One of the surprises I have not been really prepared for is the gamut of emotions that I run through each day (often from minute to minute). I was warned during my preop phase that emotional ups and downs and insomnia were common after surgery. I haven’t experienced any extreme mood swings or breakdowns, but I feel as if I am constantly processing this decision and its consequences, and it is exhausting on all levels. Fortunately over the past few days the emotions have become fairly predictable, but I’m still trying to figure out where to put them all…
Usually it starts when I wake up about 3 am and can’t go back to sleep. Often thanks to a bad dream that I’ve spiked a fever or experienced any number of postop complications (being a health care provider myself is both a blessing and a curse because I have already seen the worst outcomes). My mind starts racing and it’s all over unless I take something to help me get back to sleep. I’ve also noticed some early morning headaches, especially since I have had to discontinue my prophylactic propranolol for migraines (decreased blood pressure and heart rate do not exactly help to promote circulation and healing).
Once I’m awake for the day, I’m usually pretty tired and slow to get going. I’ll sip on fluids and protein and then I’ll talk with my mom or my husband or get a supportive text or message from a friend, and I’ll start feeling pretty good about things. I’ll know that this was the right decision and that it is going to change my life for the better. At this point I’m motivated to go for a short walk or leave the house for an errand.
Sometime in the afternoon, I’ll check my fluid and protein intake levels (yes, there are apps for that), feel like I’m behind and start to get discouraged. If a family member calls to check in and wants to know exactly what procedure this was, or if I’m consulting my post-op instructions about a specific issue, it will hit me all over again…I just had 2/3 of my stomach lopped off and removed and my guts rearranged. This is permanent. This is it.
WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?!?!?!?
Luckily for me, those moments of “patient’s remorse” are fleeting and not especially profound. They are usually related to underlying fears about complications or preoccupation about how to eat healthy and intentionally in a very unhealthy world. While I don’t have regrets, I think it’s important to acknowledge the doubts that accompany a significant life change. Denying that they are there can only cause me distress.
So I’m still working on all the feelings. And I imagine I will be for some time. But I’m thankful that I have this time and space to process them as they come.