People | Diagnosis

A Strange Language: How a Chronic Heart Condition Has (and Hasn’t) Changed My Life

Sometimes I’m convinced no other person will ever know my fragile heart the way I do.

It will never cease to amaze me that I owe my life to AP Statistics. We tracked our heart rates while refreshing our knowledge of averages, and mine was abnormally high. “A hundred and ten beats per minute?” my teacher said to me. “Nervous about auditions this afternoon?”

“Don’t take the stairs! You might die!”

It’s gone? I can’t feel it?

I’ve never been able to tell them why the same gentle hand on my back can have me thanking them or yelling at them to stop touching me. And so they muddle along, always doing the wrong thing, because I can’t teach them any different. Sometimes I’m convinced that no other person will ever know my body, my fragile heart, the way I do, and that I’ll always feel alone because of it.

My heart condition is now something people discover about me, rather than something I worry they’ll need to know.