Have you ever heard the expression,”My heart skips a beat?” It’s usually used in romantic contexts when the heroine sees her hero for the first time,
When my heart skips a beat, it doesn’t feel like a warm rush of attraction. It’s the first indication I’m about to break down.My reason is disconnecting from reality. Like pool balls after being racked, it’s just a quick few seconds notice that everything is about to not make any sense.
I’ve tried to put together what triggers me.
Maybe I’ve had some really bad news; the kind of news that is life changing. The kind of news that makes me question myself on many levels, reopening that old wound, the acrid voice of self-doubt. The Voice that I’ve been hearing since I was four. The Voice that whispers, “You’re not good enough. See, somebody finally noticed you’re nothing but a fake.”
It might be that I’ve made a giant mistake. The kind of mistake that is costly, whether financially, relationship-wise, or career suicide. A mistake that won’t be taken lightly by those involved. Sometimes what’s actually a small mistake, in the moment, can feel momentous. I can’t always see clearly. I take my worry to the absolute worst case scenario, then I throw myself off that cliff.
Or perhaps I’ve seen something disturbing; something off, something profoundly wrong in nature. An acquaintance looking a second too long at his wife’s best friend. One of my kid’s friends who doesn’t want to go home for some reason. Once, when I worked at a hospital, I saw the cold blue bruises of a noose around a man’s neck. A pool of blood spreading under a man’s head after he’d been shot in a fight with a relative. The blood, scarlet and still warm, rushed from him like a bubbling brook, filling every tub they put in front of it. The entire unit smelled like copper pennies. I can see terrible things and not panic. It has to do with how these visuals relate to me and my own experiences. To this day, when I hear a belt being taken off a pair of jeans, I have to take a second. That was the sound I heard, as a ten-year-old, right before the babysitter’s husband undressed in front of me.
It feels pretty close to terror.
Do you know the difference between terror and horror?
People use these terms interchangeably but they truly aren’t.
Terror is the kind of fear that manifests itself in the pit of your stomach in anticipation of that dreaded expectation. When you walk around a corner and can’t make out the landscape but you just know somebody’s out there.
Horror is the kind of fear that takes over when you see blood spurting or the ghost of a noose.
When I have an anxiety attack, I really can hear my heartbeat in my ears. I feel a dysrhythmia under my ribcage, as if I’m just too terrified to remind my heart to do its job.
I sweat profusely, and it really is what people call a “cold sweat.” My fingers tingle. My breath catches in my throat. My face flushes, red heat in my cheeks. I’m not embarrassed, I’m drowning. It’s impossible to concentrate on anything else. I can’t hear you. I can’t breathe. My head thunders with the sound of waterfalls.
And in those moments, my heart skips a beat.