Joan's Story: Coping With Depression and Anxiety From Heart Failure - Joan's story
Joan figured she would need months to recover physically from the heart attack 2 years ago that led to her heart failure. She didn't realize she would need just as much time to recover emotionally.
"I was only 52 when I had the heart attack," she says. "Heart disease runs in my family, but I thought I'd been taking care of myself. It just hit me out of the blue. And then I got heart failure because of my heart attack. So now I had a health problem that wasn't going to go away."
Feeling like a "heart patient"
The heart attack and heart failure changed how Joan saw herself. For months, she wasn't able to take long walks in her neighborhood or meet her girlfriends for tennis dates.
"I went from being this really active person to barely being able to walk at first," she says. "After I got out of the hospital, it took me a long time to be able to even walk a short distance. I was so out of breath, I had to stop three times to sit on the curb while I was trying to go around the block."
Joan also felt down about being a "heart patient" and all the medicines she needed to take.
"I went into this terrible depression," she says. "I would sit at my kitchen table and feel I was in this cloud of dread. I didn't feel like me. I felt like, 'I'm never going to be me again.'"
On top of the depression, Joan was worried a lot. She had cardiac rehabilitation, so she was learning how to slowly be more active. But she was anxious that any activity would harm her heart.
"I felt like another heart attack was just waiting to happen," she said. "I could feel my heart pounding when I would walk up some stairs, even if I went slowly. I was convinced that I would drop dead right on the stairs. I knew I had to get some help. I couldn't keep being sad and afraid all the time."