Pros, Cons & the Grey Areas In-Between

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions I have been thinking a lot lately about the emotional turbulence I have dealt with throughout this ordeal. I have been trying to create mental pro and con lists in relation to surgery and have been unsuccessful as yet. There have to be good things that have come out of surgery but I have had a tough time teasing them out. It doesn’t help that my mood swings wildly from optimistic and hopeful to defeated and blah sometimes more than once a day, although it tends to rest on the downside more often than not. I have been trying to pinpoint what sets off these drastic transitions but have yet to discover their cause. I feel so many different things about this injury and the state of my life now I am not sure I can clearly articulate any single one or apply the terms pro and con, there is just too much grey area. So I thought that, like Susannah(a wonderful blogger whose life seems amazing and I am really not sure how she does it) helpfully suggested, I would try to work out some of the emotions bombarding me.

I am angry. Oh so angry, some days it borders on full blown rage. I am angry for many different reasons, from the loss of years of my life, to my physical limitations, to the way I have been treated by Workman’s Comp. (Who are trying to get me to do a gradual return to work starting in two weeks. I have not gone to physio once and have not seen my surgeon since October, so I am justifiably terrified and angry about the lack of medical knowledge the people forcing me back to work have.) I am angry about more than just the injury and the three years it has lingered for, I am angry that it caused a breakdown in my self-worth and brought me down a path of depression and uselessness. I am angry that I have had to grieve the life I had, where I could be carefree when hiking and feel completely confident in my body’s ability to function properly. I am angry that I am still with C., practically in the same position we were last year, and the year before that. I am angry that I can’t make this recovery any faster and I am especially angry that I have months before I will see if this surgery was a success.

Along with all this simmering anger comes resentment. I resent all the things I am angry about. I resent that I can’t be a fit, healthy and happy individual. I resent that I know things I could do that may help, but lack the desire to try. I resent that nothing has come easy in the past few years. I resent that so many people have said if I just forget about the surgery I will be better. I resent that I am depressed and struggling to want to live. I resent that workman’s comp guidelines for spinal surgery say you are fit for work 56 days after a spinal surgery, but that they don’t differentiate between a discectomy and a full on fusion with hardware. I resent that they don’t understand the underlying fear I feel when told I have to prepare myself for a return to work. I resent that I now have anxiety issues that I can’t seem to control. And I resent that I have to be on such a cocktail of meds to make my life tolerable in the psychological and pain control sense.

Fear has permeated my psyche and tainted my recovery from the beginning. I am so scared. So overwhelmingly terrified that thinking about another non-union and subsequent spinal fusion makes my breath catch in the very real beginnings of an anxiety attack. It starts off that I feel I can’t breathe then there is tingling in my hands and I get stars in my vision. Finally, if I can’t calm myself down I end up blacking out. It has only happened five or six times this year but it is certainly scary when it does. I am also terrified that I will never be able to be happy with where I am and what I am doing. I am terrified I won’t find a place where I feel like I belong and am loved and safe. I am afraid that I am going to fail. Fail in life, fail in healing, fail in being a good partner, just generally that I will fail and have been failing for a while.

Angry girl.

I have always felt like I underachieved, in university I wrote papers in a day because I knew I could get at least a B and didn’t fight for the A’s. It led me to feel like a fraud. It also made it hard to sink my teeth into anything I found really  interesting. I feel like I have been lost to myself for so long, or that I am not sure I ever knew myself to begin with. When this injury happened I had never had the opportunity to think about what I want out of life because I was so wrapped up in trying to make it work day to day. I don’t know how to go about learning what I want and need when it is a struggle to shower bi-daily. How do I start discovering new things when I am exhausted by the mere basics of existence?

All these negative emotions churn inside me so often it makes it difficult to realize the good emotions when they come around. (And to trust that they are real and not a farce created to hide what I see as my rotten bits.) I do feel gratitude – I am grateful that I can walk and that it is even possible to have spine surgery. I am grateful that I haven’t had to pay for my surgeries and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to have the best orthopaedic surgeon work with me. I am grateful for my parents support and their unconditional love. I am grateful for all the wonderful people I met and worked with in physio therapy and I am especially grateful that I had such an amazing advocate in my chiropractor and continue to have outstanding support from my family doctor as well. I am eternally grateful for this blog, even if I don’t use it as often as I should. I am indebted and indescribably grateful for my readers who have found my words worth perusing and every comment is a revelation and treasured.

So there are things I am grateful for and I know that my life is not all bad, doom and gloom. I just can’t seem to shake to feeling that there is something I should be doing, or could be doing that would make me want to get out of bed in the morning. That I have some larger goal than to work a menial job, but I have no idea what that goal is. I want and need a direction and goals desperately but can’t seem to find either.

What do you do when your sense of self is badly shaken? How do you motivate yourself in the morning? How do you eradicate guilt? (Another emotion I haven’t discussed here but experience an abundance of.) I guess the basis of my questions are what makes all the struggles worthwhile for you? How did you discover your self and your unique path in life? When did you remedy your view of yourself with your ideal self? When, and how, did you learn to accept the things you can change and find motivation for the things that can? Why does life seem so vibrant to some and so dreary to others?

There are a ton of strong, confident and utterly content women who read this blog, and maybe a couple of men. Winking smile I realize that you may not have an answer to all, or any, of these inquiries but if you can answer and would like to, I would love to hear from you. Even if you have no answers,  like me, knowing there are others who feel lost means  a lot.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it greatly and with sincerity.

                – S.


Guilt and Bitterness are Brothers

I have this lurking feeling that I am somehow a bad girlfriend. (and friend, but that is another post.) I am not sure if this is motivated by truth, guilt or a distorted self-image. While it is true I provide financial support I am starting to find that I withhold emotional support out of bitterness. I feel like if I don’t get support from him, I shouldn’t have to lend support when I can barely hold myself up. That sentence screams SELFISH at me, but it is how I feel.

My psychologist said something this week that caught my attention, “Guilt is usually motivated by unexpressed bitterness.” Now, I have to say that I am not sure if Dr. O. and I are a great fit, but the bottom line is that he is the help I have right now and while I am a bit annoyed that he keeps pushing mindfulness and visualizing what you want, he does usually make me think just a bit deeper. Continue reading