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

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

The new country called Heart Disease

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

My doctor recently compared my uneasy adjustment since suffering a heart attack to being like a stressful move to a foreign country.

I used to be pretty comfortable in my old country, pre-heart attack. I was healthy, active, accomplished, outgoing, and a former distance runner. I had a wonderful family and a whack of close friends, a meaningful career I really loved, a crazy-cute cat, a condo renovated top to bottom in a charming leafy neighbourhood of the most beautiful city in Canada – and a busy, happy, regular life.

Then on May 6, 2008, I was hospitalized with a myocardial infarction – what doctors still call the “widowmaker” heart attack.

And that was the day I moved far, far away to a different country.  Continue reading “The new country called Heart Disease”

Learning to live with heart disease: the fourth stage of heart attack recovery

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Let’s consider today the last of The Four Stages of Heart Illness as outlined by Dr. Wayne Sotile, a cardiac psychologist from North Carolina and author of the highly recommended book called Thriving With Heart Disease.  This book is a helpful guide for both survivors and their families on “how to heal and reclaim your lives”.

One important way to do this is to review the heart patient’s journey through a series of four “separate, identifiable stages” that may help you know what to expect along this journey.  (Links to the first three stages can be found at the bottom of this post).

Stage 4:  Learning to Live With Heart DiseasePatient and family have accepted the diagnosis and committed themselves to living with the illness, not in spite of it.

Dr. Sotile reminds us that most survivors take between 6-12 months to get somewhat comfortable with their new, heart-healthy way of life (that may not mean totally comfortable, but on the way to comfortable).

But even after that first year, you won’t be completely adjusted to your new way of life. As heart disease lasts a lifetime, so does its adjustment period for both patients and their families.

It’s a big transition to your new normal. Remember that a large part of the transition is learning to talk to the people you love and live with about what you’re going through, what you feel for one another, and what life is really about.  Continue reading “Learning to live with heart disease: the fourth stage of heart attack recovery”

Creating a coping strategy: the second stage of heart attack recovery

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Earlier this week, I revisited Dr. Wayne Sotile’s excellent book, Thriving With Heart Disease – a favourite of mine since I discovered it several months after my own heart attack, and particularly the book’s second chapter, The Four Stages of Heart Illness.  Dr. Sotile, a cardiac psychologist, describes the newly diagnosed heart patient’s journey through a series of four separate stages.

Dr. Sotile believes that your recovery will have fewer surprises if you are familiar with these commonly-experienced stages and know what to expect.  The stages may not occur in any particular order.

Today, we consider the second stage of cardiac recovery*:

Stage 2:  Creating a Coping Strategy Everyone starts to grasp what heart illness is, what’s involved in treatment and recovery, and that the patient and family must work as a team.

According to Dr. Sotile, once your heart condition has stabilized and your fears of imminent death have eased, you start asking:

“What happens next?”  Continue reading “Creating a coping strategy: the second stage of heart attack recovery”

After your heart attack: what now?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Post-heart attack, when my shocked and stunned Victoria Hospice co-workers came to visit me in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit of the hospital where we all worked, I promised them that, although I probably couldn’t come to work the next day, I would certainly be back at my desk by the day after that.  Little did I know at that crazily optimistic and possibly drug-addled moment that there was absolutely zero chance of me actually being able to keep that promise.

In fact, recovery from a cardiac event can take a surprisingly long time, both physically and emotionally – much more than I could have ever predicted.  Continue reading “After your heart attack: what now?”

Innocence lost: life after a heart attack


by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

Written one month after my heart attack, June 2008:

“It isn’t the moment you are struck when you need courage, but the long uphill battle back to sanity and faith and security.”    Anne Morrow Lindbergh

.The wisdom of this quote strikes me every day.  In hindsight, the time I spent hospitalized in the Coronary Care Unit after my heart attack four weeks ago seems like the easiest part of this adventure.

Back then, I was surrounded every moment by round the clock state-of-the-art technology and highly-trained professionals whose only goal was to save my life and make me well enough to go home.  Continue reading “Innocence lost: life after a heart attack”