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Depression After Surgery?
I had cardiac surgery 3 months ago and I still don’t feel like myself! I had a mitral valve repair due to (unbeknownst to me) severe regurgitation. I’m an otherwise healthy 45-year-old.
Has anyone experienced depression/change in mood, persisting even months after surgery? Thanks in advance for any tips or advice!
AHAASAKatie, November 28, 2018 8:57am EST
Good morning, this is a very normal reaction to any traumatic event. Please know that many of us experience anxiety and depression after our heart/stroke events. Talking with us helps, talking to a professional and giving yourself time to heal is also invaluable. Best Katie
AmbassadorDN, November 28, 2018 5:04pm EST
Welcome! You've come to the right place in seeking support. I have had three mitral valve surgeries myself; the last one was a year ago today, actually. I became incredibly and severely depressed after my most recent surgery, and unfortunately, the medical community does not do enough to recognize post-op depression. Though the depression in my case hit me weeks after surgery, it hit me hard. Many factors, in fact, affect mood after surgery because frankly, the surgery itself (being on the heart-lung machine) can affect our brain chemicals.
My cardiologist persuaded me to see my neurologist for treatment. She diagnosed me with depression and anxiety, and prescribed a low-dose antidepressant which helped a lot! Similarly, she advised me to seek help from a licensed therapist to work through the cognitive issues I was having as a result, and finally, she advised me to get into a routine to rebuild my brain's connections: 90 minutes a day of 30-minute intervals: 30 minutes of reading or word puzzles, 30 minutes of coloring in a coloring book (I hadn't done that since I was a kid!), and 30 minutes of journaling by hand. I even started a blog! All were quite therapeutic.
My advice: See if your health insurance covers therapy. If not, and mine doesn't, there are therapists who can see you on a sliding scale of payment depending on what you can afford. Talk to your cardiologist if you feel comfortable with him or her, and explain your feelings. In the past, it was my cardiologist who prescribed me an antidepressant. Go to cardiac rehab if you have not done so. See if your insurance will cover that. If not, talk with your cardiologist about beginning an exercise routine. The exercise itself can help with easing your depression.
Please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns. We are all here for you!
To Heart and Soul Health,
Suzette, November 28, 2018 10:54pm EST
I apologize for not having any experience to offer advice (my surgery is Dec 3) butb I do wish you the strength to heal.
It must have been such an emotional time during the summer anticipating surgery. Now you have the holidays, winter weather ( if you have cold climate where you are ) & that alone is a lot to deal with.
I, personally take Zoloft, and feel it's helping me cope pre-surgery better than if I wasn't on it. While medication may or may not be an avenue you want to explore talking to someone is always helpful. Check for any support groups in your area or hospital that you can attend, yoga classes or meditation. There are lots of online / YouTube guided meditations you can try.
I wish you the best during your recovery!💖
THoMC, November 30, 2018 8:27pm EST
I did not.
I read other places that what you feel is normal. I read that surgery can be a huge event. I am not a professional. I do not know exactly why the body reacts differently with different people.
Mine was being stunned by the awe-inspiring post-surgical experience I went through -- like a car accident that should have killed me.
And then a month later it was gone. I am 100% normal 5 months after and have been for months.
A heart-lung machine is a major event. Plus sawing my chest open is like butchery. Savage! People die. It was BOOM at first, but then gone.
I went through a totally different hardship and found helpful mindfulness, spirituality, getting out and being active, taking a step at a time that is action, and the relatively-mild drug Zoloft. Walking and exercise too.
DianaG, December 3, 2018 10:40am EST
Thank you, everyone for your encouraging comments! I'm thankful that my surgery was a success, but I didn't anticipate feeling so differently. Thanks again for your support in this forum.