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Depends on the Heart

Thursday, June 05, 2014

By Kelly Deeny

Dependence and guilt are two of the unseen side effects of my congenital heart defect, the ramifications of which still drive a great many of my choices/actions.

As children, we are dependent on others for almost everything. They feed us, clothe us, and provide guidance as we develop. Dependence on those who care for us is understandable and expected. All children must come to a point in their growth when they start relying on themselves. They trust their instincts, abilities, and knowledge. At that point, one more independent thinker helps our community grow and develop. They spread their wings and follow their dreams, all the while thankful and appreciative of the wisdom they received along the way.

What happens if you’re stuck along that border of dependence and independence? How do you flourish when overcome with guilt, especially when the reasons are intellectual nonsense?

I hold on to the belief that my parents endured worry and fear leading up to and during my heart surgery. Just 20 months old, I depended on them for most everything. They were my foundation, my base, my rock. I recovered and thrived thanks to an amazing support system and my own determination.

I didn’t realize until much later that I fixated on needing their approval and validation throughout most of my teenage years and into early adulthood. Disappointing them or causing them pain created anxiety and guilt within. I absorbed their insightful wisdom and when that knowledge differed from mine, I chose theirs over my own developed opinions.

I still look to them for guidance, support, and assistance even though I’m a grown woman capable of deciding for herself. It may seem ridiculous (it does to me) that I feel guilty my CHD brought pain to those I care about. I’ve been trying for more than 35 years to counterbalance any pain or grief I unwittingly inflicted while also struggling to live independently. It hasn’t been easy nor always successful. I just want to clarify that no one EVER made me feel guilty or accused me of burdening them as a CHD patient. Those issues were my own. Now that I am aware of them, it’s up to me to choose differently.

As I set off on a new phase in my career, I’ve come to understand that most of my struggles for independence were based on guilt that was neither necessary nor warranted.


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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