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Getting Through Recovery with Four Tips

July 24, 2022

Six weeks ago I had open heart bypass surgery.

Although I keep referring to it as a triple bypass, while on the table, it turned into a quadruple. It doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other.

There was also an event during surgery.

The best guess is that an air bubble entered the heart giving rise to a minor heart attack while on the table. While never good, thankfully it was considered minor.

The event passed quickly with no particular intervention. It does however require me to be on an additional medicine for a year to help in the heart’s healing.

There was a lead up of about six weeks to surgery during which time the blockages were diagnosed and assessed. It all began with chest pain, angina while walking.

That time allowed for my psychological adjustment to coronary heart disease.

Of particular importance, I learned I would very likely survive the surgery. It was the recovery that would pose a challenge. That did frighten me. Truly.

With regard to my recovery as is often the case, it wasn’t linear. It had its extreme moments. The difficulties encountered were more the outcome of a few extreme drug reactions. Once understood and corrected, much improved.

I sought to cope and manage right from the outset of this journey. I truly developed and considered my recovery plan. I followed it closely. It included:

1) Treat all my service providers respectfully and compassionately. Always be aware that however I felt, they were working in a context of being understaffed and overwhelmed. Regardless of my discomfort and/or abject fears, strive to remain empathetic to others. Indeed express an interest in their well-being. As you seek to be treated, so should you treat others.

2) Be kind to my wife and family. I took the perspective that my pain and fears cannot be used as an excuse to treat them or anyone else poorly. They too were scared and needed my support and good will as much as I needed theirs. Show gratitude always.

3) Do not be embarrassed or feel shameful or see a need to in a sense be strong and independent. In other words, no toxic positivity or masculinity. Own being human. Be transparent about one’s issues, needs and fears. The objective of this was to be open to receiving support. The more support, the easier the recovery. However, if confronted by the toxic positivity of others, set boundaries. Allow oneself to be real in one’s experience. No false fronts.

4) Maintain a future oriented perspective to manage when overwhelmed in the moment, particularly during times of considerable distress. Perhaps the most difficult point of my recovery plan, this one helped me on a very personal level remain calm to go through the toughest moments. See that point in the future when things are well. Go to that place when the current is painful or fearful.

That did help immensely with those toughest moments that included: the hallucinations from pain meds; the fear of dying the result of drowning in mucous while in hospital; the trip to emerg when coughing was out of control and blood pressure dropped, all the result of drug reactions; the one night of an extreme anxiety reaction.

No, recovery wasn’t linear. There were particularly scary times. I executed that four-point plan throughout this experience. It helped immensely.

Adversity has its lessons.

While I learned about coronary heart disease and surgery, I had takeaways about recovery generally, regardless of the issue.

I have a deeper respect for the pain and fear of anyone going through any kind of recovery. I feel a deeper empathy the result of my experience.

I appreciate the power of the future orientation to cope with the struggles of the moment.

I recognize that regardless the pain, the degree to which we remain mindful of others and our impact upon them it helps them help us and we too feel better about ourselves throughout.

Our relationships remain more functional and satisfying as we continue to be responsible for our behavior and expressive of gratitude.

So here I am at six weeks.

I was told it is often a milestone moment.

Driving privileges are restored.

Intimate activity can resume.

Truly, I am feeling much better although continuing to tweak meds and still gaining strength.

I am so grateful for those who have walked beside me. Tips offered. Care packages provided. Private messages of hope and gratitude.

Life. I just find it so much better lived in a safe and caring community.

That community isn’t available to everyone.

My hope is that others consider the points to my recovery. It may help towards their recovery from whatever their need as well as the creation of their own caring community.

It always starts with personal responsibility.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

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