So I haven’t blogged in a while and having just had a surgery on my neck, I had a realisation as the anaesthetic wore off… that I had been extremely traumatised by being in hospital in 2018 and by the pain and difficulties that surrounded that series of events. I’m not writing this for any sympathy or some sort of medal, but, as with all my blogging, it’s become somewhat cathartic for me and I hope sharing my raw experiences helps others to connect with theirs and maybe feel less isolated.
It may well be completely obvious to those around me that of course, having a pain-relieving procedure that spiralled into 3 trips to A&E before I completely lost the ability to walk (at which point I called 999 who refused to send help an Uber driver actually had to carry me into the emergency department) and then being stuck in hospital without a diagnosis for 2 weeks followed by 3 months of very painful recovery with no medical support would be traumatic. But I thought I was passed it, until this week.
My current surgery was postponed twice, first because my heart wasn’t in great shape after having Covid-19 so I had to have further tests, then a 2nd time due to a staff emergency at the hospital. I didn’t really mind postponing because it was the safe thing to do, but I also had a real sense of dread about it. When I arrived finally for the surgery to happen my blood pressure was quite high, which only really happens when I’m in pain and is sometimes the only way I know I’m hurting because I have got so used to dealing with it – but I genuinely didn’t feel in much discomfort at that moment so maybe it’s something else. Fast forward half a day and I have just had a 3 hour surgery where my neck is cut open to remove some rogue bone and I’m just waking up with perfect blood pressure and feeling pretty comfortable, but the nurse checking my vitals hands me a prescribed dose of morphine which immediately stirred a flashback… it’s the moment I realise just exactly what I’ve experienced.
During the 2018 incident I was handed these same syringes of oramorph (but 3 times this dose!) several times a day on top of lots of tramadol and handfuls of other things I can’t remember but I was still unable to move my legs, laugh, breathe or sleep due to the pain and getting to the bathroom just a few feet away was a 30 minute trauma using a walking frame (thank god for upper body strength!). Even after more morphine, having to lay on my back for a scan caused me such unimaginable pain it made me shake, cry and go into shock. It’s just the contrast to my current situation which clearly is not super comfortable that has brought this into focus and the fact that pain in itself is traumatic. It was compounded by a bit of fear of the unknown but the fact remains, circumstances don’t dictate the level of stress response, pain is a HUGE player.
It makes me think of the women I have helped in post-natal recovery who have had a hugely painful and traumatic birthing story, but are then just expected to carry on and be a happy new mum. They get offered anti-depressants or labelled as having normal “baby blues” like it’s just a hormonal dip. Anyone who has seen Adam Kay’s “This is Going to Hurt” cannot escape how raw these situations can be and that’s just the depiction in the hospital, how about the after effects of nearly dying from blood loss or being cut with no aneasthetic because there’s no time. How do you go on from that with no support? There is a reason traditional maternity hospitals expected new mums to reside there for the first month, you need to recover! Being forced back to work in this situation is unthinkable, modern life expects too much, too fast and then wonders why people fall apart.
Now don’t think I’m going soft because I’m back on pain killers for a few days, I feel my clearest thinking comes while I’m medicated. I genuinely think everyone could benefit from some form of talking therapy or at the very least a life-coach, but we don’t need to medicalise and medicate all our natural uncomfortable feelings too. Have you noticed how no-one feels sad anymore? They have depression. That no-one feels anxious, they have anxiety or an anxiety disorder. No-one is OK with saying they had a nasty experience that’s hard to get past, they have PTSD. Just like saying someone is “on the spectrum” because they may not have the same social skills as you, remember that autism is also a MEDICAL diagnosis. Now of course these conditions and diagnoses absolutely exist, but they should not be confused with normal emotions and reactions to negative experience. Not everything that happens to us lasts forever and certainly does not have to result in a long-term disorder. It’s OK to feel all the feels, accept them as part of life, recognise them and be OK to be human, just trying to deal with all the crazy unexpected things that rear their head, especially in this digital age of over-sharing. No-one’s Insta-life is designed to be unfiltered, even sad stuff is engineered to be “inspirational” in order to gain followers and no-one is posting daily TikTok’s with a genuine smile every time believe me. There is plenty of normal, everyday less-than-ideal content happening off line every day which doesn’t need to be posted and doesn’t need to scar you for life. That IS life. Sometimes you absolutely need medical help if the ramifications are untenable, prolonged or show no signs of improving, but sometimes you just need to say it out loud and ride the feeling though in order to move forward with self acceptance and I think it’s crucial to recognise the difference.