Living With Anxiety & Congenital Heart Disease

As I reported in Sometimes, Life Forces You to Pivot, I had an anxiety attack that put me in atrial fibrillation, and sent my heart up to 257 beats per-minute. The following day, they did a few procedures to set my heart back to normal sinus rhythm – so it beats as closely to a “normal” heart as possible. Here’s where the shit gets a little crazy.

When I moved to Florida, I was so hopeful I’d be able to get my ish together. My life was falling apart. I found myself – at 41 – unable to support myself and having to rely on the kindness of my parents and friends. That’s pretty devastating; I couldn’t find a way out. This was a chance to begin a new life, and make more of myself. Turns out, it’s been a blessing of an incredible magnitude, and the bane of my existence. Let me explain.

I have not been able to find my way in Florida. My solitary friend is my would-be roommate, and he flies all over the country for work. He’s almost never here. The others I know are his people, but that’s the point. They’re not my people, and there seems to be no interest in hanging out with me. So, that leaves me. And I developed a massive case of anxiety a little over a year ago (more on that in a minute). Here I am, 1,700 miles from home, with nobody in a town I don’t know. I honestly believed that would give me the opportunity to grow my blog, meet people, make friends, maybe even fall in love. Enter anxiety. (Don’t feel sorry for me. I can do alone. I’m good. Just scared.)

I’m not an anxious person. If anything, I’m fearless – maybe to a fault – and I’ve never let things hold me back. Kind of. There are certain people whose words really matter, and they have shredded me on more than one occasion, even as I decided to  move forward. But with no people here, little-to-no human interaction, I found myself drowning in the diaspora. Then, on November 3 I had a massive anxiety attack. Only my heart never slowed down. On November 7, I accidentally called the correct cardiac team, and promptly drove to see them.

In the 20 minutes it took me to get there, my heart went from 120-130 to 177, and then 180. I parked and raced into the ER. They captured my rate at 188, and rushed me to the back. I was completely freaking out. I go into that detail on the Pivot post. At some point I hit 253. The nurse later said I went even higher than that, but that’s the last rate I remember her telling me before they stopped my heart 3 times. It wouldn’t convert (slow down), so they put me on a cardiac infusion, and held me overnight. The following day, they shocked my heart into normal rhythm.

Two days after it happened, they sent me home, with a plan to have an ablation, and maybe replace my pacemaker. Now, we’re really discussing getting that done.


I have had 2 massive anxiety attacks, and a few smaller ones, and I remain alone. I have no one’s hand to hold, nobody to call, nothing to distract me and get me to un-focus from my raging heart, so that it will slow down.


I was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries in 1976, had the Mustard procedure at 3 mos. old, had a catheter (maybe 2, I’m not sure), and then a pacemaker implanted when I was 16, and turned off when I was 26-ish. Which was great, and I figured I was in the clear for  a few years. But a few years turned into 15 (and if you’re living with CHD like me, I know, I know).


Now I have anxiety. I noticed it about a year ago, when I had my first anxiety attack that wasn’t just a wave of adrenaline, and was much more like taking a shower in it. It was scary, but my heart rate eventually broke, and I went about my day – more tired, but no worse for wear. I think that’s when my body started trying to tell me to get to a cardiologist. Only, it didn’t feel wrong, so I never went.

My anxiety causes a positive feedback loop.

I needed to go to the doc, because I was running hot – cruising around between 85 & 95 bpm, when I normally hang out at 50 or 60. Everything felt frantic, electric. Occasionally, my rate would break back to where it was supposed to be, but never for long. My life was crashing, and I was anxious.

In August, I stopped smoking, and my anxiety attacks kicked up their game to 11. The heart rate always broke, until the day it didn’t, and they had to stop my heart before it killed me.

So, I have anxiety, which raises my heart rate slightly – enough to feel like I should be doing things faster. Then the elevated heart rate freaks me out, which causes a full-blown anxiety attack, which runs my heart rate right up to…well, you see how this works. It’s not as high as it was, because I’m on meds, but it gets uncomfortably high. I’ve been able to pull myself down. Today, I couldn’t. I made it to 150 before I called my cardiac PA and talked to her about whether I should pop a beta blocker and head for the hospital.

All of that to say:

This site had been adding to my anxiety, and that really sucks, but I know why. For YEARS I wrote about what I wanted, and nobody read what I wrote. I was told to pick a niche. I picked a niche. then I monetized. But nobody came. This is the 11th incarnation of a niche blog, and I am determined to NOT fail anymore.  A Spork started out as  food and travel blog, but it’s really a euphemism for the place we always are when we have a choice to make – large or small. It’s a lifestyle, it’s about choices, and it’s about doing the best we can with what we have right now – and it’s about food. If you want to unsubscribe from my email list, I get it. I’m not going to be churning out posts like a mechanical turk. I’m going to be relating, and relating sometimes gets heavy. Mostly light, though.

Except my mom. My mom opens her newsletters and reads. Thanks, mom! (please don’t unsubscribe)

Much love, y’all. Here comes December. Are you ready?

Living With Anxiety & CHD - what I'm dong to cope

About Terra Walker

Terra loves creating recipes, imparting wisdom, searching for an amazing cider, owning this website, and traveling the globe. You can catch up with Terra on the channels above, where she never uses third person, because she hates writing about herself that way.


  1. Pingback: My Congenital Heart Disease Story - Sorta | A Spork in the Road

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