After I found out about my aneurysm, life was categorized by lack of rest: there was fear, anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, worry, doubt, and a lingering unknown. I was able to cope with these daily feelings through prayer, reading cards and words of encouragement from friends and family, faith, allowing my husband to carry me during this time, and creating moments of peace (hot bath, meditation, reading). Because of these things I was able to enter the operating room peacefully, and as I went under I felt safe, loved, and ready.
When the surgery was over my family told me that I woke up 4 times, but I only remember waking up once (thanks anesthesia)! Each time my family said I did the same thing: I would ask if it’s all over, if the surgery worked, if the clips were put in, if my blood redirected, and if I was in the ICU. Each time my family would kindly respond that I was fine, everything worked, in fact things went better than planned, and that I was safely in the ICU. Each time I would smile, sigh, close my eyes, and say “Oh good,” and fall slowly back to sleep.
I love that story – but it shows the underlying nervousness I had about the procedure. I wanted, more than anything, to know that I was okay, that my problem was solved, that I was healed. It was not until 2 weeks after the surgery that I began to process all of my previous emotions. I was able to talk through a lot with my gentle friend Jenia who phrased things perfectly: She said that before the surgery it was almost like I didn’t want to raise my blood pressure or get worked up because I was fearful of my aneurysm rupturing. Now that my body understood that it was healed, it also realized that it could release all these past emotions because the fear of the aneurysm rupturing was gone. And that’s what was happening – a flood of emotions hit me. For the first 2 weeks I rode the high of being alive, of surviving. Then all those unresolved emotions crept back in: fear, anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, worry, doubt, and the lingering unknown. My surgery was over, but I didn’t believe it. I held onto those emotions.
It wasn’t long before I started to have daily anxiety/panic attacks and moments of utter sadness. I started to realized I needed to ask for help when one night while out for dinner with Scott and my parents I broke down crying – for no apparent reason. I wasn’t just sad – I was sadness. I had daily breakdowns. The surgery was physically over, but mentally, I was just beginning to process everything that had happened. It took me 4 weeks before I could say out loud that my surgery was over, that it was in my past, that I didn’t need to worry about it anymore. I was thankful my surgery went so well and I was so peaceful during that time, but now I had to relearn new strategies and for dealing with these overwhelming feelings in healthy ways.
The problem with my anxiety/panic/sadness attacks was that they were so severe all I was in those moments was fear, or anxiety, or sadness. I could not think through why I was feeling this way. I was wholly, completely, and only that emotion. My parents, husband, and even neurologist agreed that seeing a psychiatrist would be a good option. I am sharing this because I believe that honesty heals, that sharing creates connections, and openness creates community. The more I talk about this the more I find that others have struggled with the same things. I have learned that there is no harm in reaching out to others when going through a time like this. And I have found that I have not been disappointed – God has surrounded me with people who support me – both here and far away.
Slowly I am learning to let these emotions go. Slowly I am still healing. Slowly I am moving forward with my life. Because how do you move on after a life threatening moment like this? How do you go back to normal after your life has had a complete over-haul? How do you start up your life again after it came to a complete and shocking stop?
Slowly I am learning that it happens one small step at a time . . .