Heart Attack and PTSD- one of the harder Heart Month Posts for me …..
The hardest admission of all of this for me….. I have Post Traumatic Stress. This affects me more than I have let on to those who already know.
Heart Attack- It is one of those internal medical injuries that can either take your life quickly or leave you alive to ponder why exactly you are here. You are not quite the same after. Your brain is going through all the reasons why this happened and in my case dealing with night terrors.
According to a study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 1 out of every 8 heart attack survivors suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This startling statistic can double the risk of having another heart attack and even death. Scary. Symptoms can include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks to the time of the attack, anxiety and avoidance of heart attack related topics and places. It’s primarily rooted in trauma.
This has been me the last 6 1/2 months. I have talked about a few things but for the most part until recently, I avoided talking about it to many people. Unfortunately, I have been in situations where I have had some explaining to do just so I didn’t appear like a heartless jerk or like I have completely lost my marbles.
I have had night terrors almost right from the start and although they are not as frequent, I still get them. I dream mainly about how I felt after waking from Cardiac Arrest. I vividly remember the faces of everyone in the room, the looks were mixed with intensity and relief. I remember the pain and how much it hurts to literally be shocked back to life. Oh my Gosh, the pain. So intense. Then the terror ends with darkness. I usually wake at this point, sweating, heart racing and frightened.
There is nothing more frightening for me than having to re live this over and over every couple nights. I hate it. I absolutely hate it.
It makes me afraid to fall asleep at night. Will I wake up or fall asleep forever once my eyes have closed and my breathing becomes shallow? Will I be taken into whatever there is after physical life? If I do go, will it hurt or will I go peacefully? Does it really matter? Fear of dying in my sleep in very real.
I am not ready to go and it is apparent that it was not my time in August. Before my Heart Attack, I never feared death. I do now only because I was close, well actually, technically I was dead for a brief couple minutes. Think about that……Scary.
PTSD doesn’t end there for me. My mind constantly flashes back to both of my heart events and I become numb, completely numb. I also have this issue with a lack of emotion. I have been essentially numb from experiencing any negative feelings. I can be happy, thankfully. I focus on that.
I cannot mourn, feel sadness or anger. Most days I am just in settled state of mind. I recently have felt slight annoyance and I know when my mind is frustrated. My brain physically hurts when I should be feeling something other than “happy”.
Do you know what it is like to hear that someone you care about has died and feel nothing, or someone tears you apart verbally and not be able to really react ? I do and it sucks. Those are just two examples i have dealt with since my Heart Attack.
My brain tells me when someone is doing something that is not acceptable to me but yet again, my anger or hurt stays locked behind the walls of my head. I cannot even explain how hard it is to not be able to react at all to things like these.
I have what I call my “non existent” days. Days when I am locked in a feeling of nothingness. Like I am walking through an empty dark hallway just trying to reach the doors at the end and walk out into the light and fresh air. No bad mood, not exactly happy either. Just there. If you see me walking around like a zombie, then you have witnessed me on one of those days. I am most likely ok, I just need to let it pass.
Friends, please know I have sought help and have been working with a therapist. I am not afraid to admit this. More people need to get over the stigma attached to seeing a Therapist and mental issues. Depression, anxiety, PTSD….all of those need to be dealt with and trust me, counselling has helped me immensely.
I don’t care what people’s thoughts are about me seeing a therapist. Truthfully, if more people sought professional help for their issues, their marriages, their stress, most things could be worked on and they could begin to heal.
I have been told by my therapist that at some point I will break emotionally and may battle depression. This of course, would not be my first brush with depression and anxiety, so I know it is another battle I can win. When I do break emotionally, it may not be pretty at all and as funny as this sounds, I anxiously await that day so that I can feel and empathize again.
I have been offered medications to work through this but have declined. I don’t want my mind medically altered by pills unless it gets to a point where I absolutely need it.
As I work to overcome this without being medicated all I ask is for support, nothing more. This is something I do believe I can overcome, I just do not know how long it will take. I am a bit of a determined guy and I won’t let this beat me down. Life is too good overall to allow this to take me away from being myself. I will fight the days that I don’t feel like myself because being “me” is actually quite awesome. I like me 🙂