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years after open heart surgery
it's been 7 years since my mitral valve repair and I find myself still struggling emotionally with anxiety and depression. I am realizing as I get older, I cannot fully deal with stress like I did before my heart surgery. I was on auto pilot after my recovery and didn't allow myself to "breathe" and I think it's all catching up to me now Anyone else experience this?
AHAASAKatie, December 9, 2019 9:08am EST
Thank you for posting this! Anxiety and depression are common topics on the Support Network. Would you consider talking with someone or have you worked with a therapist before? Thanks Katie
AmbassadorB, December 9, 2019 2:55pm EST
Like you, and a number of others, post operative "depression" is not a fun thing I have experienced. The trick ia to overcome the FEELING. I capitalized the word feeling, because you should not be experiencing any pain or physical discomfort - as a result of your procedure. That could lead to depression - if you are,and if that is the case, then you should be back consulting with your medical staff team. If you are not enjoying your post operative Quality of Life, then there are a number of avenues to explore: First, get involved (lots of your time and thinking and use of your experience) in a project or multiple projects. Eliminate the time that you have to worrry about your condition, future outlook, etc. Where possible, involve your friends, acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, etc., in your projects. Need help identifying projects? Talk with these folks, get their ideas and evaluate the options. The more you interface with folks, the more you will become aware of things that you would enjoy doing. The key word is ENJOY. Listen to what they are doing. You may hear about an on-goiing project or activity that would really welcome your participation. With major elections coming up - look for an opportunity to contribute some of your time to assisting in preparing for the voting. You want to eliminate your "dead" time! Make up a list of things that you could do. The more wacky, the better! When was the last time you went visiting some "fun" relative, or friend that you haven't seen in a long time? After a while, you are apt to stop, look in the mirror, and ask yourself "How did I get so busy?" "Shoot, I hardly have time to sit down and relax and catch up on my normal daily activities!" Hooray! Then you're on the right track. Take a look at some of the things that the American Heart Association is doing and the various organizations of volunteers that are enjoying their assignments - all over the country. Ask your local medical professionals for their thoughts on where you might be welcome and put to work. The churches are always looking for "unselfish" volunteers. And, of course, there's alot more - out there!
Your life is too precious to be depressed! Be happy, enjoy your daily activities. Go - find the right ones - for you.
Ambassador B (Bernie)
AmbassadorC, December 10, 2019 8:33am EST
My fellow ambassador B has provided some great insight and thoughts re depression. While I was fortunate not to experience any depression post surgically, it is indeed real and does exist. If you feel that you are suffering, I would agree with Anbassador B and seek input from your cardio tram as to wether there are any resources available from your cardiologist / hospital where you had your surgery. Another thought is to return to your cardiac rehab facility and talk to the nurses, they too are excellent referrals for post surgical recovery. (Even years later) While you are there, you may want to even inquire about volunteering with them as a patient advocate. You will find that the more you are able to share your feelings with like minded patients, the easier it will be to overcome your obstacles. I also would encourage you to see if there is an in person support group such as Mended Hearts In your area.
Please feel free to reach out at any tinr as we are each other's support for the journey. Rember to keep on fighting through that negativity with heart ❣️
NewPacer73, December 21, 2019 7:53am EST
Nrbarnes, I think when I had major open heart surgery, I realized I could've not survived and even though I did great, being that close to death hung over me for awhile. I took two routes at the same time. First I found a counselor. I saw her in prep for the surgery and post surgery. So we walked through all of those feelings together. There isn't any open heart surgery support group like there is for some chronic diseases, so that's where I started. Then I found a national organization that has a nearby chapter called Mended Hearts. There I met people from every kind of cardiac situation you can think of: valve repair, blockages, even complete heart transplants. They were an amazing resource for me. They were all ages. They knew the "ropes"and totally understood the worry and depression that follows open heart. Having someone who has been there, done that was huge for me. They meet monthly, so see if a Mended Hearts is near you. They have speakers, do work for Mended Little Hearts (kids) and are amazing people. Knowing they had been through it all really helped me talk to them about how to move forward after open heart. Mended Hearts members visit people in hospitals that are facing cardiac surgeries to give comfort and confidence in patients. I could've used a Mended Hearts visitor before my surgery to learn what to expect. So, know you did it. You had the surgery. I now know I have a good chance of having a much better quality of life ahead. And most important for me, I know I can survive and go on after open heart surgery. Hugs from me to you. You are reacting normally to a serious operation. Now time to fix the emotional. If you can make it through open heart, you really have no obstacle in life you can't survive. Go get some support. Stay on this blog and keep us posted. We are here. You and I have something in common. It's been 7 years for me too. Imagine that? smile
Lisa7813, December 22, 2019 1:32am EST
Hi nrbarnes, I am so struck by your post. It was as if I wrote it! My open heart surgery was 6 years and 5 months ago. I have been feeling everything that you wrote about feeling also! It is such a relief to me to hear that I am not abnormal for feeling this way so long after surgery. I finally began therapy about a month ago. It's a painful process for me but I'm hopeful that I will get better and feel less depressed, sad, anxious and stressed! How are you dealing with it all?
Evvi123, January 1, 2020 10:12am EST
Yes, I understand completely, I just turned 45, and have had 2 AVR's. It's been very stressful for me at times and I completely understand where your coming from. This is the first time I've really reached out to a group that has shared similar experiences.
JoelKahl54, January 3, 2020 9:02am EST
Yes almost 2 years out from Mitral valve repair and still stressed the cloud still follows me everyday is a struggle to stay positive. Totally understand
NewPacer73, January 3, 2020 12:18pm EST
Nrbarnes: No doubt about it. Open heart and cardiac scares have an emotional toll on the patient. May 2020 be the year cardiology treats the whole person after these very scary episodes. We hear terms like the widow maker, cardiac arrest and we know they stop the heart when doing open heart, we know how serious it can be. We can all fight to recover physically, but like any huge life experience, it can creep up on us. Look to see if there is a Mended Hearts near you to attend. Seeing people who have had total heart transplants thrive, was my eye opener. Getting perspective helps me. And support. I'd ask around for a counselor who might be able to talk to you about your concerns so you can open up fully in a private setting about what the personal fears are. Being on this website tells you that we all have been down a tough road, and we are still here. Even in a new decade now? I didn't expect to live in the 20's but here I am. Find a way to get the support you need for your situation. Somehow, I would make a plan to improve the quality of whatever time we both have left. I believe in you. And I know this was a really serious operation. Cancer patients have access to support groups. Hopefully, cardiology will work on access to support for the emotional aftermath of some of the things we go through with heart issues. Hugs. You will get there. You are the architect of the plan to get an improved quality of life. If I learned one thing, it's that it's up to me. No one else. Go do something today to take one step toward that goal. One step at a time for me. I'm a tortoise, not a rabbit, so slow works for me to win in the end. Survivor of open heart surgery and even recent cardiac arrest. I'm too stubborn to give up. smile You might want to try that one step today by finding someone on this website you can support and help. Sometimes giving support to others brings great returns to ourselves.
NewPacer73, January 3, 2020 12:33pm EST
And finally, as an Italian, I get mad sometimes. I say to myself, I did not go through all of that to live a life in fear of dying. Nope. Not me. Every minute we fear that something bad might happen are minutes we cannot get back. I am living today. That's great news. And I'm going to use this time to live without fear, without the "cloud", and know that I don't get to control the end of the story. When I go, I want to remembered for how I lived. Sure I'm scared sometimes. But 99% of the time, I'm grateful for the chance to be here today. We survived for a reason. I guess I'm not done yet! smile