my throat and shoulder, down my left-side arm. All the way in to my little and ring fingers.
I felt clammy with cold sweat and I was faint. Suddenly I had a wave of nausea and felt like I was about to faint where I was laying on my stomach. In a panic I rose up on my arms, struggling to keep the panic out of my breathing. That’s when I started to shiver. I felt colder than I can ever remember having felt. I turned over on my back and pulled up my duvet. The pain and the flutter was still there, and now an icy cold and continued waves of nausea. I debated with my self. I didn’t know what was wrong. I tried to tell my self it was probably nothing. Just… you know…
But I couldn’t deny how I felt. I had read about people having these symptoms. I was 32 years old and had a horrible realisation that I might be having… a heart attack!