Tag Archives: hypervigilance

Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack

9 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    September 9, 2018

511724-0211-23Until I had a heart attack, I didn’t know that one of the biggest risk factors for having a cardiac event like mine is having already had one. Heart disease, a chronic and progressive diagnosis, is the gift that keeps on giving. And as I wrote here, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that, although my doctors can “squish blockages, burn rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices”, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place – likely decades before my heart attack struck.  See also: The Cure Myth

In fact, women are twice as likely to have a second heart attack in the six years following the first compared to our male counterparts.(1)  No wonder sobering stats like this can drive the freshly-diagnosed heart patient to an exhausting and fearful state of acute hypervigilance. Continue reading

Are you a victim or a survivor?

29 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

sssIn Dr. Wayne Sotile’s very useful book for all freshly-diagnosed heart patients called Thriving With Heart Disease, he nails the description of what he calls the patient’s homecoming blues.  It’s that need to adjust from being cared for 24/7 in hospital following a cardiac event to suddenly being booted out the door and sent back home. For example:

“You’re now home from the hospital, and you’re expected to surf a bewildering wave of emotions, anxieties and procedures.

“Moving very slowly, bouts of depression, weeping, social withdrawal or obsessive anxiety about dying – these are all normal during the early stages of heart disease.”

Normal or not, I found “obsessive anxiety about dying” to be an extremely unpleasant way to live in the days following my own heart attack.  Continue reading

Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack

22 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

511724-0211-23Until I had a heart attack, I didn’t know that one of the biggest risk factors for having a cardiac event like mine is having already had one. Heart disease, a chronic and progressive diagnosis, is the gift that just keeps on giving. And as I wrote here, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that, although my doctors can “squish blockages, burn rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices” all they like, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place – likely decades before my heart attack struck.  See also: The Cure Myth

In fact, one in four women who survive a first heart attack will die within the following year, most often of cardiac arrest or another heart attack according to the National Institutes of Health. And women are twice as likely to have a second heart attack in the six years following the first compared to our male counterparts.

No wonder sobering stats like these can drive the freshly-diagnosed heart patient to an exhausting and fearful state of acute hypervigilance.

I was reminded of this while reading a book that my probation officer-daughter Larissa lent me called Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, PhD.*  Stay with me, dear reader – this connection actually makes more sense than you might suspect . . .   Continue reading

How to cope when your spouse is the heart patient

4 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

I’ve heard it said, as bizarre as it may seem, that it may be easier in some ways to be widowed than to be the spouse of a recovering heart patient.

If your spouse has survived a cardiac event, you may even feel grief that seems entirely inappropriate to you, even as you also feel intense relief because he is still alive. You may also experience what’s known as hypervigilance – that sense of dread that yet another crisis is about to happen.

There are role models, as author Rhoda Levin explains, for widows’ behaviour, and appropriate ways to express difficult emotions:

“People respect the time it takes for the widowed to adjust to the changes in their lives. But cardiac spouses have no role models, teachers or mentors.  No one, professional or friend, can tell you what changes you will face as a cardiac spouse – and yet change is now your reality. The challenge of any cardiac crisis is facing this reality, letting go of what is lost, and developing new ways to live your new life together.”

If your spouse has recently had a cardiac event, you might find one of these three books helpful:   Continue reading