A Heart Probing Journal


Anxiety lurks around the corner. I keep it at bay by being pretty much in the present or future beyond Tuesday. My family however is more preoccupied.

This most recent incursion into my innards has come about as a result of a blockage of two stents in the right descending coronary I had placed three years ago. My symptoms then were a grinding pain in the middle of my chest and a fist that worked its way up my back when I exerted. The stents worked fine until early December.

Sarah did not sleep well again last night. I sometimes take an atavan to put me out so I can rest when my head starts to fire up with a lot of useless thinking. Mostly this comes in the middle of the night for both of us.

With the kids it’s different – a lot of phone calls checking in, asking how I am feeling, wanting to know what the risks are coming up and the likely outcomes.

I think about my own mortality frequently, especially in the late night and early morning hours. I don’t get morbid about it, but it is kind of in my face. My largest concern is making sure those I love, family and friends know that.

There are different kinds and degrees of love, and I have been fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of those relationships. Sarah is the witness to my life and I hers, for thirty eight years. If we experience anything salvific in our lives it’s being in a relationship where the ebb and flow of mood, craziness and personal history is incorporated into a working template for your kids. When they get older and you begin to see the path they are following, then you can see the success and limitations of your own understanding.

I have many friends I love also; male and female, some whom I have lost through death. I have been gently harassed by both my spouse and children for all the “girl” friends I have. I do. Some of these women were students of mine who I valued because of who they were. Others were old girlfriends who I still have affection for. My thought is that if they took the time to love me and I them: that doesn’t go away, it changes, but it’s still there. I want all these people to know I love them and what is in my heart, albeit compromised a bit, does not disappear.

The care I received at Abbott was superior. There was very little dissembling in explaining stuff. All this is very imprecise as most medicine is. Having been in the business as a psychologist and knowing all the variables that come into to play, what emerges is a formula something like this: education + experience + symptom presentation = a working diagnosis. I think a lot of people think that the picture in medicine is a lot clearer than it can ever be. We are at the mercy of a lot of stuff we have absolutely no control over. That in some way takes away some of the anxiety. It is what it is.


  1. Hey Doug,
    It’s Sarah Kipling here. I’ve really been enjoying your blog. I don’t think I knew you were a writer. I feel like I get little insights to your and Sarah’s life.
    When I read this post I immediately thought of a movie I recently watched- Forks Over Knives.
    I don’t want to be the annoying, “If you do this, you’ll get better,” but I also thought you two might enjoy it.
    Wishing you well.

    • Sarah, Thanks for the comment. Yes, even in retirement my head keeps stirring. If I could just find time to do more writing it would be good. My part time psych business keeps me busier sometimes than I would like although the $ is nice. Hope you are yours are doing well.

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