Sometimes recovery from surgery doesn’t go smoothly. There can be complications that make the healing process difficult. At times it seems like roadblocks are placed in our way preventing us from reaching a healthy recovery. These roadblocks not only affect a person physically, but also mentally. We all want to get better without problems, and when problems are thrown in the way, we can become depressed, discouraged, and frustrated. How do we stay positive when things go wrong? How does someone who has mental illness keep from falling down the dark hole?
Two weeks after my surgery I had a follow up appointment in Mayfield, Cleveland. My husband had been checking my incision daily, looking for leakage, redness, and swelling. I was told I didn’t need a bandage unless it was leaking. Lou took pictures of my incision with his phone so I could also see what it looked like. We didn’t see any signs of infection and the incision looked good. I was sure we would get good news from the doctor.
Instead of seeing the doctor who did the surgery, I saw the physician’s assistant. He seemed nice. He said part of the incision wasn’t healing all the way, so he needed to put steri-strips on. He then prescribed me antibiotics in case I get an infection. He said I could bend occasionally, I could only reach for light things, and I no longer needed a walker outside of the home. However, he said I couldn’t twist, and I couldn’t lift over ten pounds. He also prescribed out of the home physical therapy. I felt confident everything was going well. I was excited I would be able to do more things and be a little more independent.
After being on hold for a long time and being sent from one operator to the next, a lady told me the doctor on call would call me back.
Several minutes later the physician’s assistant I saw the day before returned the call. He said, “I told you you had an infection; that’s why I put on antibiotics.”
He continued to tell me what to look for: a fever, yellow or green leakage, swelling, and the incision turning a bright red. If I had any of these symptoms, I would need to head to my local ER. He instructed me to put a bandage over the incision and to change the bandage daily. The antibiotic would take care of the infection.
I felt my heart drop. I thought I was doing well. He said the antibiotic was in case of an infection not because I had one. Did I hear him correctly or did he just leave that part out? Will I ever fully heal? Why did he lie to me? Lou was so angry, and I was near my breaking point. I wanted to scream and cry.
We went to a medical supply store near our home for the bandages. They were three dollars per bandage. I got five, and that cost was fifteen dollars. That’s a lot of money when only one of us is working. On top of that, the antibiotics were making me sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat much, and I threw up a couple times. I felt so nauseous that all I could do was lie around and watch Netflix.
On a Monday I went to my first physical therapy appointment. They told me that since I did therapy before they found out I had a broken bone in my back, I had used up all but three of my allowed visits. The secretary said she would contact my insurance company and request more. We scheduled another appointment for within a week to see if the insurance company would allow more, but they denied the request. My therapist gave me exercises to do at home and we would meet on my last appointment I had left to see how I was doing.
That night my mind went wild and darkness filled my soul. I texted and messaged my friends and they tried to help me, but the sadness was too deep. I started crying uncontrollably. My husband had gone to bed early because he had to be up at five in the morning to go to work. I hated the idea of bothering him, but the tears wouldn’t stop. I decided to wake him up.
He held me as I sobbed. He whispered words of comfort and asked me what was wrong.
I choked out, “Everything is going wrong. I’ll never get better. I’ll never be able to work again. I might as well give up. I can’t fight any more. I can’t do surgeries anymore. I don’t want to go on.”
He wiped my tears away and told me to get ready for bed. He told me that being alone at this point was not good for me. So, I got ready for bed. I couldn’t roll over enough to lie on his chest, so I lay on his arm and pulled his hand up to my lips.
He whispered to me, “You’re not a quitter and I won’t let you quit. You can get through this. These are just some setbacks and you will get better. You can do this, and I will be right beside you through it all.”
He kissed my head and I lay on his arm until I felt groggy. The next day I got up and journaled my feelings. I also listed five positive things: I had a wonderful husband, I had supportive friends and family, my dog kept me company while Lou was at work, I could wood burn Christmas gifts for my family, and I could do a few more things for myself. The infection and physical therapy were just roadblocks. I made it through so much in my life and deep in my heart I knew I would get through this, too.
When roadblocks get in your way it’s okay to get down, discouraged, and have a good cry. It’s how you cope and deal with those rough times that count. Let yourself have a bad day, then pull yourself up. Practice coping techniques that work for you, turn to your support system, and find the positive. Life’s roadblocks will always threaten to push you down that hole of depression, but you are strong, and you can pull yourself up and take on the challenges head on.
I’m facing my roadblocks and in time I will recover from my surgery. Because I can pull myself out of depression episodes with the help of my support system and coping techniques, I stand determined in the light of recovery from mental illness.