Depression after a heart attack is quite common, but while I was in recovery mode, I felt so alone. I felt as if no one in my close circle of friends and family could even begin to grasp how I was feeling. After doing research on all aspects of being a heart attack survivor I understand I was far from alone or unusual.
About.com’s website page on depression and heart attacks states that 20% of survivors experience this. The Family Doctor website puts that estimate up to 1 in 3 survivors and this page suggests that women survivors experience feelings of sadness more often then men do.
Perhaps it is because when one experiences a heart attack and lives, they have an up close and personal experience with their demise. That is enough to depress anyone; I know mine sure scared the stuffing out of me.
Sure, before my heart attacks I had experienced feelings of sadness during my life, but after my cardiac emergency depression hit me like a ton of bricks. I never talked with a doctor about my depression but when I hit rock bottom I knew I had to dig myself back out. Luckily, the bout of depression only lasted nine or so months afterwards.
Who would not get depressed after such a life-changing event? I had to change my lifestyle and change my habits in a major way so I could continue with my life. I changed my diet radically eliminating as much fat, salt and cholesterol as I could. I was told to quit smoking, reduce stress, and get more active. How could I get active outside when it was nearing the end of fall and I felt awful. These thoughts kept running through my mind.
I tired easily and cried often. It was also nearing another Christmas when I knew I would not be able to afford any gifts for my children, and having had the heart attacks made money even tighter as I was not able to work as much. It seemed as if no one could understand where I was coming from. Still changes had to be made.
I did change most of those things; the diet by far was the hardest so change. I still crave a greasy burger with lots of cheddar cheese, fried peppers and onions and mushrooms but I am so afraid to eat it. Having sex scared the stuffing out of me as well, so the sex drive within me disappeared which frustrated the guy I was dating at the time. Still changes had to be made even though I did not feel as if I could make them.
I had to become more active, I sat a lot to do my work as a freelance writer, but I forced myself to write for an hour and get up for some physical activity. Of course, this cut down on my production as well as my income. I also walked outside more. I began with 15-20 minute walks and gradually built up to hour-long walks and each step reduced my depression.
I very much fear another heart attack even thought I have taken the necessary steps to correct the damaging lifestyle I was living. Some times, I do feel the depression creeping back inside of my body but I simply push it aside and make myself happier. I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone because I so feel the need to do it, and I encourage those people around me to do the same.
About.com’s article on depression and heart attacks.
The Family Doctor website for more information