Still too tired to put away the Halloween costume…

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    December 2, 2018

I’m a wee bit embarrassed to admit that my Halloween costume is still on a hanger on prominent display, hanging from a bookshelf in the bedroom, waiting to be boxed up and put away. I’m thinking of calling it a room decor feature by now. It’s a spectacular clown costume, I must say, complete with big baggy pants in ravishingly bright colours and, of course, with its own rainbow clown wig. I’ve worn it dozens of times over decades, and often loaned it out to Halloween party-goers among my family and friends, too.

It’s pretty nice, but it’s not nice enough to explain why, after over a month, I haven’t been able to put this costume away yet. I suspect my utter inability to do so reflects the state of my life these days, and the fact that my days are typically divided into these two distinctly unique phases: Continue reading “Still too tired to put away the Halloween costume…”

Do you fear change? Then don’t have a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

For the freshly-diagnosed heart patient, the immediate and sudden change from “being well” to “recovering” cuts directly to the core of self-concept and self-esteem, according to Dr. Wayne Sotile. He offers a surprisingly familiar list of seven sudden changes commonly observed after a cardiac event. When thinking back on the new reality of my own early post-heart attack days, I was able to tick off his list, point by point. If this had been a midterm exam, in fact, I’d score a perfect 7/7.  On his list of seven stressors that newbies often face, how many ring true for you, too? Continue reading “Do you fear change? Then don’t have a heart attack”

It lasts as long as it lasts

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

With deep calm, actor Susan Saint James said this after the tragic plane crash death of her youngest child, Teddy:

“His was a life that lasted 14 years.”

Hearing this, Toni Bernhard, author of the highly-recommended book, How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, tried using Susan’s sentiment to try to make sense of her own losses over a decade of being bedridden with a seriously debilitating illness. For example:  Continue reading “It lasts as long as it lasts”

How we adapt after a heart attack may depend on what we believe this diagnosis means

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There are at least 12 commonly used measurement tools available to the medical profession that look at how patients navigate “the search for meaning in chronic illness”. Clinical tools like the Psychosocial Adjustment To Illness Inventory or the Meaning of Illness Questionnaire have been used on cancer and AIDS patients, as well as others living with chronic disease. But research, including this study, found, alas, that limiting factors in the success of these tools included “the infrequent use of some of the instruments clinically or in research.”

I can’t help but wonder why these readily available assessment tools are not being administered routinely to patients who have been freshly diagnosed with heart disease – a serious medical crisis that begs to be examined for its influence on our “psychosocial adjustment” to it. I only learned about these tools two years after my own heart attack.

This lack of medical attention to the profound psychological impact of a cardiac event is disturbing. As Dr. Gilles Dupuis of the Université du Québec and the Montreal Heart Institute reported in the the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, post-traumatic stress disorder following heart attack is a largely under-diagnosed and unrecognized phenomenon that can actually put survivors at risk of another attack. Continue reading “How we adapt after a heart attack may depend on what we believe this diagnosis means”

Which one’s right? Eight ways that patients and families can view heart disease

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

An interesting phenomenon that I used to observe in bereaved family members during my years working in hospice palliative care is the range of personal grieving styles, and the resulting conflicts over the “right way” to grieve.     Continue reading “Which one’s right? Eight ways that patients and families can view heart disease”

Creating a coping strategy: the second stage of heart attack recovery

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Earlier this week, I revisited Dr. Wayne Sotile’s excellent book, Thriving With Heart Disease – a favourite of mine since I discovered it several months after my own heart attack, and particularly the book’s second chapter, The Four Stages of Heart Illness.  Dr. Sotile, a cardiac psychologist, describes the newly diagnosed heart patient’s journey through a series of four separate stages.

Dr. Sotile believes that your recovery will have fewer surprises if you are familiar with these commonly-experienced stages and know what to expect.  The stages may not occur in any particular order.

Today, we consider the second stage of cardiac recovery*:

Stage 2:  Creating a Coping Strategy Everyone starts to grasp what heart illness is, what’s involved in treatment and recovery, and that the patient and family must work as a team.

According to Dr. Sotile, once your heart condition has stabilized and your fears of imminent death have eased, you start asking:

“What happens next?”  Continue reading “Creating a coping strategy: the second stage of heart attack recovery”