Tag Archives: mental health issues after heart attack

Six personality coping patterns that influence how you handle heart disease

8 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

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

It lasts as long as it lasts

12 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

With deep calm, actor Susan Saint James said this after the tragic plane crash death of her youngest child, Teddy:

“His was a life that lasted 14 years.”

Hearing this, Toni Bernhard, author of the highly-recommended book, How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, tried using Susan’s sentiment to try to make sense of her own losses over a decade of being bedridden with a seriously debilitating illness. For example:  Continue reading

When are cardiologists going to start talking about depression?

3 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

I can vividly remember those early days and weeks at home after surviving a heart attack, especially that cold creeping anxiety around how I “should” be feeling. I had just survived what many do not: what doctors still call the “widow maker” heart attack. (By the way, note the gender semantics there, please: doctors are not calling this the widower maker”).

I was now resting comfortably, both of my darling kidlets had flown back home to be with their Mum, our home was filled with flowers, get-well cards and casseroles delivered by the daily line-up of concerned friends, family, neighbours and co-workers.

So why was I feeling so bleak inside, and even worse, now feeling guilty for all that bleakness?  Continue reading

Is it post-heart attack depression – or just feeling sad?

24 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

One of the small joys of having launched this site is discovering by happy accident the wisdom of other writers – even when they’re writing on unrelated topics not remotely connected to my favourite subject which is, of course, women and our heart health. For example, I happened upon a link to Sandra Pawula‘s lovely blog called Always Well Within. Sandra teaches mindfulness meditation, and she lives in Hawai’i (note her correct spelling).

She also has a hubby and three cats. I don’t even know this woman, but I like her already.  And while scanning through her beautiful site, I was stopped cold by an article she called: Why Sadness is the Key to True Happiness“.   Continue reading

Resilience: it’s hard to feel like a victim when you’re laughing

18 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Somebody recently described my presentations on women’s heart disease as “part stand-up comedy and part serious cardiology talk!” I think she was right. I now believe, in fact, that some parts of my own heart attack story are downright hilarious. In hindsight, of course.

They weren’t one bit amusing when they were actually happening.

Authors Drs. Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin would likely say that this ability to see humour in a catastrophic health crisis can be a key ingredient in healing resiliency. In their book The Resilient Self, they describe creativity and humour respectively in this way: “they turn nothing into something and something into nothing.”   Continue reading

Do you think too much? How ruminating hurts your heart

2 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Before my heart attack, I was a champion ruminator. Give me an ugly little problem to worry about, and I’d thrash it to death before finally flinging it aside in a fit of exhaustion, usually after some sleepless nights, a few extra grey hairs, and incalculable damage to my poor coronary arteries.

Yale University professor Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema’s research* has revealed some interesting facts about ruminating:

“When people ruminate about problems, they remember more negative things that have happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.”

Research also links the habit of rumination with dangerously high levels of the body’s artery-damaging stress hormones like cortisol. Continue reading