It’s four weeks ago now since I had my surgery. A lot has happened–and in a way, nothing has happened. Things have happened outside my home. It’s become warmer. My garden has exploded in bloom. My nephew turned eight years old. Election primaries have taken place in multiple states and we are pretty sure about the nominee… (no, let’s not talk about that!). But where am I, after four quiet weeks at home?
Back at work? I was supposed to go back to work yesterday (Thursday). Originally I asked for four weeks off because my doctor told me to, but I told people at work, “oh, I’ll probably be back at least part time in about two weeks.” Ha. I thoroughly underestimated the seriousness of the surgery and the time it would take to recover. First I negotiated that I would start back half days on Thursday. Finally I just pushed my start date back to next week. I hesitated about this, because I knew people were expecting me back. But my friend reminded me, “Weren’t you going to make your health a priority?” Why, yes, I was, as a matter of fact. I guess that’s what it looks like to prioritize my health: sometimes I won’t meet other people’s expectations.
How is my health? I have some difficulty with this question. On the positive side: the surgeon says everything went as planned, and I’m healing as expected. I didn’t take a nap yesterday. I only took narcotic pain killers twice this week. On the negative side: I still needed to take narcotic pain killers twice this week. If I don’t alternate my high-dose Tylenol and ibuprofen every three hours around the clock–even setting the alarm at night to wake up and take them–I have great difficulty functioning.
I’m surprisingly tired. I still have to rest after a shower. I can take a 15 minute walk, faster than at first, but still slower than usual. I walk gingerly, so I don’t shake up my insides too much. Stairs–a struggle the first week or two–are fine now though.
I have hot flashes, ugh, every single night. They start around 11 or midnight and last for several hours. I’m cooking from the inside and nauseous. I set the fan up to blow on me in bed.
Forgive me; I guess I felt the need to vent. Overall, I am doing fine. It’s just a much slower process than I had envisioned.
How is the depression and anxiety? As usual, when I’m not working, I’m not as stressed out. And when I’m not as stressed out, I feel less depressed and, really, no anxiety. When I have time and space to think and read and write, I might grapple with demons, but they aren’t so powerful against my calmer, reflective self.
Being calm, being quiet, and having weeks of my husband providing patient and cheerful care gave me the courage to tell him more about my childhood experiences. What?!? you say. You told him?!?
I did. Not the details. But he knows I was eight or nine years old. He knows it was my dad, when he was drunk (he’s always been drunk, a lot). My husband didn’t know these things before. He also now knows there were other things, when I was much younger, but that I’m not entirely sure who it was. He knows, in a general way, what happened.
And what does that feel like to have told him? It feels like, well, a mixture of a lot of emotions. Gratitude because he is steadfast in his love and support for me. Relief, because he believes me. Fear, because he believes me. Self-doubt because, oh my god, what if I am not remembering right? Self-loathing, because what if it’s all a lie? Negative voices, because I wasn’t supposed to tell. A sense of empowerment, because I wasn’t supposed to tell, but I did anyway. Powerful urges to harm myself (which I have resisted so far). Surprise, happy surprise, that my husband is calm about it. He’s not happy, of course, but he’s calm. He won’t say anything to anyone in my family unless I want him to. And he’s grateful to me for sharing this with him. He treats my honesty with him as a precious thing.
What about my other relationships? Although I fretted about being lonely and not having visitors earlier, that was a temporary problem. I have since had several visitors, and several longer phone calls with people who couldn’t visit but wanted to check in. I am not sure I was very clear when I first reached out to others. Several people said they hadn’t realized how I was doing and what I needed. I am thankful to friends who took the time from their busy lives to keep me company.
My son, who was so angry when I set a limit with him, has forgiven me. We had a long phone conversation, and our connection is stronger than his anger. He’s always been very connected to me. It’s part of what took us so long to get to his diagnosis of autism, because he doesn’t at all fit the stereotype of remote or without affect. On the contrary, he’s very tender-hearted. I have no doubt that we will go through the same pattern again–he’ll ask for something I just can’t in good conscience agree to, I’ll set a boundary and feel guilty about it, he’ll erupt in anger, it will be painful, and then we will reconcile. At least I know I can set the boundaries, and the world won’t end.
Therapy. My therapy sessions have been focused on my surgery–preparing for it, getting through it, dealing with pain, processing what has happened to me. It’s been front and center since late March.
The girl–that is, my younger wounded self, whose story was just told for the first time to someone besides her therapist–wants some attention. She deserves it. But not only do I have very little to give her when I’m tired and don’t feel well, I also don’t have E’s help. She hasn’t left yet for her vacation–that’s next week. But her head and heart are off in other places. She just ran a retreat that was very important to her. She’s preparing for her trip. I see and feel the difference. I don’t blame her, but I miss her. I’m pulling away because I don’t like asking and feeling she isn’t really there.
And even as I write that, I know it may not even be true. Maybe it’s my projection and just connected to my underlying and childish fear, sadness, and resentment that she is leaving at all. She might be exactly the same, but I feel her differently. I try to tell myself that it’s okay to have those feelings. Therapy makes you strong, but it also makes you vulnerable and child-like. She sees and values the girl, who is very young. So it makes sense that all these very child-like feelings would come up. I’ll be okay. I’ve got my plan.
And my mindfulness efforts. Ah, elusive mindfulness. The moment you think you have started to make some progress, you see immediately how chaotic your mind is. I have practiced more than I usually do. I am bad at it. From what I read, that’s normal. I keep trying.
I mean, what else can we do, really, but keep on trying?