Nightmares

I've been having occasional nightmares since getting my pacemaker 3 weeks ago. They are very surreal. Part Bionic Woman changing into the Matrix (literally the whole dream pixelizes) when I think about the device failing. I know it is triggered with the knowledge that my heart would not beat sustainably on it's own if it fails. My rate had been down to the 20's. Then of course I can't get back to sleep. 

 

Roughly how long are people taking to mentally adjust to having their pacemaker?


9 Comments

How long?

by AgentX86 - 2021-11-27 00:40:58

There is no answer to this questoin.  We're all different physically and mentally, even more so.  That said, most of us all but forget that we have a pacemaker within a few months. The dsciption often used here is that it becomes like your bellybutton.  You know it's there but we don't often contemplate it.

I having nightmares common?  Perhaps it's not common but not unheard of either.  Perhaps most have some amount of anxiety before and after PM surgey. It's not surprising since this is sprung, out of the blue, for many of us.  There was no time to prepare oneself for the inevitable.

I missed all that because my EP had been discussing it for six or seven months before, as perhaps the only way to treat my highy symptomatic flutter. When it became absolutely necessary, for other reasons, I'd already wrapped my brain around the possibility.  I was "lucky" in that I had over six months to get used to the idea before and welcomed it because I could finally free myself from the flutter.  I know my situation was quite unusual.

The bottom line is that your PM saved your life.  Once you get used to that thought, you'll find your PM is your best buddy. If it's affecting your mental health (and nightmares are an indication), you really should seek help.  I'm told that cognitive therapy works very well to get over the hump to accept, even embrace it.  You'll go from The Bionic Woman to Wonder Woman soon enough.

Good luck and I hope you get there fast.  ...and welcome to the group. 

Adjusting

by Persephone - 2021-11-27 08:11:35

"You'll go from The Bionic Woman to Wonder Woman soon enough."  What a great expression, Agent!  So true.  Santh, I hope you're feeling well with your PM and recovering comfortably from your surgery.  While getting to the "don't think about it all that much" phase may take a while, for me the "holy cow what just happened" phase was relatively short - I sought therapy as Agent describes and found it very helpful.  Wishing you a good night's sleep tonight and nights ahead, Santh - you'll get there :)

Nightmares? That's hard.

by Gotrhythm - 2021-11-27 13:28:29

We joke around here about becoming cyborgs or bionic, but your subconscious seems to have taken it seriously.

I will admit that at first I was deeply creeped out to think about an electronic device in my chest responsible for my heart beat. The first interrogation when I felt my heart being controlled by the tech was...okay, it was horrifying. I wound up in tears.

That was 11 years ago. Today, even though I'm a regular contributor here at TPC, I rarely think about my own pacemaker. In fact, a few times I've even forgotten to list it on medical history forms. All the creepy feelings are gone. I don't feel anything at all about my pacemaker--not good, not bad.

One thing that helped me accept my pacemaker (and has helped others) is to give your pacemaker a name. By naming it, you make it yours, not just something thrust on you against your will. It becomes your friend--which is what it is. I call mine mon coeur, a French term of endearment which loosely means "heart of my heart."

Give it a try. Sounds kind of silly I know, but it works.

Everyone is different and there's no time table I know of, but I do assure you that the day will come that you will realize you haven't thought about it for a long time, and you won't even know when you stopped.

Hope this helps.

 

 

Adjusting to Our Pacemakers

by Marybird - 2021-11-27 16:24:59

As I've read so many comments on this site over time about accepting, getting used to our cardiac devices, it's occurred to me that while of course all this depends on the individual, his/ her circumstances and general perspectives, it's got to be harder for a younger, healthier and more energetic individual ( or maybe one doesn't even have to be that young) who gets a device implanted without much previous notice because of a sudden life-threatening incident, than for those of us who had plenty of previous notice that there was most likely such a device looming in our future.  There's no way someone who's had a pacemaker suddenly "sprung" on them with little warning can be prepared for such an event, I'd say the reactions, positive and negative, as well as the psychological adjustments would come after the implant. 

From the numerous posts here from younger people who've expressed problems psychologically adjusting to their cardiac devices, it looks to me that those of "tender years", with more than a reasonable expectation of living completely healthy, vigorous lives can be hit harder than those of us elders ( who've been hit with the reality that things go wrong with our chassis as we age) adjusting to a cardiac device. I guess it took me a some time to realize this, but then I remember how when my own daughter, faced with her first pacemaker at age 26, and I sat bawling our eyes out in the cardiologist's office waiting room as they made arrangements for her implant. I didn't cry at all, just figured maybe it'd be a good thing when my EP informed me he thought I needed a pacemaker and I waited for them to make arrangements for that. It's been nearly 10 years and one replacement generator since my daughter's first pacemaker, and she says she's grateful for the life it gave her back, but otherwise she hardly thinks about it. 

Just speaking from my own experience, I think I had a little over two years warning, with the signs/ symptoms of SSS gradually rearing their ugly heads along with the ongoing tachycardia I'd had for years. The idea of a pacemaker didn't occur to me until it was brought up as an eventual possibility by my cardiologist, and I rejected the idea out of hand. Despite the symptoms getting worse, I didn't think they were bad enough to warrant a pacemaker because I never passed out cold. 

Eventually I did consent to a pacemaker, still convinced I really didn't need one and the thing would sit in my chest pretty much idle. So I guess I had my negative feelings about it, and adjustments to the thought of a pacemaker of my very own in perhaps the year before I actually got one. I guess I made peace with the idea before it was implanted. 

I went through the usual post op worries ( will I yank out the leads right away carrying out some verboten activity, will the thing get infected somehow, will that scar ever get less ugly?), though the pain wasn't bad and got better. What was a surprise to me was the report that from day 1 after the implant, the atrial pacing rate was at 83%, without the rate response turned on. I thought I felt better ( post surgical issues nonwithstanding) but thought it wasn't quite enough., It wasn't till the rate response was turned on during my 5 week post-op visit that I realized I felt,so much better ( and the atrial pacing rate went into the mid-90%, still to this day). 

So with the big-time improvement in my heart rate, and the ability to take enough medication to control the tachycardia ( afib), I think about the pacemaker mostly as my little titanium friend that's,given me back the life I wanted to live, with the energy and stamina ( for the most part) to do what I want. 

Vivid dreams

by Theknotguy - 2021-11-28 13:35:05

Good news, bad news.  

Bad news, because of the (usually) increased blood flow plus, in some cases, new medication, you are likely to have some increased changes in your sleeping and dreams.  I went from having an occasional bad dream to having weird dreams that were also serial. i.e. I'd have a dream one night, then pick up a second night with another dream leading off the previous one.  Not so much as bad, just weird.  I was in the same building going through the same buffet line and couldn't get anyone to give me the food I wanted.  Like I said, weird.  I'm now eight years out and am still having the vivid and weird dreams.  For some people the new heart medications cause the weird dreams.  

Good news, because of the increased blood flow and medications that are helping my heart, I'm sleeping better.  

Hopefully, after a while you'll be able to accept the fact you're going to have weird dreams and just go on with your life.  I'll put up with the weird dreams as long as I can get some real good sleep.  

Now if I could just find a good science fiction / fantasy author who would be willing to pay me for my dream ideas ....
 

pain meds?

by Tracey_E - 2021-11-29 09:22:29

Are you on any? They give me crazy dreams.

Beta Blockers ?

by Gemita - 2021-11-29 10:33:08

Santh21,

Beta blockers can deplete melatonin levels, the sleep hormone and quickly cause sleep disturbances and extremely vivid dreams.  I know this only too well since I am taking Bisoprolol and it was also confirmed by a Sleep Consultant.  Also look at any hypertension meds.  There are lots of reasons for disturbed sleep and not all of them are pacemaker or heart related or indeed caused by anxiety or difficulty coming to terms with your pacemaker.  

If you feel you need help with anxiety, have a word with your general doctor.  You might find CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy - a talking therapy) very helpful.  I had CBT some years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer (now in remission).  It was good to face and unload my fears which were far worse than the disease itself.  Looking back, I know I made myself ill at the time from worry.  When my worse fears were out in the open during CBT therapy, they seemed less threatening.  Often the fear of what might happen is far far worse than the reality.

I wish you well.

Nightmares

by Stache - 2021-11-29 12:37:48

It’s been almost 10-months since my dual-chamber implant pacing 100% of the time was installed.  I have nightmares or for me being a former combat vet flashbacks.  I had problems with infection and was implanted twice one month apart.  Being extremely physically active I feel my pacer all the time as well as the pacing.  I know my flashbacks are caused by fear of not having a backup or having an equipment failure.  Everyone assures me it will not fail and I am overstressing as to why I have the nightmares.  I suppose being a combat vet and having experienced the worse there is always the thought my pacer will malfunction and for me not an option.  Maybe one day I will get over it but not anytime soon in my case.  I am coming to terms with my pacer knowing I can’t live without it as a necessary evil in my case.

 

Nightmares

by Santh21 - 2021-12-07 19:54:55

Thank you all for the responses.

No beta blockers or pain meds. Just arthritis and allergy meds I've been on for years.

Gotrhythm, I think you hit on part of it. At my first device check, when the nurse took the rhythm way down low to see if my own heart would fire at all, it was  terrifying. It was the reality that my heart will not function on it's own anymore.

Agent and Mary, you also hit it. This came from out of the blue. Literally at 3pm found my heart to be about 43bpm, decided to go to the ER by 7 and found to be in complete block by 7:15. And even though I've worked in hospitals for 20+ years, I was incredibly unprepared to have this done. Scary too when you know all too well what happens when your heart tires out and watching your rate just keep dipping lower and lower. And the only person I've known who had one was my dad who passed a few years back; so thank you all for sharing, I really needed to hear it from someone who's been there.

Santh

You know you're wired when...

Your ICD has a better memory than you.

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