Danielle, transplant recipient
Whether you or your loved one had a transplant, you’ve been through a lot. Even if you were very upbeat throughout treatment and recovery, it’s normal to sometimes feel down or worried after transplant. At the same time, you may also find meaning and personal growth from your experience.
Emotional highs and lows after transplant happen. But when feelings of anxiety, worry or feeling down won’t go away or get in the way of activities of everyday life, it’s time to ask for help. You can’t just “shake off” depression or anxiety. But both are very treatable.
Recognizing anxiety and depression
Symptoms of anxiety include feeling worried, fear or dread. Some of the symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad, irritable or an “empty” mood that won’t go away
- Sleeping more or less than usual or not being able to sleep
- Not being interested or finding pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, including sex
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, helpless or worthless
- Thoughts of hurting or killing yourself
If you’ve had any of these symptoms most days for 2 or more weeks, it can be a sign that you need to ask for help. Tell your doctor about your symptoms and ask about what could help you. Your doctor might suggest a prescription medicine, talking to a therapist or both. Ask to see a therapist or counselor who has experience helping people who are recovering from a life-threatening illness or caregivers.
If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, get help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) any time — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to talk with someone who can help. You can also dial 911 or go to your local hospital emergency department (ER).
Sometimes the anxiety is so intense after going through a very difficult experience that post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, develops. If untreated, PTSD may affect your relationships and your ability to function at home, school or work.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD include:
- Bad dreams
- Scary thoughts
- Reliving your experience over and over
- Feeling emotionally numb, guilty, depressed or worried
- Feeling easily startled, tense or “on edge”
These symptoms may come early in your recovery or later on. If any of these symptoms last more than a few weeks, they might be PTSD. Tell your doctor about your symptoms.
Many people with PTSD get better with medicines, counseling and/or group therapy.
Even if you’re overcoming depression or anxiety, you may experience personal growth from all you’ve been through. Growth and meaning after transplant can come in many different ways.
Brian, a caregiver, dealt with feelings of uncertainty and helplessness as he helped his wife through the difficult times after transplant. But, their family found positives along the way. “We had a lot to celebrate, and made a point of acknowledging every milestone we could,” he says.
Reflecting on your transplant journey and how it has affected you can help you grow from the experience and find meaning.
It may help to:
- Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Look for positives or meaningful changes that have happened
- Talk about your feelings with a counselor, social worker, psychologist or faith leader
- Talk with others, perhaps at a support group, who have gone through similar experiences
- Teach others about what you’ve learned through your experience
For more support, call Be The Match at 1 (888) 999-6743 to talk with a BMT patient navigator who can provide confidential one-on-one professional guidance and support. Or, visit BeTheMatch.org/one-on-one to learn about free telephone counseling services.
Starting the conversation about anxiety or depression
If you think you’re depressed or have anxiety, or you’re concerned about a loved one, it can sometimes be hard to talk about it. Try these tips to get the conversation started.
With your doctor:
- “I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. I’m concerned that I’m depressed or overly anxious.”
- “What do you recommend so I don’t feel like this all of the time?”
- “My friend told me she’s worried about me. She wondered if I was depressed.”
With a loved one:
- “You don’t seem like yourself. How are you feeling?”
- “I’m worried I might have depression or anxiety. Do you think talking to a doctor could help?”
- “It’s okay to ask for help. Your doctor would want to know about these feelings you are having so she can help you.”
- “I’d like to help you get treatment. Would you like me to be with you when you make an appointment with your doctor?”
Resources for you
To find a mental health professional near you, the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator offers information about mental health services and resources. Learn more at FindTreatment.samhsa.gov.
You can find information and educational resources on a wide range of mental health topics, including anxiety, depression and PTSD, from the National Institute of Mental Health. Learn more at nimh.nih.gov.
Sometimes talking to someone who’s been there can help. The Be The Match Peer Connect program can put you in touch with one of our trained volunteers—who are all transplant recipients or caregivers. Learn more at BeTheMatch.org/peerconnect.