Emotional highs and lows after transplant

Posted September 12th, 2016 by Be The Match and filed in News, Patient Stories
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Whether you or your loved one had a transplant, you’ve been through a lot. Even if you were very upbeat throughout treatment, it’s normal to sometimes feel down, worried or anxious after transplant.

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. Read on to learn about symptoms of depression and anxiety, and how to ask for help.


Danielle, transplant recipient

 “For the first 3 months after transplant, I was severely depressed. I was in a ‘why me’ state for a while. I didn’t want to get out of bed. My doctor prescribed antidepressants. That, along with the support of my mom, really helped.”                

– Danielle, transplant recipient

 Recognizing anxiety and depression

Symptoms of anxiety include feeling worried, fear or dread. Some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • 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. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) any time to talk with someone who can help.

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 what could help you. Your doctor might suggest a prescription medicine, talking to a therapist or both.

Sometimes it can be hard to talk about these symptoms. If you’re talking to your doctor, it might help to say, “I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. I’m concerned that I’m depressed or overly anxious.” Or, if you’re concerned about a loved one, you might say, “You don’t seem like yourself. How are you feeling?”

Everett Lee

Jeanette, caregiver (middle) with her daughters

“I wasn’t really interested in any of the things I used to do. I was so busy trying to make it through each day that I never noticed that I had changed. My doctor explained that I was depressed and overwhelmed – and he prescribed anti-depression medicine. That helped. Both my daughters were happy to hear me laugh again.”

– Jeanette, transplant caregiver

 Recognizing PTSD

Sometimes, 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:

  • Nightmares
  • 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.

Finding meaning

The search for meaning in life is part of being human. During a health crisis, it’s normal to move through an ongoing emotional process of suffering, coping and making meaning. Reflect on your transplant journey, or your loved one’s transplant journey, and how it has affected you. This can help you make sense of your situation and find meaning. Ask yourself:

  • What new insights have I gained from the experience?
  • What is now clear in my life that wasn’t before? What is less clear?
  • How have my priorities changed?

It may help to write your thoughts and feelings in a journal, or talk about your feelings with a counselor, social worker, psychologist or faith leader. Some people find it helpful to talk with others, perhaps in a support group, who have gone through similar experiences.

If you need to talk, Be The Match patient services coordinators are available to listen, answer questions and provide support. Call 1 (888) 999-6743 or email patientinfo@nmdp.org.

If you want to connect with someone who’s “been there”, the Be The Match Peer Connect program will put you in touch with one of many trained volunteers who’ve been through transplant. To request a connection, visit BeTheMatch.org/patient-peerconnect or call 1 (888) 999-6743.

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