At the time many of you are reading this, I will be experiencing the one thing I fear the most — entering the surgical suite of a hospital to undergo surgery. While it is unrelated to my spinal cord injury, it is something that must be done…something I can’t ignore since it is causing me considerable pain, restless nights and undue mental and physical stress. In fact, I have waited too long and now it has become urgent. And, while it isn’t a life or death procedure, I am terrified as to what ‘could’ happen since the last time I was in an Operating Room the unimaginable occurred. With the slam of a mallet my life’s direction changed.
My shrink tells me it’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — a fancy name for how I am feeling. However, it doesn’t make me feel any better. Not that it should. In fact, when I actually allow myself to sit and think I find I can’t breathe. I don’t feel sorry for myself or want others to either. I actually feel sorry for the nurse who will be with me in pre-op prior to surgery. While I am armed with techniques to help manage my racing thoughts, there are times when I can’t calm my mind enough to even think through the techniques. Medication is an option; however, if I don’t allow myself to feel this experience, will I ever be able to get through it?
When I explained my surgical past to the new surgeon he was curious. He couldn’t help but laugh when I told him about my broken toe during my hysterectomy. Yes, I believe I have forgotten to write about that past experience in the blog. That was two years prior to my spinal cord injury. I believe he chuckled since my husband and I were laughing since it is a bit comical and only happens ‘in my world’. The bone could not be repaired and an artificial toe joint was used. Yes, my track record on the operating table has not been one that spells s u c c e s s and I feel I have earned the right to be concerned about medical procedures.
The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of yourself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life.
I believe the definition falls short since many PTSD patients may be reminded of certain traumas due to instant uncontrollable triggers, in my case, surgery, hospitals, doctors, etc., and for soldiers returning from serving in war zones, hearing gun shots or fireworks, which may remind them of horrible events they witnessed. The mind is so complex and the expression…the mind has a mind of its own...is so true. I wish I could just stop thinking — turn my mind off when it turns to unpleasant thoughts or reminders of my injury and Dr. Liar. However, I can’t…and now I am doing the one thing I fear the most. No choice, no control.
God’s plan has led me in this direction — to this particular surgeon, on this day and is by my side in the Operating Room. And, if something should go wrong, I have proven I can make it through difficult times. In fact, I am smarter and stronger. While what will happen is in God’s hands, I have spent the last few days worrying, researching the doctor and hospital, and preparing myself mentally as best I can, but as I write this post the expression ‘Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you’ keeps popping into my thought process.
While my heart knows worrying about a situation doesn’t help change it or add value nor does it change the outcome, I wish my heart would communicate this message to my mind. While it is unusual for me to not discuss a topic prior to its occurrence, I decided to only share my surgery with a few friends and family members. I am unsure of the reason. Maybe I am tired of being the patient and discussing my medical woes. Perhaps I was worried I would jinx the procedure.
Whatever the reason, I pray when I wake from surgery, I will feel the normal amount of pain, but in addition, I also hope to feel a different emotion — gratitude. Following this surgery, I hope to be grateful to those who help me overcome my greatest fear and continue to prove to others and to myself that I am truly a survivor.