Shower for the Soul — A podcst hosted by Shane fame Alexander

Tagheart palpitations

S002E009 – Second Season Stigma

And we’re back….

On the season premier episode of Shower for the Soul, Shane catches us up on what exactly happened that night in December when a walk-in doctor directed him to the ER. We take an honest approach to the stigma of getting therapy. Shane shares his experiences and where he’s currently going to. Also, a brand new feature debuts where Shane reads his old journal entries that he penned on his mysteriously hidden old Tumblr page.

Mental health involves finding a balance in all aspects of life including physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. By learning more about mental health, we can take steps to help ourselves and others improve mental health and reduce the risk and stigma of mental illness. Find additional resources here.

Here’s an update on my ticker: I wore a holter monitor for 24 hours

Why I had to wear a holter monitor

Here’s recap in case you missed the article I posted two weeks ago. Back in December, I was getting weird heart palpitations. I didn’t think anything of it until it became a regular thing. As a healthy 41 year old I had never experienced these odd beats before. This is when I got worried. After the fourth day of getting the palpitations, I decided to go to the walk-in doctor. He sent me to the hospital to get an ECG done. 7 hours waiting in the emergency room, and a couple of tests and blood taken, the emergency doctor advised I should get a holter monitor so they can check on the activity of my heart in a regular 24-hour period. I got mine on Monday, and took it off yesterday afternoon. From 4.00pm – 4.00pm, Here’s what happened.

But first, what exactly is a holter monitor?

Good question. I wasn’t familiar with it until recently. Apparently, everyone that is older has gone through this process. According to Medical News Today;

“A Holter monitoring device measures a person’s heartbeat for 24 hours. A small, battery-powered electrocardiogram (ECG) device is attached to the body. This monitor a person’s heart as they go about their daily activities. When people report symptoms of heart problems, doctors often use ECGs to help diagnose the issue.”

Wearing the holter monitor

The holter monitor meeting was Monday at the London Cardiac Institute. The visit was painless. I arrived really early, thinking they’d be able to squeeze me in before my scheduled appointment time. They did not, but that wasn’t a big deal. The nurse advised me of a few key notes to remember – not to shower with it on, to use my diary and what to do when removing the device. She stuck on a few stickers, stuck on the wires and gave me a fanny-pack like contraption to carry around the monitor in. I walked out not looking like I’m wearing a mini-computer underneath my shirt. And from what I saw, no one else did that came walking out from the office. The holter monitor is super small and easy to hide.

The potty was the toughest part

I wanted to make the time I was wearing the holter monitor as stress free as possible. To do this, I caught up on a lot of work over the weekend and did as much of other stuff around the pad so I didn’t need to lay a finger for twenty-four hours.

When the time came when I needed to go, I really NEEDED to go. But how am I supposed to do this? See, the power cord is situated by my waist. This meant sitting down whilst going to the washroom would mean that the cord would get soiled. I had to hold the power cord in a certain way so it wouldn’t get dirty. This meant for a very uncomfortable positioning and as a result of, my arm needs a good massage.  After  tricky manoeuvring, it was a successful mission. Just not a mission that I wanted to do a lot.

Sleep wasn’t so comfy

The next tricky part would be sleeping. I sleep on both sides. Turning all night long. I had to make a (sub)-conscience effort to not turn on my left side where the monitor was. It worked but the pager-like device still go in my way, not to mention the cords on my chest that made it really hard to do anything with my arms being on my body. (I like to cross my arms when I sleep.) I took a pill and headed to bed just after 11pm. Just like the washroom, I was trying to put off sleeping for as long as I could. Even with the sleeping pill, my night was full of scratching, half-dreams, and insomnia. All in all, I had maybe 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Thankful I only need to wear the holter monitor for 24 hours

All in all, the whole process wasn’t as bad as I thought. It just really needed to get used to. By the 22 hour mark, I was ready to take a shower and sleep. I was counting down the minutes and seconds. Waiting for 4pm to hit and as soon as it did, the holter monitor came off. I stuck it in a plastic bag to be returned to the office and jumped right in the shower.

Now, I wait to see if anything spikes their interest and they call me in. I guess, no news is good news. I just really hope I don’t need to wear it again. A day was long enough for me. While I was waiting for my name to be called Monday afternoon, I saw a couple of older gentlemen walk in and they needed to wear it for 48 hours and a week, respectively. I don’t want to do that.

As I mentioned in my original article about my heart palpitations, listen to your body. It doesn’t matter how crazy it might sound to a trained professional, it’s your body and you know what it does. If you find it doing something it usually doesn’t do, get it checked out. The slight discomfort of wearing a holter monitor for a pesky 24-hours is worth it if it means it’ll save a life.


Unusual heart palpitations made me quit caffeine for 10 days

The reason why I had to quit caffeine. 

On Tuesday December 17th, I spent the day with unfamiliar heart palpitations and at the emergency room. The doc said I needed to quit caffeine – for now.

The heart palpitations started a few days before. I had never experienced anything to do with my heart being wacky so this caused me to worry. The beatings were off, my shoulder was getting tight. Of course I was thinking the worst.  Before, the palpitations began in the morning. The first couple days I shrugged them off as being something to do with how I slept on my arm. On the fourth day, I started to get them in the afternoon, which never happened before. This is when I decided to go visit the walk-in doctor.

While there, the doctor asked me a bunch of questions. As soon as I told him that my family has a history of heart problems and my shoulder issue, he told me to go straight to the emergency room to get an Electrocardiography (or an EKG.) My worries were legitimized. I scooted over to the hospital.

Within an hour of getting to the hospital I had been seen by the registration nurse and got my EKG done. Only if the rest of the day went by that fast. 7 hours later I was told to cut out everything  that’s good in life – chocolate and caffeine


Listen to your body      

I was finally seen by someone at 11.30. Several hours after the initial check-in. I promptly disrobed from the waist up and was seen by a nurse. Then, there was another wait until I got to see a male nurse that took blood and hooked me up to another EKG machine. Finally, the doctor came in. I told him the story and that I think it’s due to stress and anxiety. He told me to cut out everything that’s good in life – chocolate and caffeine. While it might do with my mental, the things I’m putting into my body will help the palpitations to calm down. He also noted that my age plays a huge part in this. At 41, my heart has begun to be kinda wacky. The beats aren’t the same from a decade ago. This’ll happen more often as I get older, he noted.

I’m happy that I listened to my body and knew when things were getting weird.

That’s the lesson I learned here – to listen to my body and get it checked out no matter how idiotic it might be to a trained professional. Be it as it may, it wasn’t going to be a fun few days off chocolate and caffeine.  Was I ready?

Day #1: No caffeine

Daily protocol dictates that I have one cup of coffee every morning by the latest 9am. This has been my routine for as long as I can remember. Like a drug, I never thought I was addicted to coffee as there are days where I go without just fine. Granted those days, It takes longer for me to wake up and I’m a tad moodier. I’m usually cherry in the morning, after coffee. The first day was hard.

The hardest part  was me knowing that I won’t have my morning brew for a while and the anxiety I had in trying to find a replacement. A few weeks ago, I sent away for a new mood milk. It’s a new band based in Toronto. It’s a powder made up of superfoods that create adaptogenic lattes. One of the flavours are intended to be taken in the morning, it’s called Boost. Perfect. I gave the Boost Mood Milk a whirl and it worked or I wasn’t as tired as I thought I’d be. The morning went well. I knew if I got pass the morning hump, the rest of the day sans Joe would be doable.

What I think that helped a lot was that my body isn’t unaccustomed to not having a smoothie in the morning. I have smoothies most mornings so my body wasn’t turned off or grossed out by this odd taste invading my body. It wasn’t missing the familiar coffee. Yet.

Day #2: Looking for something to replace caffeine

The second day had me feeling caffeine withdrawals.  The toughest part came in the morning where I searched for a replacement that’ll give me that comfy feeling that coffee tends to give us.   I was drowsy for most of the day.. While drowsy, I was surprisingly very productive. I got a lot of work done, without my main crutch. I was proud of myself.

Day #3: Decaf is my new caffeine

I gave decaf coffee a whirl. I didn’t even know that we had decaf coffee in the house. This helped a bit as I was craving just the taste of coffee. While I do have decaf as backup, I’ll try my hardest not to have any coffee at all for the remaining days.

On a health tip – got a call from The London Cardiac Institute. They’ll be hooking me up with a holter monitor to kick off 2020. I’ll need to wear it for a whole day to keep a diary of my heart rhythm and to make sure my heart isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. I can’t shower for a whole day – that could be a whole other article. Anyway, day 3 was compromise and progression.

Day #4: Black (decaf) coffee, please

Why not? It’s Saturday and it’s time to bring out the hard stuff. To be honest, I forgot to take creamer. By the second sip I realized there wasn’t any and I was okay with that. It actually worked much better than the decaf coffee I had yesterday. No palpitations either. The hardest part of today, Saturday, is going to the mall sans my regular Starbucks tag-along. The regular caffeine boost whilst shopping is always a great bonus. Especially on a crazy shopping day like today.

Day 5: Half way mark update

We’re here at the halfway mark. Health wise, feeling a bit better. The weird heart palpitations have been steady and nothing out of the ordinary. Life without caffeine has been tough getting used to, but I think I’ll survive. I just need to find a suitable (and healthier) alternative. A whole lot of things happened on day 5. I slept for most of the day. I just felt like being alone, curled up in my bed. No lights, no action. Just me and my drowsy thoughts. The only liquid I actually had on day 5 was cranberry juice and water. 


Day 6, 7, 8 – Off to Detroit 

Took off to Detroit for the holidays. Quick trip, only lasted a few days. My good friend that I was bunking with doesn’t drink coffee, so it made the on-vacation-rules-don’t-apply-here craving for coffee so much easier. Christmas morning had a cup of decaf. I had zero weird things happening with my heart either. 


Day 9 – Back home with a cup of Joe

Back home in London. The morning started with a huge cup of decaf. One more day to go in this challenge and it was much easier than I thought it would be. Truth be told, I thought it’d be a process much like quitting smoking. The cravings, the anxiety,  the loss of weight. But it’s been a reasonably smooth transition period. 

Day 10: End is here 

These 10 days have been a trip, including an actual trip to the States. I was scared at first. Just like how I was scared when I ever thought of quitting smoking. How will I survive without it? What will I replace it with? Nothing can replace it, I need it.  My body doesn’t need caffeine. I don’t need caffeine. I just like it as it’s a good way to boost myself in the morning. Health wise, to be honest, I never saw why I needed to give it up as I never thought that coffee was attributed to my heart palpitations.

But I was down for the challenge and I was interested to see how my addiction to coffee is. Of course, coffee is still the best to me for a first thing in the morning booster. Will I be giving it up for good? No. I’m sure I’ll go back to it sooner rather than later.  Did I find alternatives to morning brew? No, I haven’t. Even though, smoothies with the right greens comes very close. Hint: Add a boost, like the one I mentioned above.

The final diagnoses

On the health tip, I haven’t had any heart palpitations for four days so  that’s the good news. As I mentioned last week, I will be getting a heart monitor put on me for a whole day. That’ll be happening on January 6. Will keep you updated. I’m happy I did this challenge. It was very eye-opening and I recommend everyone try it. Not because you have to, just because it’s a cool self-check-up on your habits. If you do choose to try the no caffeine challenge, keep me in the loop with your progress.