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Mental Health Awareness

"What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversations." -Glenn Close

The first time I was introduced to mental health was when I was in the hospital after my LVAD surgery in 2019. Before then I could not tell you what mental health was. I feel that there is such a stigma when it comes to talking about mental health problems. We all have problems, some worse than others, but we all have them. A common misconception is that only people who have problems need therapists.

My life changed: Mentally and physically

My first talk with a therapist was in the hospital after my second stroke and LVAD surgery. My life was changed in a matter of days. First, the stroke happened, and then I was in advanced heart failure. It was too much for me to handle.

After my LVAD surgery, the hospital sent the palliative care team to speak to me. The palliative care team is usually sent out when someone is given a serious diagnosis like heart failure or cancer. According to Vitas Healthcare, palliative care is the care that provides relief from symptoms resulting from disease or injury.

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When they first came I acted like I was sleeping because I did not think that I needed to see them. I did not know what they were there for until they started explaining themselves. Then I agreed to see them. They came and asked me questions like, what would make me comfortable. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be better and out of the hospital because I had been there for 2 months.

Experiencing my emotions

When I was discharged from the hospital my life changed so much. I now had the LVAD that had to be plugged up every day. I feel like just knowing I had a device pumping my heart was almost too much for me to bear. I had built up so much animosity and anger that I did not think I could handle life with advanced heart failure. Along with that, I was also in speech therapy because the stroke left me with aphasia. So my speech was a work in progress at the time.

Things came to a head months later when we were at my cousin's wedding and I was about to have another breakdown. My mom was sitting next to me saying it was ok and that my time would come too, but I was not thinking that at all.

My life as I knew it felt like it was over, and walking around with an LVAD was not helping. I felt that everyone was looking at me and judging me. When we had gotten into our driveway it felt like someone had turned the faucet on and I started crying. My mom held me, and told me that I needed to get help because this was not me and I needed to get help acclimating to life again. I agreed.

Talking to a therapist as part of my heart failure journey

When I had my first appointment with the therapist I was so nervous. I had never spoken to a therapist before so I did not know what to expect. She called me into her office and the first thing I noticed was how the room was decorated, and how calming it was. I sat down and the first thing that she asked me was to tell her about myself. I told her about my 2 strokes and about being in advanced heart failure. How my life had been twisted and turned upside down. I basically lost who I was as a person.

She responded by acknowledging what I had gone through and she gave me homework to do. She told me to start saying affirmations to myself in the morning. It started getting easier going to a therapist the more I went. I stopped seeing a therapist and started noticing that I had social anxiety, so I started seeing a new therapist. I see her currently, and also for my foreseeable future.

I want to close by saying it's okay if you need to see a therapist, like I do, someone to talk to that will not judge you but will help you. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a healthy mind. Do not be ashamed to say, “I need help,” or “I can’t do it on my own.” There is nothing weak or wrong about needing help.

“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.” -John Green

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Heart-Failure.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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