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Emotions after Mitral Valve Repair
Last summer I was having alot of different symptoms going on, anxiety being a major one. I spent all summer going to different doctors trying to figure out what was wrong. Long story short, my regular heart doctor appt. wasn't until August. It appeared my valve leak had changed to severe & surgery would be necessary. My emotions would be all over the place from anxiety to crying, so I did start taking an anti-anxiety med. I had a mitral valve repair in Sept. I stayed on the anti-anxiety med until Feb. Emotionally, I was doing pretty good until COVID hit. There are days I struggle with feeling anxious about things or get emotional. I don't want to go back on any meds, but just wondering if anyone else deals with emotional/mental post surgery? I don't know if this is normal or just me.
AHAASAKatie, July 21, 2020 9:00am EST
Good morning, You are NOT alone in the anxiety department, my friend. Right now, we are all managing different levels of stress and anxiety I think. I am 3 years out from my event and still worry sometimes about another DVT reoccurrence. That combined with COVID-19 and it is hard. We have a new video series and I want to share the latest episode with you. If you have time, please give this a watch and let me know your thoughts.
AmbassadorDN, July 21, 2020 1:08pm EST
You are not alone! I have had three mitral valve surgeries myself and have had varying emotional struggles after each surgery. I'm so sorry that you are struggling, but we are all here for you to help you navigate the feelings you are experiencing.
One thing that many hospitals don't really touch on is the possibility of post-op depression following heart surgery. Really, post-op depression happens a lot more than people realize. Currently I am on the Patient and Family Council at a local hospital, and I'm acting as the cardiac liaison to the cardiac team. Recently I was asked for input on the hospital's pre- cardiac surgery manual and I pointed out that the topic of post-op depression was barely mentioned.
Depression following any heart surgery is perfectly normal. Some people may experience minor "blues" while others experience more severe depression coupled with anxiety. I myself suffered with the extreme after my third surgery, and surprisingly, the depression hit me hard a few weeks after my operation. That being said, I talked with my cardiologist and my surgeon who both said that because your body is essentially "turned off" during heart surgery, all your body systems, including your brain, need to reset once you come back "online." This can lead to changes in your brain chemicals, which can lead to depression. It is not a character flaw, and you are not acting ungrateful for being alive if you experience depression.
One thing you did not mention is if you stopped your medication with the guidance of your prescribing doctor. I do understand that you don't want to take medication again, but if this depression has been re-triggered by our current circumstances, then please talk with your doctor about your feelings and possibly resuming any medications (antidepressants/anti-anxiety) to help get your brain chemicals back in order.
For me, I am naturally prone to depression because of certain medical conditions I've struggled with since birth, and it took me a long time to realize that antidepressants aren't a "patch" to get me well enough to stop taking them; if I do, I end up depressed all over again. This is because I have a natural brain chemical imbalance. The medication balances everything out to help stabilize my mood. This doesn't mean that things don't make me nervous or anxious--I still experience those feelings, but not on a level I would if I did not take medication. I still see a therapist, though we have been talking over the phone since our state shut down.
Do talk with your doctor to explain how you're feeling and determine if it is best for you to resume medication. See if therapy may also help you, if you are open to discussing your fears and worries with a licensed counselor.
Of course, we are all here for you to help be a sounding board for anything you are experiencing. We have a wonderful team of Heart Valve Ambassadors as well as Support Network members who can offer their insights and guide you.
Please keep us informed and feel free to ask any questions you may have.
To Heart and Soul Health,
AmbassadorMR, July 21, 2020 1:38pm EST
As AmbassadorDN so eloquently stated, anxiety and yes, depression are often a part of the recovery process following heart surgery procedures. We have talked about this issue as an Ambassador team and all of us have dealt with the issues to some extent.
I won't repeat DN's recommendations other than to say that this should be a priority topic of discussion with both your general practice doctor and your cardiologist in particular. It's not uncommon and it's not any sign of weakness on your part. Please stay in touch with us here on the site and let us know how you are progressing. It's a journey and often takes time to find our best path to full recovery both physically and mentally. My very best to you.
AmbassadorR, July 21, 2020 4:26pm EST
As both of the two ambassadors have pointed out depression/anxiety are two normal post heart surgery side effects. Unfortunately in many situations not a lot of time is spent addressing this problem. I had an aortic valve replaced a few years back, and while the physical part of the surgery went pretty much as planned, no one really mentioned to me about the mental aspect of recovery. I had read a little about this so knew it existed, but not to the extent I had to deal with. The emotional part of heart surgery recovery can be tough, but my experience and some research taught me that this was all very normal, but would take probably more time than the physical recovery. I probably went through all the things you have gone through. I worried, I cried, I was afraid to let anything, or anybody near my chest, but in time, and as I learned, I got better and emotionally stronger understanding this was just part of the process. Know that you are probably just like all heart patients, going through the same things that many go through. I would like to tell you to be strong, and know that you will get better. Follow Covid-19 safety advice. Know that we are here if you need someone. Most of the ambassador here, if not all of them, have gone through heart surgery and speak from experience. I wish you well and keep us posted.
AmbassadorC, July 21, 2020 8:46pm EST
Hello and a heartfelt warm welcome to the Support Network❣️ We are here as heart warriors for each other who have been there and done that. I echo the remarks of my fellow Ambassadors in that you are definitely not alone in your journey. For me, I have had a mitral repair and have celebrated my 7th year this past June 13th, yet I often have silent alarms that are sounded if my heart skips a beat or if I become lightheaded in any way. I'm not quite sure the worry or anxiety ever truly "leaves" once you have had a repair or replacement. What I have learned however, is that even after surgery, it is tantamount that you keep in touch with your care team, including your cardiologist to ensure that your milestone checkups are adhered to. I have learned, that if something doesn't feel right, you truly must be your own advocate. Don't ever hesitate to reach out if something Is off, as it's not necessarily your anxiety. Communication is key. Having said that, in this new COVID-19 pandemic that we are faced with, don't ever doubt contacting your cardiologist or having to go to your local ER. It is better to be safe than have to endure another surgery or setback.
Please know that we are here for you and we welcome you with heart❤️ You are not alone.
Keep on fighting with heart, one heartbeat at a time. Don't give up fighting.
JM2019, July 23, 2020 10:27pm EST
It took me awhile to figure out how to get back on the website & was delighted to see so many responses. To someone's question above, I was under the Dr.'s supervision to go off the anti-anxiety medicine & at the time, I was doing well. After retiring from teaching in 2019, my health issues started right afterwards, but as soon as I recovered from surgery, I started teaching part-time, which gave me something to help fill my time. I had also been exercising consistently since surgery. Then, COVID hit & we never returned back to school, couldn't go to the gym anymore & life was just at a standstill. I did okay @ first & kept busy with projects, but now it's too hot to be outside & go stir crazy inside.
I do keep appts. w/ my cardiologist & have an internist that I also see when needed. It's been 10 mos. since surgery & physically feel like I'm doing well. I really do appreciate all your encouraging words.