Tag Archives: depression

“I’m the least depressed person on earth, except when I’m depressed”

17 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

When I learned that Dr. Sherwin Nuland was going to be doing a guest lecture at the University of Victoria here back in 2012, I was among the first in town to book tickets. I loved his book called How We Die (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) ever since I’d featured his chapter on death and heart disease three years earlier here.

His sold-out UVic audience was enthralled by his engaging manner and compelling excerpts read from his newest book called The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being.

But I was even more intrigued by this famous surgeon/Yale University professor’s personal stories of his own experience living with debilitating depression – a depression so crippling, so impossible to shift, that in his 40s his doctors were considering doing a pre-frontal lobotomy.   Continue reading

Top 25 treatments for anxiety

28 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Few things in life are as anxiety-producing as being told you have heart disease. Many heart patients become hypervigilant, on high alert to every new twinge that may or may not signal the start of another cardiac crisis. Is this something? Is it nothing? Should I call 911?  Even if symptoms are fleeting and benign, debilitating anxiety can remain.  And most remedies for easing these distressing feelings come in a pill bottle. But are there other treatments for anxiety that are as good as – or perhaps better than – pharmaceuticals? It turns out that, according to patients themselves, there very well may be.

Alexandra Carmichael is the co-founder of CureTogether, a site that collects patient-reported health data. I was intrigued by one of their reports called “6,100 Patients With Anxiety Report What Treatments Work Best”. Where did this data come from? Alexandra explains:

“CureTogether members have been anonymously sharing symptoms and treatments for three years. We analyze the data into infographic form to make it accessible.”

According to CureTogether’s crowdsourced data, here are the top 25 treatments for anxiety that thousands of other Real Live Patients – not drug reps for Big Pharma – say have worked for them:   Continue reading

How humour can help – or hurt – your heart disease recovery

14 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

“My hubby is stuck with me for another 15 years as long as I keep following doctor’s orders.”

“I told my family that I now had a pig valve in my heart – but I was disappointed when the doctor told me I couldn’t keep the bacon.”

“I am determined to outlive my husband – because I want to clean out his garage!”

Heart patients often use humour like this to distract themselves from the high levels of stress and fear often associated with a life-altering diagnosis like heart disease – such as upcoming surgery, diagnostic tests, or even the ongoing awareness of significantly increased risk of future cardiac events. So reports Nicholas Lockwood, whose research focused on how heart patients use humour to help them cope with such a frightening condition – but ended up showing some surprising results.  Continue reading

10 non-drug ways to treat depression in heart patients

5 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas

I’ve written quite a lot here about my own debilitating experience with depression following my heart attack.(1) I have since learned that post-heart attack depression is alarmingly common – and alarmingly under-diagnosed – among women survivors. Mayo Clinic cardiologists report that up to 65% of us experience significant symptoms of depression, yet fewer than 10% are appropriately identified.

NYU Women’s Heart Program cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldberg says women under age 60 are particularly susceptible to depression because a heart attack is such a major psychological trauma, especially when it occurs at a younger age. Studies show, she adds, that depression is an important risk factor for adverse outcomes in cardiac event survivors:

“It’s a life-changing, stressful event. It’s a shocking experience. There are constant concerns among survivors about whether they are going to be able to return to their usual life.”

Continue reading

It wasn’t heart disease – but what was it?

14 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Her medical nightmare started during the summer of 2008 when she was just 39 and began having terrifying heart attack symptoms.  It took well over two years for this mother of three from upstate New York to finally hear a correct diagnosis. Put on your diagnostician’s cap today and consider the chilling account of her experience, told in her own words over five months. Continue reading

“After The Diagnosis”: two books, same title, one hope

30 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas

A never-married Catholic priest offers marriage counselling to couples. A childless shrink spouts advice on how to raise toddlers. Oprah Winfrey talks about money problems. “You have no clue!” – I want to scream at them. As a heart attack survivor, I now tend to gravitate towards those who are able to practice what they preach based on actual personal experience – not what they have learned at arm’s length. Clinical psychologist Dr. Elvira Aletta, for example, has been diagnosed with not one but two chronic diseases. Dr. Stephen Parker is a cardiac psychologist who is also a heart attack survivor.

And recently, I’ve come across two authors of books on coping with chronic illness that, ironically, share the same main title, After The Diagnosis:

  • Kidney specialist and Harvard prof Dr. Julian Seifter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was a young medical intern.
  • Dr. JoAnn Le Maistre received her PhD in clinical psychology, delivered a baby daughter, and learned she had multiple sclerosis  – all within a few months.

What these authors have to share with heart attack survivors and others diagnosed with a chronic illness is quite profound. Here’s why: Continue reading