The emotional side of surgery sneaks up on you. You rarely see it coming.
Until recently, I was doing fine. I kept waiting for the emotions to catch me off guard, for the fear that I’ll never walk properly again or that something went wrong with the surgery and my problem is now worse, or that the pain is worse because my problem couldn’t be fixed. But nothing came.
I have been waiting for those lonely, shut-in days everyone warned me about, and how horrible it would be for me, a very active and busy person, to be stuck inside, alone.
The emotions never came.
It could be that I’ve had great support. There haven’t been many lonely days because there have almost always been family or friends around to take me out for a bit or to sit with me at home. (Plus, what mother of young children wouldn’t relish a little quiet and alone time? Sure, I miss my kids when they’re not home, but it sure is nice to just sit alone and read or focus on something without interruption.)
I have not had too much pain throughout this recovery. I have not been too uncomfortable. Inconvenienced, yes, but not even that much if I balance out the inconveniences with the amount of time I’ve had to catch up on things that I haven’t touched since my oldest child was born.
But as I approach the final stretch, I feel a discontent that was not there earlier in my recovery. I feel sad that the phase that I had deemed “easy” was coming to an end and that now the hard work of recovery was upon me. This frightens me.
Chronic pain has been part of my life. For the first time in years, I have been mostly pain free. And certainly, in my limited mobility state, able to rely heavily on others when pain does strike. There was little reason to feel guilt on my part when I would announce after dinner that I was in pain and just needed to move to the couch to rest while my husband cleaned up dinner and washed the dishes and packed the kids’ lunches and got the kids ready for bed. At the beginning, it was obvious to everyone that I was disabled and suffering and so they did what they could to make things easy on me.
When your disability is not so obvious, it’s harder to ask for help and it’s harder for people to recognize that you need help.
But when the pain you suffer doesn’t actually take you off your feet and you can push through (to a point), it can become a matter of pride to get things done yourself.
And when you are suffering inside, others may know that you’re hurting, but they have their own pains to bear and may be able to convince themselves that you are OK unless you ask for help.
Well, the emotions did come. I grieved the end of the “easy” phase of my recovery. I felt down for days and I worried incessantly about facing the next step.
But the next step could not be avoided. And so I took the next step and pain accompanied it.
A new set of coping skills will be needed to get through this and whatever comes after. Thankfully, an open mind and grateful heart are the keys to learning new coping skills.
And I’ve proven to myself before that I can cope.
Maybe the burning pain that keeps me awake at night won’t last long. Maybe the swelling will ebb away. Maybe after the predicted 9-12 months of recovery, I will walk better and with less pain than I did before. That was the hope when I set out on this road.
I will continue to cling to that hope. And on the bad days, the days when I am in pain and I cry out of fear and pain and discouragement and I want people with me to help me and in the same breath I don’t want anyone around and I just want to be left alone with my misery, I will remind myself that it is OK to be upset when things looks bleak. Grieving is part of the process. But I still have hope, and I read somewhere recently something that I thought was very fitting for my situation, and that is that hope means H–hold O–on P–pain E–ends.
So, I’m holding on.