By Stephanie Hodgson
16 Aug

The Heart of the Matter

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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.

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