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The Heart of the Matter

Aug 16

Posted by: ACHA
8/16/2011 12:06 PM  RssIcon

By Stephie Goldfish

These days when I listen to my heart I hear things that are sometimes too hard to bring to the surface. Like the pain of being divorced twice and the reality of possibly never being in a successful relationship in the future. Like the pain of trying to have a child despite that I put myself in extreme danger by getting pregnant twice, but both times having ectopic pregnancies, which almost killed me.

I'm constantly being barraged by other outside forces these days too. My lately nomadic lifestyle, my impulsive decision making, and not being grounded, keeps these deep-seated feelings buried alive, keeps me at ground zero, prevents me from getting from point A to point B, and hinders me from making any real progress.

Each time I see my psychologist we talk about how to break this cycle, and I do touch upon the well of these deep places that are hurting and needing to be healed. I have been getting to my feelings there in therapy with her because, as she has helped me see, it's the calmest and safest place in my life right now. I leave her office each time with renewed hopes of truly wanting to try again to get stabilized emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically and financially.

Some people frown on any form of psychotherapy, but, from my experience, it really has saved my life. Being a young woman when I found out about my congenital heart disease left me with so many questions that went unanswered for a long time. Would I be able to have children? Would my life expectancy be cut short if I were to have a heart and lung transplant? These are major life issues for anyone to have to deal with and I wish I would have been in therapy much sooner in my life in order to help me deal with the difficult answers to these questions I was facing.

Finding someone to talk to whom you trust and who understands the whole scope of things really matters. One time, when I was hospitalized for getting salmonella food poisoning, with a temperature of 106 degrees, I had been in therapy for almost a year, and I ended up having my first psychotic break or episode while in the hospital. I realized that it was being in therapy that helped me recover easier. I spoke with my then cardiologist, who is also my favorite cardiologist, and I asked him if he'd ever thought of going into psychology or psychiatry. He told me he had thought of it, because he knows that what affects the heart also affects the mind and what affects the mind affects the heart.

A whole team of cardiology and psychiatric doctors, therapists, social workers and nurses were needed to bring me back to stability. And when you find someone who really understands you—not just your physical heart, but your emotions and feelings as well—you heal the whole person.

Right now, I'm with a wonderful psychologist whom I've been able to open up to more than anyone. In the past with therapy, I was trying to maintain a stable routine of working, building a network of friends, and just trying to stay well physically that I rarely spent one session of getting to the deep issues in my heart.

So now I'm dealing with those issues that have wanted to come out over the past few years. For example, the issues I have surrounding my relationship with my mother, and why my congenital heart disease was not discovered when I was a baby, and why it took until I was 17 years old to finally know why I was so blue and couldn't run or keep up with my twin sister—all serious concerns that may not be addressed outside of therapy. I'm also coming to terms with my death, the eventuality we all face, but for some of us we feel overwhelmed by this sad fact of life.

And the answers surrounding these issues are so hard and painful that they require a therapeutic setting in which we can find trust and where we can feel safe to explore them. Sometimes these things don't ever get resolved in a lifetime, but I'm determined that as long as I'm alive there is hope for some kind of resolution and closure. I also realize that being in therapy is a process and I've accepted the truth to the saying that life is less about your destination and more about the journey.

Stephie Goldfish, aka Stephanie Hodgson, was born with a large ventricular septal defect, but it wasn't diagnosed until age 17. Since her defect went unrepaired, this resulted in Eisenmenger’s physiology, and she has developed severe secondary pulmonary hypertension. Stephie is an artist who graduated at the top of her class from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh; she is currently pursuing her love of writing, and writes short stories and poetry, as well as nonfiction. Learn more at her website and personal blog.

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2 comment(s) so far...


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Re: The Heart of the Matter

hi Stephie, thanks for your blog those are some of the feelings and thoughts that i have been thinking about lately, i too was born with a heart problem,i have just found out about it in the past 2 and 1/2 years. i am now 57 years old, looking back i wonder how no one figured it out,i used to pass out a lot.. i was never brought to a doctor, i don't think that would be a normal part of childhood, i told my doctor of pains in my chest, excuses were made, by the doctor, no tests done., i have had many doctors tell me that i look healthy, (i'm slim), had a lot of them ask me how long my heart has been beating "like that", still no tests done, the story continues much like that, at last i found a lady doctor that tested my heart with care, with a lot of different tests, i now get checked by a cardiologist every 6 months,one day i might need an operation (more than likely).. but i now can look after my self, i have a real problem for not trusting doctors, and for all my medical problems and meds etc i will only trust my cardiologist, i now by reading your blog that i need to talk to someone that can help me deal with this realistically, and it was a awful feeling to know how you are going to die.. which may or may not be true... and as you have said i need some one to help me look after not just the physical heart but the emotions and feelings as well. thank you for being so helpful..Diane

By diane on   8/21/2011 6:48 PM
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Re: The Heart of the Matter

Stephie, thank you for your blog. Altho I had open heart surgery in 1958, when I was 12, the diagnosis was incorrect. I was told I would need more surgery, that my heart would enlarge, and I wouldn't live a full life. However, my family never talked about it, except when my father wondered if I was worth the cost of the surgery...joke, joke...thought he, but not me. It was after my coarctation of my aorta when I was 33, diagnosed by my new cardiologist, that I wondered why I was even on the planet. Like you, I finally realized I needed therapy...this was many, many years ago and I have had three therapists altogether, and been a counsellor as well. It is a long haul but uterly worth it, my dear. I never dreamed I would reach 65 years of age. Take care of yourself. Toni

By Toni Smith on   8/22/2011 11:00 PM

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