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Open Heart Surgery Post Op
I had open heart surgery in May (2018) to fix a hole in my heart that I did not know I had. Prior to surgery, I was not able to walk more than ten steps without stopping to rest.
Now, I am physically feeling so much better. But, I am still struggling with emotions that I can hardly explain. I imagine this is normal, but, I expected that by now the emotions would feel less intense as time goes by.
Normally, I am a very steady and stoic person who can handle just about anything.
I have great support with my family and friends, but, this is something I am unable to talk to them about. I have tried, but, I have a hard time and they don't really understand the enormity of what I am feeling.
Just wanted to know if this is normal this long after surgery and if there are ways to deal with it better than I am.
Thank you so much.
JamesPL, December 8, 2018 10:52pm EST
People react to heart surgery in different ways. Sometimes we need help to completely heal. I was warned about potential depression and advised to talk to therapists post op. Have you considered that at all? They can offer you ways to deal with the struggles you are having and help your recovery become more positive. Since you are unable to talk to friends and family about your struggles, professional help could be exactly what you need.
Please take good care and I wish you well!
jlhyde85, December 10, 2018 10:49am EST
I'm glad you found our community! As Jim said, everyone experiences open heart and recovery in different ways, and your emotions are definitely valid and real. I understand the isolation you're going through--for me, I looked so healthy and reovered so quickly that people didn't quite understand the magnitude of what had happened as I felt it. I'm still processing my emotions, now 8 years after my valve repair (this was my second open-heart), and have definitely sought out therapy in the past (to manage anxiety in a job I stayed in for the health benefits, and then to manage my postpartum anxiety) I've also sought the help of a life coach so that I could really figure out how to live my best life now. These days I find it helpful to write out my emotions first thing in the morning. I use Julia Cameron's Morning Pages guidelines (https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/) and I keep a bucket list of things I want to accomplish and the steps I'm taking toward achieving those goals.
But I also found it helpful to read that 25% of patients experience cardiac depression! https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-valve-problems-and-disease/recovery-and-healthy-living-goals-for-heart-valve-patients/post-surgery-milestones-managing-your-mood-expectations-and-goals
This wasn't something we talked about so openly in 2010, so I'm really grateful that mental health has become part of the discussion about cardiac care now. As Jim said, try giving your cardiologist a call and asking about local support groups and mental health specialists in your area. You are definitely not alone in feeling that your experience is difficult for your nearests and dearests to understand. Keep us informed of your progress!
Barbarapa, December 10, 2018 12:19pm EST
Thank you both for your support and replies.
When I had my surgery, they sent a physchiatrist to see me. I was really a mess as the same day I had surgery, my sister in law died. Unfortunately, it was not a very good visit with the physchiartrist. (I'm sorry, I don't know how to spell that word). She was very nice and all, but I am old enough to be her grandmother and she just didn't have the life expereince to match her academic experience. Also, she said all the "right" things, affirmed my feelings, showed empathy.....I have twenty some years of social work under my belt and I knew the script. I could have told her what she was supposed to say.
So, maybe she just wasn't a good match as we didn't connect and there might be another professional out there who I could connect with. But, I think what I am really looking for is someone to say, with all sincerity and knowledge, "I know how you feel...."
I was really dibilitated before surgery and after my recovery period, I am physically in better shape than I can ever remember being in my life. Like Jen, others see how well I recovered and don't seem to realize how much this affected me, more than just physically.
Once again, thank you for your thoughtful replies.
ivebeenivan, December 19, 2018 8:33pm EST
Hi Barbara - Thanks for sharing your feelings with us. Like you, I always felt more resilient than the average person until I was hit with six terrifying weeks of not feeling like myself after surgery #2. With help, it passed and I'm back. Everyone needs a tune-up. We exercise our bodies daily, yet forget about our minds. Remembering this helped me acknowledge the need for and to actually accept professional help and temporary meds to get me back to me. Please keep us posted. We're here for ya...