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Heart palpitations and shortness of breath.

August 28, 2018

I used to be an elementary school teacher and ed-tech consultant; now I'm a mom of twins and aspiring children's book author.

This blog is a place for me to write about personal life experiences, gleanings from books I've recently read, past and current DIY projects, and reflective thoughts that need a home outside my heart. Here at HeartEyes, I am opening my heart and eyes to yet another new chapter of my life, and my hope is that by joining me here, your heart and eyes would be opened to a more thoughtful and intentional life.

Hi, i'm tiff!

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About a month ago, the twins were sitting in their high chairs, had just finished their meal, and were ready to have some fruit.

We gave a couple blueberries to my son, rather than a handful of them, because we’d been trying to train him not to stuff his mouth so full. (He would usually stuff his mouth so full that he wouldn’t be able to chew nor swallow so he’d end up spitting everything out.)

Well, he was not having it. Scream-crying ensued, right in front of my face.

I could feel my blood start to boil and at that moment, I really really wanted to punch his face. He was 1 year and 3 months old at the time.

After my first therapy session, one of my homework assignments was to be more aware of how my body reacted whenever I was about to get angry with the twins.

So during this moment of blueberry-induced screaming and after a few choice words, I walked away and tried to get in tune with my body. The main things I noticed right off the bat were my pounding heart and lack of ability to take deep breaths in. Something was not right.

At my second therapy session, I described this experience and my therapist asked if I had ever felt those heart palpitations in the past. I remembered clearly that I felt the same way the morning of my C-section because I was so terrified, as well as every single time the nurses came into my room after my C-section to check my blood pressure since I had postpartum preeclampsia.

My therapist then asked if I could think of any other instance in my past where I felt the same way, but I told her that either I didn’t ever feel that way before, or I couldn’t remember that I did.

As we continued to talk, I gasped suddenly and my eyes grew wide with discovery. I had thought of a time in my past where I had felt those same exact heart palpitations. It had lasted at least five years, it was fifteen years ago, and it all started when I was a freshman in college.

During my freshman year in college, I started dating this guy that everyone warned me about, but being the stubborn individual I was, I didn’t really listen and continued to pursue my favorite type of guy at the time: “the bad guy.”

Shortly after we began dating, I found out that he had and still was cheating on me. I was completely in shock and denial at first, but I still remember the exact time and place I was when I heard the news. I barely ate anything for weeks, lost 20 pounds, and that moment was followed with countless sleepless nights of disbelief, depression, and shamefulness.

Somehow, we broke up yet ended up back together, but that trust was never fully restored. Week after week, I would be filled with paranoia and check his phone, email, MySpace account, FaceBook account, and any accounts he had that could be a channel of communication with other girls. I distinctly remember my heart pounding like crazy every single time I was checking into those things, for fear of what I would find.

This lasted five years. (Don’t ask me why I stuck it out that long.)

I never told anyone about the cheating. I never told my parents because I already knew they disapproved of him, I never told my brother because they were friends and I didn’t want to disappoint him, and I never even told my close friends because I was so ashamed that it happened to me.

Many people don’t know that being cheated on actually changes the brain and causes it to function differently than before. It takes work and psychotherapy to rewire the brain for recovery, but I never told anyone, and my brain processed it as trauma.

All this is to say that the heart palpitations I experience today with the twins, can be traced all the way back to the same heart palpitations I experienced fifteen years ago whenever I was checking up on my ex-boyfriend.

What does this all mean?

My therapist explained,

“The intense anger you think you feel when you are upset with the twins, really isn’t anger. It is an overwhelming level of anxiety that you think is anger because you are unfamiliar with this feeling and cannot control the situation you are in.”

Because I never spoke to anyone nor processed the cheating incident, I kept exposing myself to this overwhelming anxiety over and over and over again during those five years. I never learned how to deal with it, and when we ultimately broke up, the anxiety went away and never really came back until the twins were born.

My therapist asked, “Would you consider yourself to be an anxious person?” Never in a million years would I have thought I was an anxious person, but when I really considered it in reference to all of my experiences, I told her, “Yea, maybe I am, actually. Not in the sense of being worried about everything under the sun, but more in the sense of not being able to be in control of certain situations.”

In my brain, I had always known that life with children would be unpredictable and uncontrollable, but I didn’t know that I would hate it, reject it, and be this frustrated with it.

I used to think anxious people just worried about things all the time. I now fully understand what it’s like to have an anxiety attack because I have one several times a week, and when it overtakes me, I have literally been unable to control it. I’m unable to control the heart palpitations and sometimes unable to take deep breaths. When the anxiety is really bad, I also feel this tightness in my chest that’s almost choking me.

Knowing and understanding what is going on with me in those moments of “anger” toward the twins has been so enlightening and helpful. With these discoveries of how my past experiences are connected to my current experiences of anxiety, I am better able to overcome the situation not by trying to control the twins, but by practicing different coping mechanisms to help me get through the anxiety attack. I have yet to find a coping mechanism that works 100% of the time, but I am happy I have options and am able to start somewhere.

Note: All significant events in our lives require some type of processing for us to adjust to and accept the new change in our lives. If you’re having difficulty doing it on your own, open up to someone, whether it be family, friends, or a professional. It is so unhealthy and potentially damaging to keep it all buried inside like I did. If you need help finding a professional to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me and I can ask my therapist for recommendations.

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Pondering thoughts, personal life experiences, things I love, mental health, marriage life, and everything in between.



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Everything from my birth story to postpartum anxiety and depression, from c-section recovery to mom guilt and judgment. Prepare for raw and emotional posts!


Books + Podcasts

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Gleanings from books I've read and podcasts I've been impressed with, with the occasional children's book recommendations!


DIY Projects

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DIY project tutorials from six years of projects in my home! Very much a work in progress, migrating tutorials from my Instagram page to my blog!


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