Dear Mended Heart members and patients,
I am posting today because I seem to be reading about anxiety.
I am, after 50 years, a survivor of panic attacks.
My surgeries for an aortic stenosis took place in 1969, 1972, and 1976.
At these times there was absolutely no counseling available for heart patients.
It was basically a non-issue; gee why would you need counseling for a life-changing, utterly traumatic event.?
After each surgery I was having severe panic attacks most of the day.
Because nobody told me nada about what to expect, what was going to happen, and how I would feel physically as well as psychologically.
When I first joined mended hearts a few years ago, i saw many people asking for a counselor, a therapist, or a social worker to help them before, during and after surgery.
I cannot emphasize enough for the entire family to be a part of a heart patients journey
ESPECIALLY CHILDREN. they can handle it and want to be involved.
Have them draw on you surgical site-
Show them a model of a heart...showing them this helps the patient feel a little better.
AND relieves anxiety for the patient and the family.
I learned in a therapeutic setting that my severe attacks were a primal reaction to severe concern about your body, or other stressful events. Dont you think open heart surgery is stressful? Of course it is.
Well what I learned in therapy is -
You cant die from a panic attack, because at some point the body "shuts down" for just a moment to actually survive it.
Oh yeah, many many times I KNEW I was dying, the world spun around, my chest hurt. ( but it was not the heart) ,
And I thought I was losing my mind.
I became to walk around outside, drive a car
(,imagine me. at 17. Driving 100 miles an hour
Down the Merritt parkway. Screaming,
HELP HELP!!! AND DRIVING BLIND.
Okay, now, after 4 months of intense therapy in a therapeutic hospital, and one day I am daring myself to walk in town .
On the way back I felt my stomach flip and my breath increasing.
What I learned in therapy was to TALK to the panic rising.
My conversation was like:
"Dude, really, ? You're pulling this sh...on me?
You are a bad habit, I know I am safe and at the at the very worse, I'll faint. Big deal.
So just stop yeah?
AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IT WORKED!
Ever since, after 2 years, I am WARY of the possibility i may have another, and sometimes I do. But I ground myself, I talk about the sky, the, the grass, just talk about my surroundings. No it is not easy, because you are actively working on your mind to break the normal reaction. And then I amto pinpoint my anxiousness: that time I had to walk to the hospital during covid-19 for bloodwork and it was the last place I wanted to go to.
Panic is a warning. Learning that it is somewhat normal but more importantly can be controlled is amazing.
Bless you all.
United States of America