Tuesday, 24 June 2014


I expect Florence had something there.

Fear can be quite debilitating. Shakespeare says in Romeo and Juliet: “ I have a faint cold fear . . . . . . . that freezes up the heat of life.” I know what he means.

Being afraid is not always cowardly. In fact, fear can make you think before you do something stupid or dangerous, which is surely good.  I have little sympathy for people who risk their lives unnecessarily and expect rescuers to endanger their own lives to extricate them from their folly.

But it doesn’t always have to be quite as serious as that. Beloved tells the following story against himself:-

While floating along on a narrowboat on the Oxford canal with friends, their seven year old daughter fell overboard. Beloved can’t swim, he is terrified of water and doesn’t even like to get his face wet in the shower. Nevertheless, he instantly jumped after her, only to find that the canal was no more than 5ft deep. His heroic effort ended with him STANDING on the bottom, feeling rather silly, while the girl swam back to the boat and scrambled aboard. The fact remains that, when he saw the girl fall, his instant, thoughtless, impulse to rescue her overcame his fear of drowning. He also tells me that, had this been a fast flowing river instead of a gently drifting canal, he might have needed rescuing himself.

What Shakespeare and, to a lesser extent, Florence Nightingale mean, is something different. Something with which I am very familiar.

Both Paul and Gardener have been poorly, neither has come to work for three weeks. Some serious jobs were waiting, so I attempted them myself. Pulling apart large root balls, grubbing up stubborn weeds, cutting back overgrown clumps of herbaceous plants, shovelling and a bit of digging. I was enjoying myself, adrenaline flowing. Gradually I became aware of a niggling pain in the throat area; "hay fever", I said to myself, although I should have known better. True to form, during the following night I woke up with a racing pulse, thumping all over the place, an episode of Atrial Fibrillation. Since last November, the last time I was hospitalised, I had only had a couple of minor, short-lived episodes, not more than half a day long, and I had put my otherwise more or less permanent apprehension about a renewed attack to the back of my mind. Along the lines of “new medication - new improved me”. Apprehensive, but a bit foolhardy.

I am better again, it was a mild attack, lasting nine hours; for most of the time I slept thanks to sleeping pills and tranquillisers; and then it stopped again, as it always does. A couple of days of taking it easy (saving me from a play-reading party for which I had little stomach anyway) and I was back to normal.

Back to normal, but also back to the ‘faint cold fear, that freezes up the heat of life’. You have no idea how sad that makes me feel.


  1. oy, do take care of yourself...
    ugh, and sorry the fear is there crimping on life...
    some fear is good...but more of them are debilitating....

  2. Some people will do anything to get out of a play reading party... :)) But, do take care of yourself. That debilitating fear is no fun at all.

  3. I can relate to that fear. Please take care of you!

  4. David has Afib and is in denial about it. So, I have a second hand sense of the fear that freezes the heart. I imagine your B does too.

  5. Well, I am glad you're feeling better and that the spell of Afib has passed. That said, I understand the cold fear overtaking the heat of life all too well. I have trouble accepting a new normal, believing quite confidently that when you get back to "normal" that's where you stay -- and your new normal should be no different from the old. I am most grateful that this was not more serious, but oh -- how it does change one's perspective. Again and again. Many hugs and positive energy to you.

  6. You have that fear...but you are alive. Please don't overdo...a garden isn't worth your health. So many told me early this spring to take it easy. I do it for a while and then go at it with gusto. I always pay for it in the end. In the past I have had episodes of skipped heart beats and occasionally a racing heart. It's a warning for us....Take care, Balisha

  7. The voice of experience here will tell you that you come to accept your challenges and then life goes on.

  8. I wish I knew what symptoms my son had before his Afib took him over to the other side. I'll never know, because he never said. I'm glad that others are speaking of what they experienced, and I truly hope that it might keep someone else from dying before his/her time.

  9. Oh we have some idea. And not just because we care very much about you.

    “The world is put back by the death of every one who has to sacrifice peculiar gifts to conventionality.”
    Florence Nightingale

    “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear”
    Florence Nightingale

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    =^..^= <3

  10. That would definitely be scary to have something like that, so unpredictable. Does exertion like that always bring on an episode?

  11. Florence N.'s words are wise and true. Just tonight, we were talking about how debilitating anxiety is, and how hard to control--and I don't mean by this manufactured anxiety, but that about something real. Fear is, actually, the more appropriate word for this. I am glad this bout of atrial fib was short, but the aftershocks have to be difficult. May you and B be well.

  12. Hello:

    We are most sorry to read this and do hope that you are feeling your normal self again.

    Blogger problems resulted in our being 'off air' for several days!!

  13. Do take care of yourself Friko! I believe that fear is sometimes our internal voice telling us that something could be amiss. Don't overdo it, especially in this summer heat!

  14. The young are fearless. Fear comes from experiences and aging brings it all to us. My greatest fear is not dying, but is not being able to live as I do.

    Take care of yourself and accept that some things don't have to be done immediately.

  15. Glad the episode was short-lived, dear Friko. Take good care of yourself.
    Warm hugs from a viral-flu tormented soul.

  16. That "‘faint cold fear, that freezes up the heat of life’. The fact that Shakespeare came up with the phrase says something - hitting the nail on the head where shared experience and common feeling is concerned.

  17. I am so sorry to hear you've had this episode Friko, especially as you were enjoying yourself so.
    Fear is indeed debilitating and is very stubborn about hanging around.

    Beloveds story is a wonderful example of courageous acts overcoming great fears.

  18. Please take care
    I know this one also do too much
    but love being outside and gardening
    but we need to pace ourselves.
    Here I am saying this
    and I lack this quality.
    This summer I can no longer use the lawn tractor
    and help is so difficult to find.
    Surrounding me everyting is growing and
    am trying to look at my surroundings
    with new eyes and become accustom to
    it looking less groomed
    but still so much to do.
    Please take care and try to slow down...

  19. Nine hours! No wonder you have feelings of fear. Go easy on yourself.

  20. It sounds horrid and I'm glad you've recovered so well .
    "Taking it easy " must be difficult when the garden is sprouting in all directions but it might be a good idea to sit and just enjoy the summer sun for a while till you find someone to do the heavy stuff for you .

  21. Jeepers, Friko.

    Please do resist the temptation to answer all the calls from your garden. Please do listen to the call of the shade under a tree, and perhaps add a glass of something cool to that picture.

    (I am nowadays also trying to remind myself to be more sensible about exertion. I am not always good at listening to certain warning signals.)


  22. I know the impact of diminished capacity (pacemaker, rebuilt heart) and the effects of anticipatory anxiety. It gives me the jumps, I'll tell you. Sometimes I have to take a break before I even start something in the garden, and even more frequent breaks thereafter. But I'm retired now and naturally lazy so I'd probably do that anyway. Work gets done by and by but don't forget to relax and enjoy the garden too.

  23. Gosh that sounds scary! Atrial fibrillation is quite dangerous isn't it?
    Please don't go ripping out weeds and root balls anymore.

  24. No wonder you're feeling that fear! That's truly scary! Please go easy on yourself and hope you feel better soon. But I know how the fear can linger, get imbedded. My husband has similar fears about epileptic seizures. The possibility of a seizure is never far from his mind. I'm sure that was a very, very long 9 hours and hope that you don't have such a frightening experience again anytime soon.

  25. My mom's husband as A-fib. No fun, I know. He is considering having an ablation procedure to get rid of it for good. Have you heard of that? We've been doing some research, and it sounds a little less overwhelming than we imagined. Very good statistics for success, in fact.

    In the meantime, he takes a drug called amniotorone. It successfully controlled his attacks for years, but is starting to fall off now...hence the looking into ablation.

    Glad all is well. Hugs to you.


  26. Oh, what a shame to have this set back. But at least you know what caused it, and it's a level of activity that you wouldn't normally be doing. Take it easy, and may everything settle again, including the fear.

  27. My brother had this problem but it has not troubled him for years. I think stress worsens it? A friend also has very occasional attacks - again I think it is overdoing it which brings it on but I am not an expert. Didn't that war criminal Tony Blair also have it? And he is going strong. I send you all good wishes.

  28. Sometimes I am afraid of being demolished anew, but I know it isn't cowardly..it is what I do with the fear from there that matters. You are a pretty resourceful chick, Ursula. You know your own agency.

  29. It's so easy to tell yourself that what you are feeling isn't anything to worry about when you are enjoying what you are doing.....take care.

  30. Fear is a common human condition as testified to by both Shakespeare and Florence N. It's an inbuilt survival instinct that intensifies with age as one realizes how precarious life is. I hope that you will be able to put the apprehension of another episode into a closet where its rustlings are muted or silent.

  31. It's sometimes hard to remember to be careful not to overdo things. We want to be able to do things just as we did when we were younger and fitter. I'm sorry you had such a frightening reminder to take care and hope you can go on enjoying your lovely garden more gently.

  32. Some fear is chemical reaction to danger, appropriate. Some is overreaction. Some is chosen and held onto, like an addiction. All are rather different from the others. Best let come and go. The heart can get stuck in the first one, and that's where pacemakers can be really useful. Or the ablation, although I don't know much about that procedure.

  33. Oh Friko - I'm glad the canal was only 5' deep and thus all was well with beloved and said youngster.

    Gardeners are I guess perhaps suffering similarly to you .. but I'm glad to see you're through this episode - it must be frightening ... and too much gardening is obviously not a good thing .. I hope the meds can and will continue to help ...

    With thoughts ... Hilary

  34. I completely understand what you mean and am so sorry that you have this condition to live with. It sounds very frightening indeed. It is great that you know how to manage it and live your life despite it, but is is so frustrating to be constantly aware of having to take care. I hope that it is a very long time indeed before you have another episode.

  35. Oh, Friko! It is horrible to have something like that hanging over you waiting to pounce unexpectedly. Have they ever talked about a pacemaker? Dagan has had one since he was 12 and it made his life so much easier, but I don't know if one would work in your case or not.
    Your poor gardeners are not doing too well, either. Goodness! I hope things go better now. :)

  36. I do so sympathize with you. Having to remind oneself to take care instead of just plunging into life is frustrating and very scary: and your condition sounds to be really frightening. It is that cold squeeze on the heart (sorry no pun intended) when one suddenly realizes that one has forgotten to be careful in the joy and enthusiasm of the moment. Good luck, I hope that it is a very long time indeed before you have another such episode. And remember what an aunt once said to me"It is the creaking gate which lasts the longest!"


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