The ER Visit That Broke My Heart Open: A Story of Overcoming The Fear of the Unknown
By Dominica Applegate
As I lay in the back of the ambulance, oscillating between paralyzing fear and numbness, little did I know that this one trip to the Emergency Room a year ago would be a catalyst for enormous change.
It was my heart.
Just 15 minutes before, I had been playing with my grandson on the floor of my daughter’s house when I felt this unusual sensation in the center of my chest. It wasn’t a sharp pain, but rather an intense heat that seemed to be swelling like a balloon.
I knew it wasn’t a hot flash, as I’d had plenty of those before. This sensation was unique. The heat intensified rapidly, surged through my core, and then radiated outwards through my arms and legs.
I nervously looked at my daughter and said, “Something’s happening with my heart.”
I felt nauseous, and I could literally feel my nervous system kicking into survival mode. Needless to say, I was overcome with fear.
“Should I call the ambulance?” Kia asked.
“Yes,” I replied, sitting on the couch, attempting to focus on taking slow, deep breaths.
In a split second, the prospect of my own mortality loomed before me, and I was overcome by a rush of thoughts and emotions.
The paramedics got there in record time and followed their protocol for a potential heart attack, and transported me to the hospital where they did a variety of tests.
Talk about feeling completely powerless lying there on that gurney alone! I quickly realized that I had no control over anything.
The Rhythmical Wonders of the Cardiovascular System
We tend to take the beating heart for granted, don’t we? Did you know that the heart beats between 86,400 to 144,000 times per day? Not only do we not feel it beating, but most people (myself included) live their whole life not really taking time to learn how their heart works.
You see, I’d been having some “heart palpitations” for several months on and off. Technically, they’re called premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), which is a type of abnormal heart rhythm that occurs when the heart’s ventricles contract earlier than they should, disrupting the normal heart rhythm. I’ve actually had them on and off since I was in my 20’s, but they were getting more frequent.
Basically, when experiencing PVCs, I feel a sudden, strong heartbeat, or a sensation that my heart skipped a beat, followed by a noticeable pause before the next heartbeat. Some people may describe it as a fluttering, flip-flopping, or pounding sensation in the chest.
My cardiologist said they were fairly common and I shouldn’t worry myself with them, which is easier said than done when you feel your heart flopping around in there.
Regardless, what I was experiencing was more than PVCs. As I lay there awaiting the test results, I pondered what could have caused it. Was it a panic attack? Had I taken too many oregano supplements? (I know, corny, but it went through my head) Was it due to excessive stress? Or was there a genuine problem with my heart?
The test results were ready.
The doctor came in and nonchalantly said, “Everything looks good. You can go home.”
Nikia and I looked at each other in shock.
What? Are you kidding me? EVERYTHING IS NOT FINE!! My heart is doing some weird shit and I feel like I’m going to die!
But there I was being discharged 15 minutes later.
I was too scared to be alone, so I stayed with my daughter. I thought that if my heart stopped, at least someone would be around to notice. It took me four days to muster up the courage to return home and face being by myself.
The once-strong and resilient Dominica seemed to have vanished.
A New Healing Journey Begins
“The heart is the ultimate teacher. Listen to it.” – Anonymous
Today, I want to share my journey towards healing, which encompasses not only physical health but also mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The main reason is that because there were many nights that I promised God if I made it out of this alive, I would share the journey and give all the glory to Divine Love!
So, I am!
Let me start with a very brief summary of my younger years. My journey began when I was in my mid-20s and first experienced intense fear surrounding illness and death due to a set of mysterious symptoms that manifested in my body – PVCs being one of them.
Now, when I say intense fear, I mean paralyzing fear. It was a mental battle daily.
During that period, I invested a considerable amount of time studying biblical teachings on healing. I was particularly intrigued by the concept of divine healing. As part of my research, I delved into the lives of notable men and women of faith throughout history, as well as the accounts of revivals where God’s power and presence were manifest, resulting in numerous physical healings.
While I had accumulated a wealth of knowledge on the subject, I had not made a habit of praying or meditating regularly. My understanding of God and healing was largely based on reading books.
A Dark Night Of The Soul
During my thirties, I experienced my first bout of a “dark night of the soul.” Instead of seeking solace in God or faith, I took a completely opposite direction. I got a divorce, embraced my sexuality, abandoned the church, and lost my belief in God altogether. My interests shifted towards the law of attraction, science of Mind, and new thought movement.
Little did I realize at the time, the turmoil I experienced had a purpose – it propelled me towards an inner healing and spiritual awakening journey.
“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.” – Viggo Mortensen
During my forties, I dedicated myself to learning more. I found solace in books, which became my constant companions. I set out on a mission to bridge the gap between science and Christianity and to discover the true meaning of finding God.
Although life was going smoothly, a new relationship I entered began to reflect the emotional walls I had erected around my heart. I found myself being triggered in ways that I had never experienced before, leaving me feeling confused and uncertain.
Eventually, I received a revelation that I had never delved deep enough to confront, experience, and overcome the childhood and adult trauma that had plagued me all my life. It dawned on me that I had been living in survival mode, burying many unresolved feelings (in my heart, of course) that were longing to be acknowledged, released, and integrated.
I had been living a guarded and withdrawn existence, allowing anxiety to dictate a predictable and controlled life within my comfort zone. It became clear to me that my current relationship had arrived at a divine moment, serving as a catalyst for me to truly delve beneath the surface-level triggers and confront what was going on at a deeper level.
2021: Ok, It’s Time For Deep Change
In 2021, I became aware of certain patterns in my life that I wanted to change. I came to the realization that my fear of the unknown was preventing me from moving forward. As a result, I sought out a skilled trauma therapist and embarked on an intense journey of self-discovery.
Additionally, I went through a breakup and moved to North Carolina, a place where I hoped I could find healing and community.
Deep within my heart, I knew that I needed to embark on a personal journey to discover my true self and forge a connection with the Divine that resonated with me.
With a resolute determination, I declared to God/Universe/Creator/The Field:
“I am breaking down the walls around my heart. I am ready to be open – completely open. I want to conquer this fear of the unknown!”
Then, I drew a line in the sand and stepped over it, ready to face whatever lay ahead.
“Fear is a question. What are you afraid of and why? Our fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if we explore them.” – Marilyn Ferguson
The Work of Joe Dispenza & Yogananda
Towards the end of 2021, I started feeling some discomfort in my legs and had been experiencing more frequent heart palpitations. It was a little concerning, so I decided to dive back into studying divine healing. That’s when I discovered Joe Dispenza’s teachings and signed up for his online course. I started taking his breathwork exercises and meditation practice more seriously. His work is incredible and many people have found healing and freedom through it.
I also got an amazing spiritual mentor who has been a huge help along my journey. She introduced me to Paramahansa Yogananda’s meditation course, which has been another valuable resource for me.
For the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful.
It felt like I was finally delving deep within myself, beyond just my mental and emotional states, and even beyond my ego and personal identity.
Now I was more interested in getting to the HEART of everything, which meant delving into the spiritual and energetic realms.
This Is A Heart Issue
I find it interesting that shortly after declaring my intention to break down the walls around my heart, I felt this sudden burst of energy that seemed to come from my heart. The unusual sensation sent me spiraling into fear, but what if it wasn’t a “bad” thing?
What if it was God who orchestrated that, like a release of some sort? What if the “work” I’d been doing was helping me release pent-up emotions I’d been stuffing my whole life?
Then, the next morning, Nikia’s fiancé, who isn’t into spiritual matters, nonchalantly says to me, “Maybe it was God.”
And I chuckled, thinking, huh, maybe it was!!
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23
After the trip to the ER, they scheduled a heart ultrasound. It felt like forever waiting three weeks for it! The results showed fluid in the heart, mild regurgitation, and elevated right ventricular systolic pressure. My doctor didn’t seem too concerned, but that didn’t calm my fears.
At that time, I WAS PETRIFIED. I literally thought I was going to die any day.
I felt my heart flopping around all day, every day. Some nights I couldn’t sleep.
I was doing breathwork, meditating, studying sacred texts, praying, listening to healing affirmations while I slept, etc. and the fear was still very strong.
You see, it wasn’t that I was afraid to die, because I do not fear death, per say. I truly believe that I am a conscious spirit that has never been born and will never die. It’s just the body that drops. I like the way Ram Dass puts it:
“Death is like taking off a tight shoe”.
But I was afraid of the unknown, AND I wanted to stay here on planet Earth for many more years to enjoy family and experiences and have the opportunity to grow spiritually. Most importantly, I wanted the chance to get to know God better – to awaken more to my true, spiritual nature.
I knew this was a heart issue, but not just a physical heart – the spiritual heart as well.
Through my journey of studying, meditating, and exploring the teachings of Jesus and Yogananda, I have had numerous “aha” moments. I have experienced a wide range of emotions – from tears of pain to tears of joy. I have let go of parts of my ego that I thought I had shed long ago, and have gained a greater sense of compassion and humility.
I realized that despite all my head knowledge, and some years working on healing emotionally, I was still mostly identified with ego-identity, as body identity rather than spiritual identity.
As matter rather than spirit.
At the same time, I began to get a bit of revelation of what many spiritual masters teach:
- That I am a conscious spirit, or consciousness, created by and connected to Divine Spirit.
- That I am a creator of my reality and that I deserve a good, long life – that I am worthy.
As I continued taking time to meditate and pray, I was waking up to so many Truths.
Of course, I did what many people do when a health issue arises. I cleaned up my diet even more than I already had, I gave up caffeine, sugar, etc. and that seemed to help some. It certainly gave me hope.
But the more I learned about spirituality, quantum physics, and healing, the more I started wanting to heal at the energy level.
At the heart level.
I wanted to incrementally identify with myself as spirit or energy. To really know and feel this AND to manifest healing on all levels.
In the summer of 2022, I enrolled in a class called “Using The Mind To Heal The Body” by Brandy Gillmore through IONS, and it reinforced everything I had been learning. It was then that I had a greater realization of the law of attraction: to manifest something, you have to feel it first.
The thing is, I had been numbing myself to emotions for my entire life, living in a state of survival or dissociation. I was almost always in a mellow state, and getting excited was a challenge for me. I was so serious!
So, I started learning how to imagine elevated feelings and actually feel them.
The more I did the meditations, the more I could envision and feel. And I was so grateful for the meditations because they guided me and stretched me.
I also used walks in nature, music, and dance to feel elevated emotions. Some days I would take a couple walks in nature to keep my vibes high.
Now, here’s something great you’ll want to hear:
Fast forward to a follow up ultrasound a few months after the first one and the results were WONDERFUL!
The fluid in the heart was gone, mild regurgitation NO LONGER PRESENT, and normal pulmonary pressures!
I was so excited to get these results. It gave me hope, and a huge amount of gratitude.
I was still having heart palpitations at that time, but I kept steadfast along my spiritual journey.
I also started conscious or embodied dancing, which is a type of movement practice that focuses on connecting the mind and body through expressive dance. It involves tuning into the present moment, allowing the body to move freely without judgment or self-consciousness. The goal is to explore and express emotions and release tension or blockages in the body.
This became my happy space, where I felt the most joy. I was doing this consistently, sometimes several times daily.
I also committed to becoming more united with God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit with an open heart, a willingness to learn and grow, and a deep commitment to my faith and spiritual path.
I hesitate to share this post with others, mainly because there’s this part of me (my wounded, scared inner child) that likes to hide out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of being abandoned – all fears that the light of God can illumine and soothe.
I heard this quote that really speaks to me:
“Open your heart and let yourself be seen.” – Unknown
By sharing this story, I am allowing my entire self to be seen, with an open heart and complete vulnerability.
Well, not everyone enjoys sharing their personal lives. For some, like me, I liked to keep everything at the surface out of fear.
Brene Brown says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Too many people today are hiding in the shadows of pain and disconnection, from themselves, others, and a higher power.
I’ve learned and experienced so much this past year, and these are the things I want to share.
How’s my heart these days?
Full of love, I can tell you that.
And, with my heart open, I find that the PVCs no longer occur as often. Even when they do occur, I refuse to let them control me with fear and dictate the course of my life.
Do I still have fear of the unknown?
Sure, sometimes I do, but I also have courage to feel the fear and do things anyway, like meeting new people, getting involved in the community, going on travel adventures, or writing on a personal level like I’m doing right now.
I’ve started seeing things from a new perspective–one that’s more rooted in peace, harmony, and connection. As I keep going on my journey, so grateful for the opportunity to be here, I am experiencing true healing from the inside out and incrementally letting go of fear or ego that has been holding me back.
In closing, I want to say that that ER visit a year ago was a turning point for me. It was the first step in a deeper journey of self-discovery and learning to embrace life’s uncertainties with courage and resilience. I’m not just learning for “head knowledge”.
I’m interested in heart matters, really connected with myself, others, and God deeper.
I see things more now from a spiritual lens and passion has been reignited that had been fading for quite some time. I am more awake than ever before, and incredibly grateful for it.
While I still have days where I experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and more, I also have plenty of days where I relish in the joy of being alive in my physical body on this beautiful planet!
Isn’t this part of what life on Earth is all about – the dance of duality, the light and the dark – the experience of living as matter while at the same time improving the knowing that we are eternal spiritual beings?
I’m so grateful to now understand better the purpose of my journey here, as Yogananda taught…
To move from a limited identity and let the Divine unfold within me, being a vessel to allow God’s Love to flow and radiate to a world that is seeking it!
I want to say how grateful I am for LIFE.
❤️ For the opportunity to be here now…as mind, body, and spirit.
❤️ For my family, close friends, spiritual mentor, and somatic therapist for the support received.
❤️ For new friends and revived relationships with old friends.
❤️ For new opportunities, trusting that every moment is all part of God’s divine plan.
❤️ For an open heart that trusts God, Divine Love, more and more.
❤️ For this unfolding journey of self-discovery that is teaching me so much about life, love, and connection, as we truly are all One.
May we all do our best to build authentic connections, loving community, and a world that is free from suffering.
And if I haven’t told you lately, I LOVE YOU SO FREAKIN’ MUCH!
“The wave is one with the ocean, and yet it is also the ocean. Similarly, we are all one with the Divine, and yet we are also individual expressions of that same Divinity.” Yoganada
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