The “emotional labour” of living with heart disease

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

“My hubby is stuck with me for another 15 years as long as I keep following doctor’s orders.”

“I told my family that I now had a pig valve in my heart – but I was disappointed when the doctor told me I couldn’t keep the bacon.”

“I am determined to outlive my husband – because I want to clean out his garage!”

Heart patients often use humour* like this to distract themselves from the high levels of stress and fear often associated with a life-altering diagnosis like heart disease – such as distressing symptoms, upcoming surgery, diagnostic tests, or even the ongoing awareness of a significantly increased risk of future cardiac events.  So reports Nicholas Lockwood, whose research focused on how heart patients use humour to help them cope with their condition – but ended up showing some surprising results.  Continue reading “The “emotional labour” of living with heart disease”

“Smile, Though Your Heart is Aching”: is fake smiling unhealthy?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

The classic song called Smile was originally written as an instrumental by the legendary Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 movie Modern Times; lyrics were later added, and the song was recorded by Nat King Cole in 1954. Sing along with me now, my heart sisters, as we revisit these famous lines:

“Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and there’ll be tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
If you’ll just . . . smile.”

It turns out that Nat’s advice about faking smiles, however, may be exactly the wrong thing to do for your own mental health.

This warning is particularly important for those living with a chronic diagnosis like heart disease, who often report feeling obliged to paste on a happy face around other people – even when feeling worried or alarmed about their symptoms.  Continue reading ““Smile, Though Your Heart is Aching”: is fake smiling unhealthy?”

Does surviving a heart attack make you a better person?

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Here’s what happens when a PR person (like me, for instance) survives a heart attack, but is no longer well enough to return to work. During extended medical leave, that PR person continues to do just what she knows how to do: she writes, she does public talks, she looks stuff up.  She  launches a blog and gets invited to attend cardiology conferences to speak or to write about the proceedings for her blog readers.

And all around her, people then respond by gushing things like:

“You have taken this catastrophically bad thing and turned it into a wonderfully good thing!”

The late Dr. Jessie Gruman would have likely recognized this not-so-subtle expectation that good patients will somehow take the lemons that life curveballs at them and make deliciously noble lemonade.  Continue reading “Does surviving a heart attack make you a better person?”

How humour can help – or hurt – your heart disease recovery

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

“My hubby is stuck with me for another 15 years as long as I keep following doctor’s orders.”

“I told my family that I now had a pig valve in my heart – but I was disappointed when the doctor told me I couldn’t keep the bacon.”

“I am determined to outlive my husband – because I want to clean out his garage!”

Heart patients often use humour like this to distract themselves from the high levels of stress and fear often associated with a life-altering diagnosis like heart disease – such as upcoming surgery, diagnostic tests, or even the ongoing awareness of significantly increased risk of future cardiac events. So reports Nicholas Lockwood, whose research focused on how heart patients use humour to help them cope with such a frightening condition – but ended up showing some surprising results.  Continue reading “How humour can help – or hurt – your heart disease recovery”