We survive it – but do we ever recover from a heart attack?

by Carolyn Thomas

Out of the chaos surrounding my heart attack emerged one overriding obsession: to just be normal again. I was desperate to feel like my old self, all the while feeling that nothing around me felt remotely normal any longer. I was tired of being “sick”. I wanted my old life back.

And I didn’t want to be a heart patient anymore. One day, in fact, about seven weeks after I’d been discharged from hospital, I marched around the apartment gathering up all the get well cards and bouquets of beautiful flowers that filled each room – and trashed them all. (It didn’t work, by the way. I still had heart disease, albeit one with a tidy home!)

What I really wanted was some kind of guarantee that I’d recover perfectly one day very soon.  But according to psychologist Dr. Lisa Holland, even promising patients that we will “recover” may simply be setting us up for a situation that’s essentially unattainable. Instead, she warns, all we can do is rebuild our lives and move forward. Continue reading “We survive it – but do we ever recover from a heart attack?”

“Catastrophizing” – why we feel sicker than we actually are

by Carolyn Thomas

It’s distressingly common in cardiac circles to run into people who don’t have heart disease, but who are very certain that they do. When I first heard some of their stories, I suspected that these people are being misdiagnosed, but the reality may instead be that there’s no heart disease here at all.

This scenario came up recently with a woman with few if any cardiac symptoms, no definitive test results, and very little reason for believing she might have a heart condition. Yet she was so utterly convinced a heart attack was imminent that she described feeling like a “ticking time bomb”. A fellow heart attack survivor, far braver than I, suggested to this woman that she might be experiencing a phenomenon called catastrophizing.   Continue reading ““Catastrophizing” – why we feel sicker than we actually are”