Post-Traumatic Growth: how a crisis makes life better – or NOT

15 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Norwegian researchers asked this question to heart attack survivors (all of them females, between three months to five years after their first heart attack):

“All in all, was there anything positive about experiencing a myocardial infarction?”
Here’s what they found. About 65% of the women studied reported positive benefits of their MI experience. (1)  
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Full disclosure: I’ve always felt a bit squirmy when patients facing a life-altering medical crisis cheerfully declare that this diagnosis is not only NOT dreadful, but it’s actually quite fabulous! But having said that, let’s look at this positivity phenomenon.

Psychologists sometimes refer to this phenomenon as “Post-Traumatic Growth”.

For example, as explained in the journal Psychological Inquiry: (2)

“Post-Traumatic Growth is the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises.

“Although the term is new, the idea that great good can come from great suffering is ancient.”

Post-Traumatic Growth as a modern concept became popular in the 1990s, measured by an assessment scale called the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI)Drs. Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, who pioneered the PTGI in 1999, listed the range of crises that might actually result in positive change for survivors:

“Reports of Post-Traumatic Growth have been found in people who have experienced bereavement, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV infection, cancer, bone marrow transplantation, heart attacks, coping with the medical problems of children, transportation accidents, house fires, sexual assault and sexual abuse, combat, refugee experiences, and being taken hostage.” 
.The PTGI is based on three key themes that look for:
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  • a change in self-perception:  survivors report increased self-assurance, self-reliance, and competence in dealing with difficult situations.
  • a change in relationships with others: after a traumatic event, people report that their experiences resulted in the rekindling of lost relationships and the acceptance of social support.
  • a changed philosophy of life: includes an improved perspective on life, reappraisal of one’s priorities, increased appreciation for one’s existence, and stronger spiritual and religious beliefs.

In short, Tedeschi and Calhoun conclude:

Perhaps after some time has passed and adaptive mechanisms have successfully led to a reduction in the severity of psychological suffering, individuals may engage in cognitive processing of what has happened in ways that are more deliberate, less automatic, and focused more on repair and accommodation.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? 

Yet this intriguing concept is not universally embraced.  At least – not in my house . . .  

In yet another study, for example, U.K. researchers also looked at whether heart attack survivors viewed their cardiac experience as being positive or negative. This time, however, they found that only 22% of participants described their new life, post-heart attack, as “better”.

Negative perceptions about living with heart disease, explain the researchers, were not associated with a patient’s personality characteristics or even how severe the diagnosis was, but with day-to-day functional impairment, chest pain or anxiety.(3) 

This finding makes perfect sense to anybody who is affected on a daily basis by reduced quality of life caused by debilitating chronic symptoms and their associated limitations.
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Social scientist Brené Brown is the author of Rising Strong, a book that examines the character qualities, emotional patterns, and habits of mind that enable people to transcend the catastrophes of life. She argues that we live in “a Gilded Age of Failure,” where we fetishize recovery stories for their redemptive ending, glossing over the large swaths of darkness and struggle preceding it.
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Although I may have several pleasant or productive moments every day, for example, my days are – not surprisingly – overwhelmingly affected by the ongoing pain of coronary microvascular disease.  And feeling exhausted much of the day is exhausting!  See also: The New Country Called Heart Disease
 
So on a “good” day (well-paced with lots of rest periods and relatively few doses of nitroglycerin needed for chest pain), I might answer YES! to that Norwegian study’s question at the top of this post. But on a “not-so-good” day, I might be feeling too awful to even answer at all, never mind think of even one positive benefit of the diagnosis. 
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This does not mean I waste time pro-actively railing against the fates that have landed me here (although sometimes, yes, okay, maybe I do, just a teeny bit).
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As the Buddhists wisely tell us: “What is, is.”  It’s more that, like many patients living with a chronic and progressive condition, I have learned through cautious trial and error a lot about creative adjustment and re-adjustment – and also about how to try to graciously hang on by my fingernails most days. 
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My concern with the Post-Traumatic Growth concept for patients is that not only are we supposed to manage a serious health crisis, but we’d better do this recuperation thing correctly so that we can emerge triumphantly at the other end with glowingly heroic results.  Oh, and don’t forget: inspirational!
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I also fully agree with the words of the late Dr. Jesse Gruman, who spent decades in and out of hospital with a number of serious illnesses.  She once described her own commitment to patient advocacy in her inimitable no-BS fashion:
“This commitment is neither a sign of virtue nor of will.  I would trade that commitment in one hot second to not have been sick in the first place.”
Or, as musical composer (most famously of the brilliant One Grain More parody) Michael Bihovsky wrote of his experience living with the debilitating connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome:
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“Every EDS patient knows that the hardest part of our day is the moment we open our eyes and awaken into the reality of our bodies. The fact is that sometimes I’m in a physical state where I just don’t have it in me to be inspirational.”
Among my friends in the breast cancer community, it’s not unusual to see that diagnosis described by some as a “gift” to the lucky patient who gets it.
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Nancy  is a breast cancer patient, blogger and the author of Cancer Was Not a Gift And It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person in which she argues:
“How can cancer be a gift for me and at the same time be lethal for someone else? What kind of gift is that? And if something’s a gift, don’t you have to be grateful to have received it? Well, I’m certainly not grateful to cancer. I’m just not.
/..
“It often seems as if there’s an unspoken expectation to ‘come out of cancer’ a better person. Somehow one is supposed to be miraculously transformed into a new and improved version of one’s former self. The next logical step is that one should ‘thank’ cancer for this.  I don’t think so.

“Cancer is NOT a gift.”*

Or consider author Barbara Ehrenreich, who was also diagnosed with breast cancer. In her wonderful essay in The Guardian called Smile! You’ve Got Cancer!, Barbara explains how she learned the “correct” way to do cancer within the pinkified cancer community:
“The first thing I discovered there is that not everyone seems to view this disease with horror or dread. Instead, the only appropriate attitude is upbeat. This requires the denial of understandable feelings of anger and fear, all of which must be buried under a cosmetic layer of cheer.
One 2004 study out of Carnegie Mellon University that Barbara writes about found (in complete contradiction to what you might expect in all those Post-Traumatic Growth positivity circles), that women who perceive more benefits from their cancer actually “tend to face a poorer quality of life – including worse mental functioning – compared with women who do NOT perceive benefits from their diagnoses.”
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I wrote here about a University of Manitoba study on how patients attribute  meaning to catastrophic illness. Researchers studied over 1,000 Canadian women with breast cancer, who described what that diagnosis meant in their lives like this:
  • almost 70% considered their diagnosis in negative terms (using descriptions like “a challenge”, the “enemy”, an “irreparable loss”)
  • only 28% described breast cancer as providing “something of value”
Other critics of the Post-Traumatic Growth premise argue that patients’ claims of idealized disease-based benefits should not necessarily be taken at face value.  That’s because such claims may involve some form of what psychologists call defensive functioning”.
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This is an unconscious internal attempt to protect ourselves from powerful, identity-threatening feelings of anxiety (for example, feeling bad about our current health crisis).  Experts tell us that all adults have and use these primitive defenses, but most also have ways of coping with reality. 
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And as that Carnegie Mellon study’s lead author Dr. Patricia Tomich explained:

“Patients who report benefits stemming from their diagnoses may be trying to reduce the threat of the diagnosis, in denial, or reluctant to concede the severity of – or their own stress over – the diagnosis.”

Speaking of “defensive functioning”, we’re also seeing in non-diagnosis-related cases (such as military combat), that chilling statistics seem to fly in the face of the claim that “great good can come from great suffering.”

Nearly three times more Vietnam War veterans in the U.S. have committed suicide, for example, than all of the soldiers killed in combat during that entire war. Since the U.S. Pentagon began closely tracking military suicides in 2001, suicide continues to account for more deaths of American soldiers than in battlefield conflict.  And rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – known among previous generations of soldiers as combat fatigue, shell shock  or war neurosis – are steadily rising. About 30% of U.S. veterans experienced PTSD following Vietnam, and veterans of modern military combat continue to have similarly high rates of PTSD..

Interestingly, as the majority of surviving Vietnam vets now approaches retirement age, the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is reporting veterans’ experience of delayed onset PTSD symptoms that have been brushed aside for decades – perhaps with that “I’m fine-just-fine!” insistence typified by other forms of “defensive functioning”.  As the VVA Health Council told the military journal Stars and Stripes in June of 2012:
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“A lot of people coped with the traumatic experiences in war by throwing themselves into work when they got home.”
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Even PTGI pioneers Calhoun and Tedeschi admit that people who claim Post-Traumatic Growth may sometimes simply be engaging in self-enhancement – another natural tendency we have to detract from our past selves in order to maintain a favourable view of our current selves.  As they explain:
All self-report measures carry the potential for error, and the Post-Traumatic Growth Index is no exception. Just as we might do when describing all other life experiences, the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory may be certainly prone to some degree  of bias as much as reports of any other life experiences.”
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But wait! Before you become really depressed by way too much reality, read more about Dr. Martin Seligman’s work on useful concepts like learned optimism, designing a beautiful day, or how even heart patients can stay optimistic. .
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(1)  Norekvål TM et al. The other side of the coin: perceived positive effects of illness in women following acute myocardial infarction. Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2008 Mar;7(1):80-7. Epub 2007.
(2)  Richard G. Tedeschi, Lawrence G. Calhoun. Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence.  Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory. Volume 15, Issue 1, 2004. DOI: 10.1207/s15327965pli1501_01. 1-18
 (3)  Alison Smith et al.  UPBEAT study patients’ perceptions of the effect of coronary heart disease on their lives: A cross-sectional sub-study. International Journal of Nursing Studies. Volume 51, Issue 11, November 2014, Pages 1500–1506.

Q:  Have you experienced what you’d consider Post-Traumatic Growth after a health crisis?

See also:

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32 Responses to “Post-Traumatic Growth: how a crisis makes life better – or NOT”

  1. Bethany April 25, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    There really is a way that we think people should act, after facing a crisis. There is the archetype of the brave survivor. But the reality is that we are humans, and we need to face all kinds of thoughts and emotions after a crisis.

    The real question is, why does society value “brave survivors” so much? I think it is because the people surrounding the person want them to be brave, due to their own fears and doubts. They are going through a crisis too and are worried about losing someone they love. This issue is theirs, and it is not a problem at all if a person isn’t feeling “positive” or “blessed” by a trauma.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas April 25, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

      I agree 100%, Bethany – those who care about us want and need us to be “normal” once again so they can stop feeling hypervigilant around us. As I wrote here: “My worried family and friends couldn’t even begin to comprehend what was going on for me – because I could scarcely understand it myself. Sensing their distress, I tried to paste on my bravest smiley face around them so we could all pretend that everything was ‘normal’ again.” But it’s exhausting to live like that…

      Like

  2. The Accidental Amazon March 29, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    Oh, Amen, Carolyn. I’m with you. I’ve never considered a disease to be a character-builder. I was a pretty decent person, and had plenty of character, before cancer, all of which helped me deal with it after I was diagnosed.

    But none of it prepared me for the invalidation I encountered from the positivity-pushers who kept telling me how I SHOULD feel, or the lack of full disclosure from doctors about the collateral damage I had to endure. Oy.

    If I’m still a good person, it’s because I was already equipped with the qualities that allowed me to seek appropriate help, make informed choices, and ignore errant nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 29, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      I think you have made such a good point, Kathi. One of the reasons I chafe against that character-building cheerleading stuff is the not-so-subtle implication that we somehow “needed” more character, or more meaning, or more purpose in our lives before diagnosis, and thank goodness we finally got _____ (insert name of disease here) so we could develop all those good qualities at last. It rings truer for me, as you say so well, to trust that it was precisely those existing qualities that made it possible to endure what hit us – not vice versa.

      Like

      • The Accidental Amazon March 30, 2015 at 9:06 am #

        I once asked, in a post about this subject, what kind of idiot would need something as crappy as cancer to ‘make’ them a ‘better person.’ I also think sometimes that people who claim that a catastrophe has made them a better person are guilty of a poor grasp of grammar, i.e., they are crediting the event, rather than the responses they chose to make after that event.

        It’s a theory…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. suan13 March 24, 2015 at 7:06 am #

    We need to keep our faith alive, the power of Good is greater than the power of evil. The Holy Spirit will keep you with the Higher Power. Having to made it to almost 70 w. PTSD, I know this.

    Like

    • Carolyn Thomas March 24, 2015 at 7:23 am #

      Suan, while many with religious beliefs do find comfort/support from their church, synagogue, temple or mosque, it’s important to remember that even those with very strong faith can still suffer the psychosocial effects of trauma. So whatever works to help us is a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Shauna March 16, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    I had congestive heart failure after the birth of my twins. It has been almost 16 months. My EF is in the normal range and my last labs were great. But there are still days that I struggle and feel like I will never be the same, like I will never get back to being able to do what I could go before the CHF…

    I wish I could find others that could relate. Most of the twin support forums that I belong to, don’t have a lot of people that can relate…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 17, 2015 at 5:03 am #

      Hello Shauna – when we’re pregnant, we spend our time anticipating life as a new mother, not life dealing with heart issues. No wonder you are feeling isolated from other young moms who can’t even imagine your experience.

      I think it’s important to separate the kind of support available from your twin support forums and the support available in forums specifically for heart patients – they are such different areas! For example, the WomenHeart online community has over 17,000 members who live with some form of heart disease including heart failure. Or visit the PPCM site (Post Partum Cardiomyopathy) or Help For A Mother’s Heart. If you continue to feel like you’re struggling, please consider talking to a therapist.

      Best of luck to you…

      Like

  5. Nancy's Point March 16, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    Hi Carolyn,

    Another thought-provoking post. As you know, I completely reject the notion that my cancer was/is a gift. It’s not. I am very weary of the pressure put upon cancer survivors to experience the ‘awakening’, transformation, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it.

    Sure there are things to learn from illnesses or any bad experience, but this does not make the experience itself a good one, at least not for me. I love Barbara Ehrenreich’s take on forced positivity in Cancerland and appreciate the late Dr. Jesse Gruman’s views on this topic as well.

    Thank you very much for linking to my blog post about this hot-button (for me anyway) topic. I have written about this numerous times and likely will again. I sincerely appreciate your post. Thank you for writing it. Great title too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

      Thanks so much for weighing in here, Nancy. Your writing has impressed me so much (which I why I find your quotable quotes so appealing!) Keep up the good work…

      Like

  6. Eve Zavodnick March 16, 2015 at 5:14 am #

    Carolyn,
    I’ve responded to many of your posts but this one truly hits the nail on the head.

    I do not look at my heart attack as a gift, nor is my ongoing heart failure. But, I do look at the life changes as the greatest gift of all. Call it post traumatic growth or mid-life crisis, but I took my heart attack as a sign. Life is too short and my own prognosis is not great. Despite the fact that I look and act like any completely healthy person (my heart function is very low, I have an ejection fraction of 14!), I know that the “next one” could be it.

    I chose to live for the time that I have left. I removed toxic relationships from my life, living alone is far less lonely than living with someone that causes you pain and suffering. I have reinvented myself by changing my career and going back to school. Grad school in your mid 50’s is truly an enriching experience, although terrifying. I have things to look forward to now and I feel and look 10 years younger (so my friends say).

    I am truly happier than I had been in over 15 years and if my life is cut short because of my illness, I will feel as though I have actually lived it fully in these last few years. It’s not what is handed to us, it’s what we do with it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 16, 2015 at 6:52 am #

      Hi Eve,

      You are the poster child for being able to function this well with an EF of 14%! It sounds like your experience does mirror the three key concepts of the PTGI (listed in the post). Many of us can say something like: “If ____ had not happened, I would never have gone on to do ____” but actually, we cannot know if that is true or not. Many people I know who get divorced or go to grad school or make other big directional changes in mid-life have not gone through a major health crisis first to inspire such change. In the 90s, for example, I made a significant career/life change based on a single magazine article I read at the right time – didn’t need a serious health crisis to do all that! Yet in hindsight, a crisis is often what we credit as the kickstart we needed to make all choices and changes.

      Like

  7. Kathleen March 15, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

    Thanks for this, Carolyn, and I absolutely love Barbara Ehrenreich’s work on the tyranny of positive thinking. Well, my own story is mixed on this topic, so let’s see…

    I had cancer at 21, so right when most people believe that they are beginning life and invulnerable, I thought my death was imminent. My outlook was fundamentally transformed by that experience, and in ways that I appreciate most of the time, I also learned a lot about the state of medical knowledge and practice, and, while there are some dedicated and wonderful people practicing, so much of that is not an idealized pretty picture at all. Still, I’d rather understand it than be blind.

    By now I have lived longer post-cancer than before, but I struggle through pain and brand new conditions every day – long term results of radical treatments that they would never do to anyone anymore.

    Most of my struggle is invisible, as I do look pretty good, and so find myself judged harshly by people who have no idea what it takes to live my life and who want to cut the meager benefits that help people like me live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 16, 2015 at 6:36 am #

      Thank you for this, Kathleen. Your own story is so instructive, because your entire adult life has been lived with that cancer experience delivered at such a young age. You have no parallel (illness-free) adult life to compare your current one with (as most of us do who were diagnosed in mid-life) and your “fundamental transformation” has shaped who you are and how you respond to each new reality. I appreciate how much you have taught me. (Readers: more on Kathleen’s story here).

      Like

  8. Michelle March 15, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

    I am definitely NOT thankful to my heart disease because it limits me physically from doing what I need to do AND what I want to do. Often, I am just too exhausted to participate in life and thus, decline invites and have stopped doing things that I once enjoyed. What I AM thankful for is being alive and relatively pain-free other than the occasional chest pressure.

    I have learned much in my journey of the heart, now I share some ideas and support others who are struggling with their health. I appreciate each and every day and try to make the most of the moment.

    I accept that I may die sooner rather than later, but in a morbid way I guess the positive is that I don’t need to save so much for retirement….ha! Sorry for the warped since of humor.

    I really am thankful to be alive, and it could always be worse. There are many who suffer with something, and just when I get on my pity-pot, I see someone who is worse than me. But, I STILL don’t have to like it.

    Thank you Carolyn for the great service you provide others. I LOVE your site.

    Michelle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 16, 2015 at 6:26 am #

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Michelle. Saving on retirement income IS one positive I hadn’t considered…. 😉 And as you say, being mindful that others have it far worse can have a reality-checking effect. Maybe it’s only when we live with a serious diagnosis ourselves that we truly empathize with those who are worse off. AND all of that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

      Like

  9. Ruth March 15, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    ” Cultural expectations of relentlessly upbeat responses to devastating diagnoses force normal, healthy, negative feelings underground.”

    Which also gives those, family members and friends, a false image of how you really feel. They often think it’s over with and you are back to the old you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

      Such a good point, Ruth. As a mother, I feel particularly sensitive to somehow shielding my grown children from my worst days. For example, I was out walking with my daughter one day last summer when I had to stop and sit down on a big rock to take a dose of nitroglycerin because of severe chest pain. She was thunderstruck to see me do this! I’d never talked about/demonstrated using nitro around her – so no wonder she tends to think I’m the same old me. Our families want (and need) us to just be “normal” again to reduce their own sense of anxiety. And we are too often eager to oblige that fantasy…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Curious to the Max March 15, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    Wow – what a thought provoking post, Carolyn (but then I’ve come to expect nothing less from you)

    Here’s my 2 cents about Post Traumatic Growth – well, probably 5:

    I am not meaning to sound sanctimonious, even though I’m sure it may come across that way. But my Baha’i faith informs me that both good health and disease are blessings – it’s what I “do” with them that is important, not having them.

    I try not to look at my disease/misfortune day by day. Growth takes place over time and it requires the bigger picture – beyond me and my world.

    Example – no matter how you may suffer on a day-to-day basis, “growth”, the positive outcome your experience has had on thousands of others, is irrefutable. Sacrifice, unfortunately, is needed in this world to make it a better place.

    Heart disease, cancer, Ebola, Alzheimers (you name it) by becoming so ubiquitous, so threatening, creates the impetus for scientific research/progress and uniting humans for “growth”. Each person who has heart disease, cancer et al. contributes to that awareness and thus the growth of humanity.

    Your sacrifice of daily pains/scares/disabilities has created for you a way to give to others in immeasurable and unmeasurable ways. For me that’s “growth”.

    If I don’t look at the big picture, I drown in my own tiny world of frustration, fatigue and pain (which I do so regularly, I’m no saint). But I must force myself to look at the larger picture – that I’m a tiny piece of the whole and we are all connected in unknown and often confusing ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

      Judy-Judith, that was quite a thought-provoking response to my post! Really! I suspect that one reason I’ve been writing about Dr. Seligman’s work on positive psychology for years is that I so want that to be true. The upside of looking at the “bigger picture” is that it does help prevent the other extreme (wallowing with gusto, which I am SO GOOD AT DOING on those not-so-good days!)

      It’s the pollyanna-ish concept of suffering as a “gift” that I cringe at. I also quoted Dr. Jessie Gruman here back in 2011: “I am already doing the best I can to get better. To add to these challenges the expectation that the experience of illness will re-order my priorities and make me wiser (or gentler or kinder or more generous) burdens me further. Not only has my body failed, but I might now also fail as a person.” (Hey! I see that you also left an astute comment to that post too! THANK YOU for these gentle nudges!)

      Like

      • Curious to the Max March 15, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

        I too do not like the pollyanna concept that suffering is a gift. Suffering is an option at times and a fact at other times.

        For me my illnesses have created belief that there is purpose to this life and to my being with and without illness, with and without suffering . . . and so I have to find the purpose regardless of my circumstances.

        The bottom line for me is that my experience of illness simply has made me shift my focus as to what it is I am able to do, when I’m able to do it. It’s about me being wiser about my choices (sometimes). Illness actually has helped lower my expectations of myself and helped me accept that I have very little control in the scheme of my life.

        Illness has made me focus and view the world in ways I never considered when I was healthy. That for me is “growth”. Is it pleasant? – no way! But I absolutely know that growth, redirection and change comes from pain not joy.

        I try to direct (try being the operant word!) my optimism to what it is I am able to accomplish within the parameters of my physical health and not the optimism of I will be cured.

        I don’t believe that life is suppose to be fair or even pleasant. It’s about “growth” and learning and doing whatever I can to the best of my capacity and abilities. Sometimes the best I can do is sit and stare mindlessly at T.V. or eat a medicinal carton of ice cream while I’m depressed. It is what it is.

        P.S. Please stop these thought-provoking posts, Carolyn. They are exhausting me!!!!!!!!! I think I’ll go get the carton of medicine from the freezer now for some needed energy.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Barbara Keddy March 15, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    Dear Carolyn:
    I absolutely hate having heart disease! There is nothing gift-like about it. Added to my adult lifelong fibromyalgia, the quality of my life is not wonderful. Living with the anxiety of both conditions and constant pain and fatigue of fibro, I would certainly choose not to have either.

    Anything positive about having heart disease? Nothing that I can speak of, except meeting you online. 🙂

    Do I like daily fatigue and anxiety? I think not!

    It is a few days away from spring and we are in the middle of yet another blizzard here on the east coast. We have been isolated inside for much of the winter with huge blocks of ice lining our streets, making walking precarious. I exercise very little. I have a head cold. So maybe I am a touch grumpy, but I still want to reiterate, that even on a ‘good’ day: heart disease is a horrid gift that keeps on giving! I opt for a gift exchange- instead I would prefer better health.

    Some days life is okay; most of the time though there is that constant nagging feeling of “what next?” It reminds me of those ‘happiness’ studies. What the hell? Some minutes/hours are happy in a day and others are not! An ebb and flow.

    Good health is a gift. Disease and dis-ease are not!

    My rant for the day as I look out the window in a “white-out”! I will try the mantra of the Buddhists today: It is what it is!

    Thanks for being there (in beautiful Victoria!)
    Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 15, 2015 at 8:16 am #

      Hi Barbara – and yes indeedy, it is beautiful and spring-like here in Victoria; I just saw the news on TV about your latest storm in the Maritimes – hope this will be the last one before a glorious spring arrives for you, too! There’s nothing like warm sun shining on emerging tulips, cherry blossoms and daffs to lift one’s spirits…

      And just think, neither of us would have “met” online had it not been for our respective diagnoses the year we were each named by Our Bodies Ourselves as their 2009 “Women’s Health Heroes” (you for your work with women and fibromyalgia, me for heart disease). So that’s something, I guess. Right? ♥

      I’m hoping that one day we might actually meet in person. Until then, I wish you the “gift” of good health – you sure deserve it!!!

      Like

  12. TRUDY DAVIS March 15, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    PTSD/cure: Sound/Disciplined mind/Self control/ for those who were in military.

    Like

  13. Dr. Anne Stohrer March 15, 2015 at 4:33 am #

    As usual, Carolyn, you have hit the nail on the head. Cultural expectations of relentlessly upbeat responses to devastating diagnoses force normal, healthy, negative feelings underground.

    Would I choose to have this disease? NO! Am I coping? Most days, yes. Has it changed my life? Again, yes, and in many ways for the good. But I wear a MedicAlert bracelet every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn Thomas March 15, 2015 at 7:01 am #

      Your two questions also hit the nail on the head, Anne: “Would I choose to have this disease?” and “Am I coping?”

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] …articles with different perspectives on post-traumatic growth got me thinking:  How Crisis Makes Life Better – Or Not.   Find Your Post-Traumatic […]

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  2. Always Well Within - April 22, 2015

    […] It’s not so simple, is it?  Post Traumatic Growth:  How a Crisis Makes Life Better – Or Not. […]

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  3. Curious to the MAX - March 15, 2015

    […] haiku was inspired by Carolyn Thomas’ Post-Traumatic Growth: how a crisis makes life better – or not.  Carolyn had a myocardial infarction – the “widowmaker” heart attack.  Since that life […]

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