Going home after cardiac surgery can be strange and a bit frightening. Professional help is no longer at hand, and you are adjusting to a different way of life – at least initially.
Although you may regain physical strength quite steadily, the emotional impact takes longer to settle down.
Coping with feelings
As the days go by and you become more used to the fact that you have had surgery, you may find that you burst into tears for no apparent reason, or feel intensely sad, agitated, irritated and cranky. People often describe these episodes as coming in waves.
It can be disturbing to realise the effect this is having on your relationships with family and friends. Partners and families of heart-surgery patients usually find the patients much more difficult to live with for a while.
Suggestions for you and your family
- Recognise your emotional reactions and behavioural changes as a normal part of your recovery.
- Don't fight your feelings or deny your behaviour. This may lead to depression, from bottling up your emotions. Try to express your feelings to yourself and others. It will help you realise what you are dealing with, and enable others to understand and respond to you.
- Partners and other family members can help best by letting you express how you feel, and acknowledging this.
- It is much more helpful for you if your family and friends remain consistent in their attitude and responses, rather than changing to match your mood swings.
- Those close to you can help by relating to you as they always have. This will give you greater security and less change to cope with.
|Talk to your doctor or specialist about your condition, medication and other concerns. Getting expert information and advice will help you manage anxiety.|
Emotional healing takes longer
As time goes by, you will regain your confidence and self-esteem, and work through your intense reactions.
This can take a lot longer to achieve than your physical recovery – typically 12–18 months. It's all too easy to expect too much from yourself, because you feel physically much better in a matter of weeks.
Be fair to yourself. Set realistic goals for your recovery. You can't be expected to know how to cope with a situation as new as this. The hospital social worker can give you and your family information about coping day to day.
This information was first published in You and Your Heart - an education booklet for patients, families and friends. © 2006 Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service