Recovery from surgery is hard. It takes a toll on you both physically and mentally. Before surgery you did things on your own, you worked, you were active, and so on. Then suddenly all of that is taken away from you. Doctors give you a list of things you can’t do, you need help doing the simplest things, you need rest, and for a while you can’t be alone. You go from being independent to being dependent. It takes a toll on you not only physically, but also mentally. If you have mental illness it makes it even harder to cope.
As you read in my last blog post, I had surgery October 21 and I came home from the hospital on Saturday October 24. When Lou and I bought our row house, which is like a condominium, we never thought about all the stairs. The row houses were built in the nineteen hundreds for GE employees. Now anyone can rent one or buy one. They have four floors. Our row house has a refinished basement with a bathroom, and upstairs there is another bathroom. The attic is also refinished and like another room, but we don’t go up there often. So, to go to the bathroom you either go upstairs or downstairs. Kitchen and living room are on the main floor.
When I came home from the hospital, I looked at the stairs with horror. Just moving hurt. How would I walk up fifteen steps to the bathroom and to go to bed? The steps have no railings. On one side is a wall and on the other side is half a wall. What were we thinking when we bought this place? Why didn’t we pick a place with everything on the first floor? We were newlyweds when we bought the row house. We were in a hurry to get out of a friend’s basement we were living in and we didn’t even think about the steps.
Lou took me by the hand and stepped on the first step. “I got you. Just one step at a time. Go slow.”
Walking up the steps slowly felt like I was climbing a mountain. The steps seemed to never end. By the time we made it to the top, I was lucky I didn’t pee my pants. When I thought I got over the biggest challenge I found myself staring at the toilet. Since when was the toilet so far down? How would I get onto it and off? The toilets in the hospital were higher and there was a bar and a nurse to help me up.
I gently lowered myself down, careful not to bend or twist my back. A pain in my back reminded me I had surgery. When I was down, I placed my hand on the edge of the claw foot tub next to the toilet. Lou reached out towards me. With the help of the tub and Lou, I slowly made it to my feet. It seemed like a lot of work just to go to the bathroom.
Lou helped me into bed that night. I could only lie on one side and not move. I’m used to moving from side to side. After Lou went downstairs to watch television, I began to think, which is a bad thing for me. I can’t believe I went from walking miles with my friend Denise to not even being able to go up the stairs or go to the bathroom on my own. I can’t believe I’m doing this again. I can’t believe I’m recovering from yet another surgery.
When will this end? Weren’t seven surgeries enough? Why did I have to have an eighth? Am I causing all these health problems? I can’t do this. I can’t make it through another recovery. I started exercising and losing weight so I would be healthier, and now look at me. There is no help for me.
The next days after surgery my husband had to dress me, help me get around the house, pick up anything I dropped, and much more. I couldn’t help but feel useless and helpless. Every hour he had to make sure I walked, so I wouldn’t get blood clots. The kitchen leads right into our living room. He had me walk from our couch to the stove. Luckily, friends and family brought us food, so Lou didn’t have to make supper. One friend from my breast cancer support group brought us a big dish of spaghetti that lasted a couple of meals.
My husband’s boss gave him the week of my surgery and the week after off, but he had to return to work the following week. I couldn’t be home alone. My mom came on Monday. I had to stay upstairs until she could help me down and our dog went number two on the floor. I couldn’t bend, so my mom had to clean it up. My dad came and had lunch with us, and my mom had to help me to the kitchen table. I thought to myself, “I’m 46 and my mom who is 70 has to help me down the stairs, off the couch, and to the kitchen table.” Wasn’t this the stuff I’m supposed to help her with as she ages? She’s older and I have more health problems. God must be punishing me.
Mom brought up how I didn’t take care of myself until recently when I started working out with Denise. My mind went wild. I did this to myself. I caused my bone to break in my back so I’m getting what I deserve. Was I to blame for all my other surgeries? If I weren’t such a big fat slob, then I wouldn’t have gone through all this stuff.
I texted my friend Cheryl and Amy my thoughts. They both told me that I didn’t cause surgeries. I got cancer and had a mastectomy and hysterectomy due to a gene I had no control over. The plantar fasciitis surgery and the detached tendon in my ankle surgery had to do with years of working on my feet as a cashier. Nose surgery was because my nose was deviated, and my sinuses weren’t draining, and the gallbladder surgery had to do with stones. Tonsils at the age of four didn’t factor into the equation, but was due to tonsilitis. None of these surgeries was my fault.
The prediabetes, high blood pressure, getting sick with viruses each winter were because of not taking care of myself, but the surgeries were because of things I had no control over. My back surgery was because of scoliosis that chiropractors failed to find when I was a child. It was found when I was an adult by my chiropractor Steve Krauza, and at that time there was no easy fix. The scoliosis weakened the bone, and in time it just broke.
My friends reminded me that my helplessness is just temporary and to recover I had to be positive. I began to write my feelings out in my journal. That was one thing I could do without using my back. Each day I searched for something positive to add to my journal. I had to use many of the coping techniques I learned in therapy to stay above the hole.
Lisa, a friend of my husband and mine, on her day off, brought me lunch, and while social distancing, we watched movies. My husband would take me for short rides to just get me out of the house. Of course, I had to bring pillows to put on the car seat. I started reading a humor book. I watched lots of Netflix. I had to keep busy, so I wouldn’t dwell on my situation.
A long recovery awaits me, but I refuse to let depression take over. While I heal physically, I must also maintain my mental health, and this will help me stand in the light of recovery from mental illness and surgery.