Posted in Mental Health, Psychology, Self Help

Changes on the Horizon

Welcome to my Heart 2 Heart Series featuring existential reflections of the narratives of my heart stories and those of my children and how these stories impact me, my wife, family & friends. Glad you have joined me on this introspective journey.

Follow the Blog for Updated Posts to This Series.

Me at My Doc’s Office and They Have Hockey Stuff So I am a Happy Camper.

All the way back in 1965, when I was born on the first day of the new year, a life time of heart related medical dramas were sprinkled into my life script, unbeknownst to me. Those dramas and traumas would become the journeys and adventures I would and WILL face and offer me the chance to suck it up and live life or dig a hole and drawl in.

In March 1971 at the ripe old age of six (6), I underwent open heart surgery to correct two congenital defects: (1) a pulmonary stenosis and (2) a ventricular septal defect. The docs waited until 1971 because the procedures to correct these congenital defects was not developed until 1970.

I remember the surgery, hospital stay and some of the procedures that I endured as a kid. I remember my parents visiting me in the hospital. I remember my post surgical recovery. Half daized and overlooking the City of Chicago all aglow as it was night and I clung to “Prince Froggy”, a homemade stuffed animal I was given by the nursing staff.

For years, I lived a ‘normal‘ life. Don’t like that word ‘normal.’ All I know is that ‘normal‘ is the setting on a dryer. Yet, I played football, ran track, participated in school plays, flirted with girls and rejected and built a group of friends as I made my way through the mayhem of Catholic school (grammar and high school) and college. Albeit in college I pretty much forgot about my heart history and challenges and I lived life hard both in the US and overseas in Italy at the Loyola University Rome Center.

When I was 25 and decided that it was time to once again pay attention to my heart history and narrative, a cardiologist casually informed me that when I was “in my fifties” I would need to have the defects once again ‘looked at‘ and maybe even replaced. When I digested that piece of info, I was a bit taken aback yet thought, “my fifties? Shit! That’s double my current life span.” So I filed it and didn’t give it a hole hell of a lot of thought.

Well, I am almost 58 and the clock is striking twelve.

After a series of quality of life downturns and a rigorously lived life that has been slowed due to ‘symptoms‘ of right-side heart failure, it is time to open the hood and make some corrections and repairs to my ticker.

On January 31, 2023 I will undergo my second open heart surgery. Oh, boy.

I plan on blogging my thoughts between now and then and during my recovery via my blog. May even do podcasts and some videos. We will see.

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My Open Heart Surgery

Posted in Mental Health, Psychology, Self Help

Best, Worst, and Most Likely 

One of the reasons many of us experience anxiety is because our imagination create worst-case scenarios. When our brain creates a movie that contains scenes featuring our life AND those scenes HAVE NOT happened and MAY NEVER happen, our imagination is playing with us. When our imagination is allowed to run rampant, our stress response can be triggered. The “soul” purpose of the brain is to predict and anticipate any possible stressor, any possible threat to our physical and emotional safety, and prevent that from happening by preparing us, making us alert to the situation. So, when we allow our imagination to run wild, creating fantasies about the future that lead to a potential threat for our physical and emotional safety, we feel it. And it’s mighty unpleasant.

When you find yourself in this trap, use this psychological fitness skill to reduce your overall anxiety and improve your general mental wellness. Using this psychological fitness skill takes planning and practice. You must be determined to plan and practice this technique. Good mental wellness takes effort.  

When you find yourself focused on and fixated upon the worst-case scenario, stop yourself.

Say to yourself, “Time to look at other possible outcomes”.

Then, deliberately and intentionally, consider the best-case scenario and outcome of the situational stressor that currently has your attention.

For a lot of us this is difficult. For several reasons. First, the natural reaction of the brain is to prepare for the worst. So, when you are faced with a situation where there are multiple outcomes your brain will automatically fixate and focus on the worst-case scenario in an effort to prepare you for that undesired outcome. This of course creates stress and anxiety and loads of unpleasant and unwanted physical and emotional reactions and even some behavioral choices we’d prefer not to make.

The second reason it’s difficult to think of the best-case scenario is that most of us have had setbacks and disappointments in our life. These setbacks and disappointments become “material” for our brain. Our brain uses this “material” and historical information from our past to influence the “creation of that imagination “worst-case scenario” that plagues our existence.

So, thinking of a best-case scenario, which by the way will change your emotional experience, takes work and effort. It doesn’t come easy. But it can be done. So, when you’re thinking about how your world will fall apart, collapse, that the sky will fall, and so on, stop yourself. Start to imagine yourself in the best-case scenario, the most ideal and wonderful outcome of the situational stressor that you currently face. 

After considering the best-case scenario for a while (give it 5 minutes) and resetting your stress response, balance the best- and worst-case scenarios. Think of a most likely scenario.

What is the most likely outcome of the situational stressor that you currently face?

Nearly all of the time the worst- and best-case scenarios don’t play out yet we give the worst-case scenario far more screen time than it deserves.

Focusing on the most likely scenario allows you to predict and anticipate the outcome of the situational stressor you face for the purpose of improving your coping, problem solving, and communication skill sets.