In two days, I will be six weeks post-op. I am so grateful to be looking back on that pre-surgery period from a bit of a distance now. It was an instructive period, but living it was horrible. It's difficult now to imagine those days when my husband and daughter would walk out the door in the morning and I would immediately begin sobbing. I have never cried like that before, with the feeling that I was falling into a bottomless pit.
Things are, without a doubt, getting better week by week. One of the best gauges is my medicine cabinet. At the peak of this ordeal, I had so many pill bottles I could hardly keep them all straight. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, other kinds of anti-anxiety meds, pain meds, more pain meds, sleeping pills, you name it. Now, I am off everything but the sleeping pills (all things in due time). For the past four days, I haven't even taken an Advil. And one week ago, I quit the anti-depressant with (at least so far) no ill effects. I actually hadn't planned on this, but I started to suspect it was behind some of the muscle aches I've been having, so I dropped it. And I have noticed no emotional difference at all. I also haven't frequented back pain websites in at least a couple weeks, which is maybe the biggest step forward.
I need to write this down to remember that I am getting better. Because sometimes I still worry. While the nerve twinges are lessening and moving out of my leg, I still get them. I still worry that I will have pain forever. I still have muscle pain in my upper back that is uncomfortable and annoying and makes me think my back will never be right. Perhaps most of all, I still struggle with the fear that every passing ache and pain will be permanent, and that my good health is an incredibly fragile commodity that could shatter at any moment. I still wake up in the mornings and feel more dread than joy about what the day might bring. I still obsess over my many aches and twinges.
The best example is this damned muscle tightness and soreness, which I didn't have before surgery, but has haunted me for almost five weeks now. I discovered that it can be a side effect of the anti-depressant I was on, so I quit it, and for the first couple days the muscle problems were almost gone. And then they came back. (What the hell? Why can't anything ever have a simple solution with me?) The pain is still more mild than before, but it is here--that constant feeling of tightness and tension. What does it mean? Will I be able to enjoy my life fully with this feeling always in the background? Will I have to try? I don't know if the aches really are that annoying, or if I am just ultra-sensitive and fearful about any kind of discomfort.
My rational mind tells me that these feelings, emotional and physical, are part of my healing process. This is what I need to remember. If I look at the small picture, the one that has me locked into every passing twinge of pain, I find much to worry about. I still have an imperfect back, a limited present, and an uncertain future. But if I look at the big one, the one that encompasses where I was three months ago and where I am now, things are getting steadily better and I have so much to be thankful for.