Dealing with Depression

Ever since you’ve had your blood clot, you’ve been feeling a little down. Maybe you don’t enjoy the activities you once did (either because you can’t do them or don’t feel up to it), you feel alone, are easily discouraged, emotionally charged and cry or react at the drop of a hat – literally (don’t worry, I cried for several hours over spilling spaghetti sauce in the kitchen once shortly after my PE). Maybe you feel hopeless, like no one cares and even wonder if life’s going to be like this from now on, why not give up? It hurts to move, get up, lie down or even breathe. No wonder you’re depressed when you spell it all out, right? Dealing with depression after a blood clot is not uncommon, yet, it is uncommonly talked about.

Experiencing a DVT or PE, brings a lot to cope with, both physically and emotionally. Clot Connect, an organization seeking to increase knowledge of blood clots, clotting disorders and anticoagulation by providing education and support resources for patients and health care professionals states, “It is normal to feel shock, anxiety and fear following the diagnosis of a blood clot”  on their FAQ page. Let that sink it for a moment before reading on. You are normal for feeling this way.

In fact, it has been noted that high levels of anxiety, depression and psychological stress are reported among patients with DVT and/or PE, but very little research has been done regarding the psychological implications of surviving a DVT and/or PE. The anxiety, fear and depression that can be quite common after a blood clot can be attributed to many factors including, but not limited to the fact that a patient survived a life-threatening event, limited mobility and daily function, the lifestyle impact of being placed on a long-term blood thinner, decrease in quality of life, and fear of a clot returning (which can happen). There are few resources available regarding the emotional and psychological concerns that accompany a PE and DVT. I have included the ones I know of here:

The National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) information also notes that “although thrombosis is rare in the young, [it] can cause severe psychological distress that influences the quality of life and the coping capacities of patients [Source].”

If you are feeling depressed, anxious, scared or unsure about all that has happened to you during and since your DVT and/or PE, here are my top tips for dealing with depression.

Tips to Help You Recover From the Emotional Effects of DVT and PE
  • Remember you are not alone. Blood clots are a common medical condition. It is estimated that 900,000 people in the United States develop DVT and PE each year [Source].
  • Talk to your doctor.  He or she may be able to direct you to other resources or provide anti-anxiety or anti-depressants. Even if you do not think your primary physician will understand your concerns about depression, still inform him or her about your feelings. It may also be beneficial to seek out a referral to a counselor or psychologist as an additional support for what you are going through. Do not be afraid to ask for help!
  • Understand post-thrombotic syndrome and do what you can to prevent it.  One of the long-term, and potentially upsetting, effects of DVT is post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) and it is not in your head. Find out more about PTS, including the emotional effects and how to help prevent it.
  • Seek out a support group. Finding support is important when dealing with recovery from a blood clot. While some in-person support groups do exist (ask your doctor if there are any near you), they are rare. You can join BCRN’s private support group on Facebook. Also, visit here to find even more support groups.
  • Learn about your condition. What you went through was a significant and even life-changing event. Learning about what happened to you through reading, relating to others and talking to your doctor and others can help you to feel empowered, calm and knowledgeable about what did happen and what your recovery might entail. Don’t know where to start? The list of resources on the left-hand column of this page is a great place!
  • Know that your condition is treatable and manageable. Be confident in your treatment plan by discussing it with your doctor and any trusted friends or family members you may have. Connect with other survivors who have been where you are now.
  • Write your feelings down. A daily or weekly journal of how you felt, what you did, progress you made or challenges you faced can help you to see how far you really have come over time. Writing, even if it is only a few sentences a day to express a particular emotion or event, is very helpful in releasing your feelings and giving value to them. Consider writing down and sharing your entire blood clot story. What you feel is important and sometimes it just feels good to get it out of your head.
  • Have patience with yourself. Recovery takes a long time and it’s not easy. Know what you are okay, you are doing what you can and you are right where you need to be. Something as simple as walking to the bathroom or making a sandwich is enough for one day. If you are struggling to get back to where you were pre-blood clot physically and emotionally, remember it takes time and it is different for everyone.
  • Be kind to yourself. You are loved. You have been though a lot and your body and mind have been faced with a catastrophic incident. It is okay to feel the way you do from time to time and it will take some time to adjust.

Please remember, if you are facing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call 911 or seek other help (such as a hospital emergency room or doctor’s care) immediately.

If you are thinking of suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Remember, even if it seems hopeless, suicide is not the answer.

Share your story. Have you felt depressed since your blood clot? How have you dealt with depression?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,