Coping with depression

Hi everyone,

I'm from the BHF's Heart Matters team, and wanted to see if I could pick your brains.

We know that depression is something that affects many people with a heart condition, as we talk about in our report here

But, if you were depressed, how did you manage it? Were there any treatments/ways to cope that particularly worked for you?

Thanks all.


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23 Replies

  • I think most on here have had their moments, some blacker than others. Mine I would say is still ongoing.

    Treatment through the NHS is non-existent or the waiting list too long to even contemplate.

    I saw a counselor through work which was helpful, talking about things at home, eventually, friends, other forums and here has been cathartic. Being able to help others has been my best medicine, trying to advise here and other places has been a great help.

  • I have been up and down, usually due to work & a couple of ppl close to me.

    I went to a group thing a last week, wasn't really what I was looking for. It was called a worry group.

    However I thought I would go again this week just to see if I was wrong. But I wasn't well so couldn't go.

    Like skid112 though. I think this forum has done me the world of good.

    I feel I help people sometimes, even just by letting them know we are listening.

    But I would say everyone on here has really helped me.

    Some by very kindly answering my questions & advising. Or I find sometimes I'll look on here & someone is asking what I wanted to ask, so I don't have to. All I have to do is look at the replies to fix my query.

    And it is great to tslk to ppl who have been through it :)

  • I think that the last place I would want to go if I was feeling low or depressed was a 'worry group'!! Depression is a deeply personal experience for each individual, and so each has to find their own path through...The best thing said to me towards the end of my counselling was 'recovery is a rocky road' - only a few small words but they helped me to keep moving forward on that road even when lighter days suddenly became blacker again for a while... My husband and I have now set up a heart support group in our town as there are so few NHS/free resources in our area for those experiencing post-cardio anxiety/depression. It's really hard work with slow progress!! But the conversations we have had with heart patients along the way shows us that there are so many people going through those emotions, so we will keep plodding forward! :)

  • Fantastic to hear you took the initiative to set up your own local support group. Good luck with it!

  • Thank you! I hope we can try and reduce the numbers of heart patients feeling alone/isolated when there are hundreds having similar experiences. Everybody needs somebody - as the song goes!! ☺☺

  • I was able to talk to a specialist psychologist based at the Golden Jubilee Hospital (I believe he is funded by the BHF?) whenever I wanted/needed to and found that really helpful in terms of CBT approaches etc but also great just to have someone external to my life that I could have a really in-depth conversation with. I also received fantastic support and advice from my GP, heart failure liaison nurse and consultant, all of whom have been very aware of potential for depression from the beginning and have been quite proactive in helping me recognise and tackle it. My friends and partner have been very supportive too and my parents have helped out with childcare so that I can have a bit more downtime. I've used that time to get back into hobbies I used to enjoy (I find doing anything creative really helps my mood) and to pick up some new ones - I've tried to find physical activities that I enjoy and find my mood improves when I am doing these consistently. I have been taking antidepressants for the past few years and found they helped hugely, giving me the head space to be able to put into action all the suggestions from my psychologist.

    Over the last year, I feel like my mood has been better than it had been in years, maybe even better than it was pre-diagnosis. I still find my heart condition upsetting and tough to deal with, but I have the ability to rationalise things and see the positives and I have a bank of techniques to get me back on the straight and narrow when I do start to feel the downward spiral. It's a bit of a balancing act and it took me a LONG time to find the right balance, but it is definitely worth it. Being depressed makes the symptoms of heart failure feel much worse, I think, and prevents you pursuing a heart-healthy lifestyle, so it's just as vital to treat depression as it is to treat the heart.

  • I feel part of cardiac rehabilitation should be about how your coping afterwards... we all have our dark days thinking why me ! And because of my families strong cardiac history I think what about my 3 kids my eldest who's 16 was tested this week ECG , Echo , treadmill and they found he has a hole in his heart going to have 24 hr monitor next week got the worry of my other 2 kids still waiting to be seen 12 and 14 they have to still be seen ... on here I feel I can say that what I feel

  • I had bouts of depression after my surgery, I was lucky in that I just managed the feelings myself and was very open to friends, family and on here about it, if the feelings had persisted or I couldn't control them I would have gone to my GP.

    I am tempted still to have some cognitive therapy counselling, as my insurance will provide this. While I have gone through the depression and managed to come out the other side I think going through bypass surgery (and a stroke in January) is massive and want to 'box' this all now rather than it bite me on the backside in months to come.

  • Hi Lucy. Fascinating report, from 2012. Has much changed in the last 5 years?

    Also, thank you for your invite for personal stories about how we heart patients have managed. It's this attitude, that makes the BHF so believable and useable.

    My story is not unlike others, but two things stand out. One, I have had recurrent problems and treatments over 3-5 years, ending up with 3 HAs and 9 stents, and the residue of unstable angina. The repeatedly picking myself up and getting motivated, moving and positive again, is v tough. But it has shown me the pattern of shock, denial, helplessness, and then small hopeful steps! Each time.

    Secondly, I was a Psychologist in the NHS, paradoxically, researching and working with people having all sorts of physical health problems, including heart disease. Reading of Andrew Steptoes research was fascinating, the relation between stress and anxiety and angina seems pretty clear to me, as a patient. But researching the physical connection between stress and the heart is certainly a step forward.

    My experience? A recurrent feeling throughout all this has been of helplessness.

    What's services helped? A cocktail of exercise Rehab classes, support from cardiac liaison nurse (always at the end of the phone with amazingl practical advice), a GP and Consultant that informed me like an intelligent human, involving me in decisions; brief psychotherapy and anti depressants.

    What did i do that helped? Asked for, and accepted my friends help. Reducing my helplessness by reducing my expectations, to achievable ones, gradually taking small steps in changing things. I remember being taken out to my favourite coffee shop and just sitting at a table by the door, the first time. Second time I managed to stand at the counter and order our coffees! Brilliant. I felt immediately less helpless, useless and hopeless. Learning to pace myself. Monitoring my activity and symptoms.... giving me a summary for the Drs, and demonstrating to myself I was making progress. A Fitbit works well.

    BHF forum needs a mention. Such good (mostly) sensitively framed advice. Very believable from other heart patients. But all monitored by the experts to add clear inf and correct anything we might get wrong,

    I did contribute a brief case study, to your Anxiety booklet (I'm the one holding the chicken!). If I can be any more help. Just ask.

  • In your post you speak of helplessness,that is the best way I can describe myself at present.After a HAand emergency bypass thankful for surviving but struggling at present. I previously considered myself fit and well and worked as a midwife 4 days a week. This life changing event has absolutely shocked me.I want to be positive and forward thinking but my grief is overwhelming wondering if I will ever go back to the career I so loved.Is this normal?

  • Hi, Csnp. The concept of helplessness really helped me. It told me that I needed to start effecting things by small gains, small steps. They were v small things, but I found my mood changed, as I was achieving something. Walking a little further, going to the corner shop by myself, cleaning my boots.

    You are wondering if you will get back to the job you love. Not something I can have a valid view on, but I wonder if this is looking too far ahead, for now. It makes you think it’s such a long way to go, you’ll never get there.

    Try some small achievable gains, and build up slowly, but celebrate each one as steps in the right direction. That way you’ll build up your belief in yourself, and in making progress.

    The image I had in mind was (bear with me, this is a bit fanciful!) not looking up at the tip of the mountain and thinking I’d never get all the way up there, but only looking at my next 2 steps, and knowing these 2 steps were possible.

    Not sure this makes sense?

    It would be good to hear how you get on.

  • I think I need small steps, I think I am grieving for my life prior to becoming ill.

  • Baby steps.

    You’ll do it. There is a good life to be had, after such a big shock.

    Do keep in touch.

  • Like many people on here I rely on these pages for support and listening to others with Heart problems. I am appalled at the lack of psychological help/support or any form of counselling from NHS. Rehab says it offers it, but it practice it is not offered. So I turned to BHF who have been a great source of support. After a couple of phone calls to the help line they directed me to this forum. However, I feel that NHS fixed me physically and then just left me to 'get on' with it. I still have days when I think I wish I hadn't had the surgery. I don't think you are prepared for the aftermath and what's to come. I have ended up on anti depressants, hopefully just for the short term, but they have helped. I also started losing my sight 17 years ago and was never given any psychological support for that either and my vision has deteriorated since my bypass. I also find doing crafts and keeping myself distracting myself from over thinking helps.

  • Hello there....I'm actually from Ireland and moved over here two years ago. I'm currently very depressed, but working hard on feeling better :) I remember a few years ago when I first started having very bad heart palpitations, I became depressed and even had burnout. What helped me was firstly going on antidepressants (40mg of prozac) then generally taking time out of 'real life' and taking time off to relax and rediscover myself. I painted lots, read lots of inspiring books and also kept a gratitude journal and a regular journal. As time went on I slowly felt better and after rigorous testing a slight abnormality was found in my heart. This time round I won't be able to take 'time off' from life as I live in another country far away from my family who can take me in during a hard time. I'm seeing a counselor about once a week, using meditation and generally trying to keep as positive as I can while feeling super down. I've also asked to be put back on 20mg of Prozac. I try to keep going as best I can every day and hope things will get easier and brighter as time goes on :)

  • Hi DaggerBlaze. ..I found your post really inspirational...The fact that when you were at such a low point, you managed to find the will and the energy, and the space to work out who your 'self' was at that stage, and what helped you to heal - a real achievement that I think most people in that situation would not be able to reach. I am also a great believer in journals - although I note that you refer to 'gratitude journals' - a good idea! Sounds a bit like a 'blessings jar' :). I wrote a lot of Misery stuff with some Joy entries dotted in between but I would put a little flower sticker next to the Joy bits so that when I returned to it, they were the ones I saw first!! Sometimes it's the medication that is needed to balance our physical chemicals so that we can then focus on/observe/feel/address the head and heart stuff... Sorry to hear that you are living away from your family but hopefully technology such as Facetime/ Skype can help bring them a little bit closer. Glad you've found a husband has just got his appointment- just over 2 years since his double bypass at age 48. Which I think is shocking, but sadly is all we can expect from our ailing NHS now 😐. Anyway - onwards and upwards...wishing you the best, and a full recovery - which may not mean back to the person you were, but a new, different and equally amazing 'you'! ☺Take care.

  • I think we should distinguish between clinical depression, loosely defined as when you can't "pull yourself together" and need help, whether chemical or counselling, and the blues, which I am sure we have all felt, with our lives, hopes and dreams all altered.

    I don't know (I'm pleased to say) about the clinical depression, but things that have worked for me to get over the lesser variety include exercise, where possible, and always keeping the brain active. This can include reading, listening to music etc, but also taking up a hobby. I have become interested in family history - there is so much available on-line now, but the possibilities are endless.

    For those 3 o'clock in the morning fits of depression, keep your brain active with something fairly boring. How many countries/rivers/film stars can you list beginning with A, B, C etc? Sing yourself one of those horribly repetitious songs like "10 green bottles". Every time you make a mistake you have to go back to the beginning. You should soon fall asleep again! Anything to stop your mind dwelling on the negatives of your condition.

  • Thank you all for your replies. It is so helpful for us to understand your experiences, so that Heart Matters is as helpful, compassionate, and in touch as possible.

    We'll be doing a feature on depression in the winter issue of the magazine, in case anyone wants to check it out.

    Thanks, Lucy

  • Hi Lucy that would be good in the mag as this will help others.

  • Thanks Twobells, hope you like the feature

  • Drugs are typically what's prescribed but initially just felt isolated and angry as well as depressed. Not having anyone of a similar age (young adult) at the time who could relate was incredibly difficult as I felt and still do like a nuisance and burden to those around me. It's very hard to explain properly but other than 6 week counselling which wasgood but not long enough I've largely muddled along slowly.

    Being diagnosed and having problems - you're given the diagnosis/ treatment and merrily sent on your way with little or no consideration to the impact that has on you pyschologically. My GP is lovely but has little specific knowledge.

    Self manage and talk yo a few v close friends & some family!

  • I'm new to this,but would just like to say I suffered badly before my heart attack with mental issues , but since I've been on my meds specificaly Sertriline small dose 25mg, which I may add shouldn't be prescribed to heart patients ( one of it's side effects can make the heart race/or beat faster) things have changed for the better,seems I've found a drug which as worked and I'm not afraid of going out,beeing me, no bad thoughts of being intential cut a long story short I've found it a win win having this heart attack, with having to go for regular walks,have regular visits with health professionels and managing my health better,less stress all round and being part of the world again means a lot to me..

  • update from blue 62; Latest on the new guy, just got diagnosed with Type 2 diabeties to day, 5th Dec ,start on another tablet Thursday Metformin 500mg once a day to start, aw well another pill to add to the pill box lol, only good side effect being could cause weight loss,as well as vomitting,diarhea..good fun and there's me thinking i'm fit as a fiddle,well there goes jumping over the moon....

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