|No ruby slippers, no wonderful wizard; just terror and bright backlighting...|
Wednesday morning I woke up, and suddenly all was not well. I felt anxious - really, really anxious - I didn't want the operation to have happened, and I was almost fainting with squeamishness about the wounds on my body and the notion of what had gone on internally when I was not there to see it. It reminded me of my poor childhood cat when he had an abscess on his back - he kept on twisting and turning and shivering his skin along his backbone to try and slide it off and get out from under it somehow. I wanted it all not to have happened, and I wanted to get out from under it.
I fell into a massive, familiar pile of panic and anxiety, and took a Lorazepam to try to dull the edges, but somehow it combined with the leftover anaesthetic and took me in a horrible way - all wide-awake crazy thoughts and palpitations and trembles.
I couldn't sleep, I couldn't sit still, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't listen to my post-surgery relaxation CD because it made me want to faint, I couldn't take a Lorazepam because I was frightened of making it worse, I couldn't lie still because I was petrified of clots forming in my legs, and I felt absolute, complete, suffocating despair. I tried all the old tricks, and they didn't work. I got disassociation - my whole familiar world started looming and stretching in sinister ways, and I felt trapped in a waking nightmare. It was like a big, fat, supersized Ecstasy comedown (apologies for mature references!) but without the ecstasy (with a small or a big e). All agony, no ecstasy?
I convinced myself I had post-surgery trauma syndrome, that I had clots in my legs and internal bleeding, that I had an infection, that I was going mad, that I would have to have another surgery to fix this one and this would all happen again, and above all - that I was a colossal, self-indulgent hypochondriac who couldn't handle a routine operation like the rest of humanity. My thoughts were just completely and utterly out of control - the horse was galloping away towards the inferno and the rider was just freaking out on the sidelines with wet jodhpurs and a frayed whip.
Needless to say, it wasn't a vintage few days. It turns out that it's not such an unusual reaction after all - apparently the body's hormonal and endocrine systems go haywire after surgery - and couple that with the general anaesthetic wearing off and some anxiety about recovery and you have a perfect recipe for panic-a-go-go. I just wish I knew that beforehand!
It, however, remind me of a couple of panic-related things that are worth repeating:
1. Nothing REALLY works in a panic the way you want it to - because the body is specifically designed to create terror that is virtually impossible to override. The whole point is that you're not meant to easily cognitively disassemble it - you're meant to fucking RUN. So I was reminded, at a cost, that the best thing to do is to grab on to something and hold on, and wait it out. To weather the storm and try desperately to hear the tiny, squeaky voice a mile off that stutters 'this will pass' in the face of the terrifying succubus screaming 'IT WILL NOT' in front of your face.
2. It does pass. I felt like I was in a horror film last week, and I'm calmly typing this now after a relatively happy couple of days. Yes, I'm still a bit quivery, but that always happens for a while after a storm of panic - I know I just have to wait it out until it completely passes again.
3. Anxiety and panic don't make you weak. This one is thanks to my stepmother, who came downstairs and wrapped me in a tight hug when she found me sobbing uncontrollably on my own, and told me about her experiences with panic and anxiety (she's also hard as fucking nails, and you would never, ever characterise her as weak or even approaching it) and shook me back to reality and self-respect. Everyone is flawed. Everyone has their vulnerable moments. But that's not what people remember of them, and that's not what they should remember of themselves.
So. That's it. I think I've earned a bit of a relax at long last, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch Ingrid Bergman give weird, face bruising non-kiss kisses to Cary Grant - I've got a week's worth of recovery DVDs to catch up on...
|Nope, that's still not it - we can clearly see your lips aren't touching, guys...|