Joan's Story: Coping With Depression and Anxiety From Heart Failure - Joan's story
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
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
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.
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."