Stress anxiety and support for you.

After a Loved One Has A Heart Attack!

Unfortunately there is very little information to be had about just how much anxiety and stress is experienced by heart attack survivors, but there is even less information available about what life is like if you are living with somebody who has had a heart attack. You may find that they are anxious and stressed and so are you. But there is very little information available to help you.
It is almost as if we are not supposed to feel anxious. The person who has had the heart attack has been through the terrible experience and they may well be very fragile and quite weak. They may also be worried that they are going to have another heart attack and you may even feel guilty that you have needs. You may think that it’s wrong to say how you are feeling and you may not wish to acknowledge your anxiety.
Yet it is actually really important to acknowledge your anxiety simply because you need to be able to support your husband or partner and to do this effectively, you need to be emotionally stable and be in a position to support them. Through talking to women whose partner or husband has had a heart attack, there are some very common themes.

Isolation

When the person who has had the heart attack is in hospital there is a sense that they are quite safe because if anything goes wrong there is somebody there to help and make sure that they are OK. But when that person comes out of hospital, then the only person they have to rely on is you and that can be quite a scary feeling: and let’s be honest, not all of us have family who will help out and we can also feel quite guilty at always asking friends for support.
It can often be quite tempting to keep the number of visitors that you see to a minimum. the person who has had the heart attack is very weak and you may be concerned about having guests, even family or close friends when your other half is so vulnerable. So it can be tempting to cut yourself off and unfortunately this can lead to you becoming isolated, especially if it goes on for any length of time.


Your Other Half’s Depression and Anxiety

No one actually knows how many people who have had a heart attack will experience anxiety or depression, or perhaps both anxiety or depression, or perhaps both anxiety and depression. But conservative estimates indicate that it could be higher than 45% of people who have had a heart attack. In fact very few people who have had a heart attack will not experience any anxiety or depression. A heart attack is a very sudden and often very frightening experience and it is natural to find it causes anxiety or depression afterwards.
This means that we are actually living with someone who is ill, who has been through a terrible experience and who may be anxious or depressed or both. This can be difficult to live with and it can drag you down too. This may sound selfish, but it only indicates that you are human and not some kind of saint. From a practical point of view, it makes sense to simply be aware of the impact that it can have on our own emotional state, then we can ensure that we remain emotionally strong enough to support the other person.


Ignorance! Stupidity and Even More Ignorance!

There is a wide spread, but unfounded belief that each and every person who has a heart attack comes out of hospital, rests for say a week and then life is simply as it always was, no damage done eh? But because part of the heart dies when someone has had a heart attack, there will always be some damage and some people may be quite badly affected. This does not mean that there are malingering or weak, it simply means that they have experienced more damage and so they will not be ‘back to normal’: ever.
People can also be quite harsh. Either they ask if the survivor is 'keeping well'? This question used to drive me MAD because it cuts off any real opportunity for you to be honest and open. So you cannot really talk to them about how you really are. Or they ask how you are and before you can reply, they say 'Oh sorry, how is.....?' meaning how is your ‘other half’. If this were to happen just once or twice, it would be irritating, but it can seem like it is happening all the time. As one woman put it 'It was just like I was disappearing'
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Cumulative Effect

The difficulty with all these little 'issues' is that on their own, they are usually quite manageable. We can all live feeling just that little bit isolated, we can also live with someone who is perhaps quite anxious, depressed (or perhaps both) and we can all live with someone who has just been through a dreadful experience. But it is really tough going to have all of them happen at once and they can end up having a cumulative effect, which in turn means that you too can really easily end up anxious and pretty down.

Unfortunately there is no magic wand to make everything seem fine and rosy. You have to take care of yourself and at least be conscious of the anxiety and the effect it can have on you. Usually if you are aware of anxiety and the risk of anxiety then you can stop it getting hold and dragging you down. Just be conscious of the stress you are living under and ensure that you stay healthy enough to support the heart attack survivor both physically and emotionally!
If people are tactless or harsh with you and don’t seem to be that bothered about how you are doing, then take evasive action and simply avoid them!

Try to ensure that you simply take things slowly, that you work towards healing for both of you and it will happen; it may simply take a little