Sometimes when I stop to think about it, I feel like a badass. And sometimes, like the past few days, I feel broken.

Sunday evening, my heart started acting wonky. Wonky is one of my favorite terms I use in my practice, it encapsulates a “humor” that the human body likes to demonstrate. This is not the first time I have had this feeling, it has vacillated from a mere rapid heart beat to my entire chest tightening with a pain under my shoulder blade. I have to say in good conscious dear readers, if you feel this, please take yourself to the Emergency Room to get it checked out, just to be sure. I remember that time with the pain, I was on my way to the Dougy Center with Raffi in the car, I called my sister, told her it was a panic attack, but “just in case” kind of thing. Knowing the landscape of this and how it presents, I have yet to take myself to the ER. I have known countless people who have anxiety and panic attacks who have gone to the ER and were told there is nothing wrong with your heart, but maybe you should get that stress under control.

Well, there is something wrong with my heart, it’s broken, but you can’t see that with imaging or an EKG.

Sunday evening, I stopped while we were doing the crossword puzzle and took some deep breaths. I told my boyfriend what was going on, and tried to explain the feeling (keep in mind there was no apparent trigger for this). I think I said something like it felt slippery, and it felt like it skipped beats occasionally. He felt my pulse, and said it wasn’t fast, nor could he feel what I was feeling in my chest. About ten minutes later, that slippery feeling changed to my heart feeling like it was going to leap out of my chest. Anyone who has had this feels like they are crazy, because it is something you feel and a “test” may show an elevated heart rate, that is about it. I had him put his hand on my heart and he said, wow, it feels fast and I can “feel” it. I said thank god, I am not crazy. It calmed down a bit only to rev back up as I was getting ready for bed. It usually does not last this long, and having medical knowledge, my mind wanders to the worst possible scenario of course. I remember in acupuncture school as we learned different diseases, we of course had all of them. Well, I thought to myself, hmm, how long can this go on before it says enough? I dismissed that thought like many others that go through my mind and lay down to try and sleep. I swear I felt the bed moving with how hard it was beating. My boyfriend was sweet, he asked if we should go to the ER. I said nah, they will just send me home and say it is a panic attack. I lay for a bit more and said honey, can you hold my hand?

Readers, often times when someone is experiencing a panic attack, as much as you want it to stop, that person wants it to stop a gazillion times more, trust me. He couldn’t fix it, he could not magically make it go away, but he held my hand. Eventually, it could have been 20 minutes, it could have been an hour, I don’t know, it stopped and I fell asleep. I think without him doing that I would have been pacing the floors all night. Sometimes you just need someone to not say anything and hold your hand.

But things like that for me come with a price. The stupidity in my mind starts to creep in. You are broken. Add an ankle injury that I am treating, but is keeping me from my longer runs which I desperately need, it creeps in more You are broken in your mind and body. And from there, the sky is the limit, mostly having to deal with the ones I have worked so hard on in these past three plus years, you are not worthy, you are not wanted. Now, this one goes way way back and has been riding on my shoulder whispering in my ear throughout my life. What Jesse did compounded that a million times over. Now, what that little devil riding on my shoulder said was, well, I told you, you are so bad he had to kill himself and take Bella because you would have screwed her up too. I know. Believe me I know how unreasonable that statement is. And I fix it, but the reality is, it is still there and creeps into consciousness once in awhile.

After Maribella was born, I had severe postpartum depression that I stupidly thought, it’ll pass. We practitioners as smart as we are, are sometimes extremely stupid when it comes to ourselves (although I will not do that anymore). Anyways, I eventually went into a Nurse Practitioner who did counseling and specialized in mental health. She taught me a number of techniques, one of which is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). I have been so thankful for that embedded training, plus all of the things I learned over the years practicing acupuncture, helping people look at behaviors that keep them from achieving their goals. I am not sure what I would have done without it, because after they died, I had to take a hard look at myself and confront my own shit or else I was not going to make it. I have struggled with depression on and off my whole life. When I was a teenager, I thought about killing myself more times than I can even remember. When I was pregnant with Bella and on high doses of progesterone, again (apparently if you have serotonin issue, you should not take progesterone, it can make you suicidal). Postpartum, again. After Jesse and Bella died, again, and to be honest, most days after. It is a default switch I am extremely aware of that my brain does. It is natural when you have mental or physical anguish that you want it to stop. My brain goes to the extreme to want to make it stop. I keep it in check. I have to, I recognize if I don’t, those thoughts will win.

I shared with my boyfriend Sunday evening, and even last night that I get very frustrated with my body and mind sometimes, that I feel broken. Upon thinking about it on my very slow run this morning, I guess we all are to some degree. No one sane person walks around feeling like man, I am freaking perfect in every aspect of my body! We all have these things in our bodies and minds that we are working on. Some a bit more than others. The important thing is to recognize when you need help and get it. Seriously. One of my goals is to be more compassionate with my broken. I won’t stop fighting that little devil that likes to be heard, but I guess I need to stop being surprised so much when he shows up. I am going to try to re frame and say, hey, dude, I get you want to live in the past, that you may think all these things, but seriously, shut the fuck up, and then I will think about unicorns pooping rainbows, because what thought process can argue with that, right??

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Stephanie Willard

Originally published at on July 18, 2017.