I once heard the late author Dr. Leo Buscaglia tell a conference audience his story about how he grew up equating caregiving with love. When he was a little boy, for example, his own mother seemed cold and distant – except when he was sick. During those times, she would sit at his bedside, stroke his fevered brow, spoon-feed him homemade soup, fuss over every painful twinge, listen carefully to his every word, and become the kind of loving mother he rarely knew when he was healthy. . Continue reading “Choose your listeners carefully”
As regular readers already know, I like to include the work of cardiac psychologist Dr. Wayne Sotile on this site, mostly because what he writes about the psychological challenges of heart disease and recovery rings so true for me since my own heart attack.
His 1992 book Heart Illness and Intimacy: How Caring Relationships Aid Recovery looks at the profound emotional impact that the stresses of heart disease can have on patients, spouses and children.
I was especially intrigued by the chapter called The Personality Factor: Can We Change? which explores how our personalities and coping patterns can often determine how we’ll react to a life-changing cardiac event.
Based on the 1987 pioneering work of Stewart and Joines on Transactional Analysis, Dr. Sotile outlines in this chapter the six basic coping patterns that seem to drive our perceptions, our behavioural choices, and our corresponding emotional reactions to both everyday life and to a chronic and progressive diagnosis like heart disease. He explains:
“These six personality drivers become especially influential in shaping our reactions during stressful times like a serious illness.”
I was surprised to recognize myself in more than one pattern on this list. How many of these six personality coping patterns seem familiar to you? Continue reading “Six personality coping patterns that influence how you handle medical crisis”
My Dad died of cancer at age 62, my mother decades later from a stroke following years of increasing dementia. So I have some experience being the adult daughter of a parent diagnosed with a life-altering medical condition. And I’ve also seen the faces of my own grown children right after they flew home to be with me right after my heart attack. Honestly, I don’t know which felt worse.
The majority of heart patients in North America have adult children. And when heart disease strikes, it can affect not only the patient, but the immediate family of that patient. If one of your parents has a cardiac event, as psychologist Dr. Wayne Sotile warns, you might have the makings of what he calls “the best hidden victims of heart illness: the patient’s adult children”. Continue reading “When you’re the adult child of a heart patient”
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”
For more than 30 years, Dr. Wayne Sotile was the director of psychological services for Wake Forest University’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program. Which is to say that he’s spent a lot of time with heart patients and their families. In 2008, while recuperating from my own heart attack, I discovered his must-read book called Thriving With Heart Disease. That title, by the way, has always bugged my Alaskan friend Dr. Stephen Parker (a cardiac psychologist and himself a heart attack survivor) who once made this comment about the book’s title:
“Just as soon as I can gather myself together, I am planning on writing a book called ‘Thriving After I Lost All My Body Parts’…”
Despite that small quibble about the title, Dr. Sotile is a terrific writer who nails it when it comes to guiding those who are freshly-diagnosed with a chronic and progressive condition like heart disease. Continue reading “Living with heart disease – and your whole family”
Here’s my theory: few health crises in life are as traumatic as surviving a cardiac event. I developed this theory while I was busy having my own heart attack in the spring of 2008.
For starters, heart attack symptoms often come out of the blue (in fact, almost two-thirds of women who die of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.(1) Having a heart attack can feel so unimaginably terrifying that almost all of us try desperately to dismiss or deny cardiac symptoms. And according to a report published in Global Heart, the journal of the World Heart Federation, women are twice as likely to die within one year even if they do survive a heart attack compared to our male counterparts.(2)
So if – and each of these is still, sadly, a great big fat IF for too many women – we survive the actual cardiac event, and if we are near a hospital that’s able to provide an experienced team of cardiologists/cardiovascular surgeons/cardiac nurses, and if we are correctly diagnosed, and if we receive timely and appropriate treatment, and if the resulting damage to our oxygen-deprived heart muscle is not too severe, we get to finally go home, safe and sound.
And that’s where the real trauma starts. Continue reading “The day I made peace with an errant organ”