In my last post I mentioned the psychosocial issues that adults with CHD face. According to one study, about one third of all adults with CHD have some sort of mood or anxiety disorder and most go untreated.
Anxiety is a given for many of us. We are a pioneer group. This is the first time in history that there is a solid population of adults with CHD - we used to not make it to adulthood. Many of us face repeat open heart surgeries, valve replacements, pacemaker implants and changes, and a small group faces heart transplants. Many of us have high-risk pregnancies or are told that for our health and safety, we should not attempt getting pregnant. We wonder if our babies will be a statistic like us and have CHD. We wonder if it's actually genetic and there is something we can do to stop it. Sometimes we have to go on disability because our hearts severely hinder our physical abilities. We struggle with the fear of dying too soon. We wonder how typical elderly complications will impact our hearts.
I fear that I'm a burden on my family and friends. I fear that they won't want to take on my appointments and future procedures and possibly surgeries. I fear that no man will want to be with someone who is chronically ill. I fear that even though one cardiologist has already said pregnancy will not be an issue, that my current one will not clear me. I fear having a child and going into heart failure. I fear leaving a husband as a single father. I fear that some day I will instantly drop dead. Now these aren't fears that consume my life, but they definitely come into my conscious thought stream on a fairly regular basis.
All of that fear is what I'm guessing leads to the mood disorders. My hunch is that we get bogged down with the fear and that leads us into depression. The fear can be crippling. I've watched it unnecessarily take over people's lives. Can anyone blame us though? We did absolutely nothing wrong, our parents did absolutely nothing wrong, doctors did absolutely nothing wrong, yet we are born broken.
I am a lucky one though. I don't have any diagnosable emotional disorders. I have an unbelievably supportive family and incredible friends who willingly choose to keep walking with me through months of testing and months of nothing notable with my heart. I get to support my CHD peers and walk with them through their dark times. I think that's what keeps me grounded.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist. All of the above statements are my opinion and should not be used for psychological diagnosis or treatment. If you are struggling with your emotions, please find the courage to reach out to someone for help. There are many great resources out there.