Superwoman slows down
When Kathy Kastan’s doctors told her she needed heart bypass surgery, everything she thought she knew about herself slipped away. At 40, she was athletic, at a healthy weight, and felt invincible. She was also stressed. She’d just closed her psychotherapy practice, relocated from Baltimore to Memphis with her husband and three sons, buried her mother, and begun caring for her grandmother who’d fallen and broken her hip and both wrists. “It was a stressful and emotional time,” she says.
The first signs of heart disease—pain in her left arm, shortness of breath, nausea—soon followed. Eight months after they appeared, she had heart bypass surgery. “In hindsight, I can see I was overwhelmed,” says the now 48-year-old, “but, at the time, I thought I had it all under control.” With the support of her family and the foresight to reach out to therapists, Kastan not only survived the surgery but also the emotional whirlwind that followed, including bouts with depression and anxiety.
Kastan has since written a book called From the Heart (Da Capo Press, 2007), to describe her own emotional journey and that of 100 other women she interviewed. Looking back at her experience, she now believes that her mistake was to take on too much, while refusing the support of family and friends. “I thought I was the only one who could get things done,” she says. “I was trying to be the good daughter, the good wife, and the good mother. I realize now it’s about letting go, about understanding that you can’t control everything, and asking for help.”