Looking for meaning in a meaningless diagnosis

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

“That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  If you tell yourself you feel fine, you will. Don’t cry over anything that can’t cry over you.  When life hands out lemons, squeeze out a smile.”

Translation:  Blah blah blah . . .

Here’s one I like better:  “Sometimes bad things happen to good people.” Period. End of story. As I’ve written here before, there is no Fair Fairy in life.

It is indeed tempting – and common – to spout trite platitudes designed to somehow make people feel better about those bad things with bumper sticker pop-psych. But can platitudes really lend meaning to a life-altering health crisis? Continue reading “Looking for meaning in a meaningless diagnosis”

“God punishes bad children!” – or, why you have heart disease

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥ @HeartSisters

When I was a little girl growing up in a rabidly catholic family of seven, my mother had a standard response to anything bad that happened to her children (like even just stubbing a toe on the coffee table leg as we skipped across the living room floor):

“See? God punishes bad children!”

Under her tutelage, my siblings and I learned a couple of important life lessons:

1.  that we were basically bad children (this fits right in with the catholic church’s doctrine of original sin, so likely made perfect sense to us at the time), and

2. that God must be very, very busy keeping track of every opportunity to personally administer the punishment that my sibs and I so richly deserved.

When children like us grow up and get diagnosed with, oh, let’s say –  heart disease, it’s proof positive that we’re just getting what we had coming.   Continue reading ““God punishes bad children!” – or, why you have heart disease”

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”