When you’re told you’re on the verge of a massive heart attack and you’re in urgent need of a quadruple bypass or else you’re going to die… that kind of thing can change your way of thinking. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not so good.
I’m not one of those guys. You know those guys you see from the neck down on the nightly news, all beer gut and plumber's crack that make you think, "whoa, there's a heart attack waiting to happen..." That's not me. Still, there I was in my doctor's office with chest pains. I thought it was acid reflux and so did he. He scheduled a stress test, just routine.
The stress test led to an angiogram that led to discovering 90% blockage in the artery they lovingly call The Widow Maker that led to a quadruple bypass.
A lot of people bounce right back from something as critical as being cracked open like a fortune cookie. It hit me a tad harder. Depression after open-heart surgery is a fairly common occurrence. 3 out of 4 heart surgery patients experience some degree of depression. So if you're one of the more than 150,000 people who experience post-op depression every year, know that you're not alone.
Doctors aren’t 100% sure why. Some think it’s two hours on the heart/lung machine that keeps you alive-ish during the procedure. Some think it’s tiny chunks of plaque that get dislodged and float their way up to your brain. Either way, it's nothing to be ashamed of and you might not be able to "just get over it" without the help of a medical professional. Surprisingly, only about half of all doctors and cardiologists ask about their patients' mental health. You (or a loved one) might have to get help on your own.
It’s temporary for some, fleeting almost. For me, not so much. I started seeing a behavioral psychologist, a shrink, soon after my surgery in the winter of 2009. I’ve been seeing her on and off (mostly off now) ever since. We worked through my feelings about the trauma of surgery, then moved onto personal problems that’d been dogging me my whole life. I’ve slowly come to grips with the surgery stuff, sort of.
As part of treatment, my therapist had me write. Just write. Whatever came to mind, whatever I felt like telling her. I started a blog (I know, everyone has a blog), that’s here, too, the first couple of months anyway. After that, posts moved to ChicagoNow, the Chicago Tribune Media Group's blog network. It's a peek into my recovery--- both physical and mental ---as I work through my second chance at life.
So, I'm a work-in-progress, but I'm getting there, trying to discover the something that's wrong with Wally. All it took was a brush with death to set things in motion. I hope, in some way, my story helps.
Read more at my Open Heart Blog
Trying to make sense of life after a near heart attack— anecdotes, observations, and information for people of a "certain age."
Links of Interest
(and sites where I have guest blogs)
Captain Dad is the day-to-day "adventures" of author, New Yorker cartoonist, and stay-at-home dad Pat Byrnes.
Here's a mom with a definite attitude when it comes to parenting and the world at large. She was kind enough to let me contribute to her outrageous blog Moms Who Drink and Swear, with an essay about my sons love of "gas."
The Mental Illness Happy Hour, hosted by Paul Gilmartin, formerly of "Dinner and a Movie" on TBS. A critically acclaimed podcast and website featuring confessions from the entertainment industry...
Men Beyond 50 is a collaborative community for men" over that age. Articles, blogs, and such by experts and regular guys who've learned a few things along the way...
Depression after heart surgery is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Read more from the Cleveland Clinic, a premiere center for cardiac care and the hospital where my cardiologist did his internship and residency!
Proof that treating depression after a coronary “event” can lower the risk of a second “event.”