The Lead Up
A year ago today, on the 16th December 2016 I had a fairly common surgery. I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed. My two bottom teeth were compacted and on one the gum had begun to lift. If I left it I would eventually lose that tooth and the tooth next to it which would be painful and more invasive long term. Since I was going to be under it was agreed that I would also have my top two wisdom teeth removed in case any issue arose in the future.
I was told I would be back to my normal self within 5-7 days post surgery. During the lead up I was incredibly nervous and what I would call ‘normal anxious’. I had never been under anaesthetic before and I found it hard to get my mind around. It’s just plain weird. I was also aware it was close to Christmas and my husband and family would need to help with the kids during recovery.
On the day of surgery we were about to leave for the hospital and I get a call that the surgeon is running late due to a complication in an earlier surgery (that builds confidence!). So I’m like great I’m already starving and now I have to wait even longer. I had also been getting vertigo in the month leading up to the surgery. Not too dramatically but I could feel it in the background so that was also playing up that day.
Any way, fast forward to surgery, I get in about 3 hours late, and by this stage I just wanted to cry and run screaming from the building. Sounds dramatic I know, but I was feeling incredibly anxious and the delay had made it worse as I had more time to think.
I get into theatre. The staff were amazing by the way. I remember going under, and then what feels like 5 minutes I awake in the recovery area. I actually felt fine at that point. I was like ‘oh this isn’t too bad!”. Then the nausea hit. Argh nausea is a killer. I’m one of the lucky few who copped it bad. They gave me all the medications they could but nothing helped. I remember seeing a girl walk out who had the surgery after me and she was smiling and waving as she left. I was not a happy camper. Then my husband comes in a says I look like a puffer fish, thanks babe.
The Anxiety Attacks Begin
That night every time I dozed off I awoke with a racing heart and an adrenaline rush. Hmm this is odd. The next day I was feeling good and then nausea hit again. The pain of the gums was actually fine. It was less than I expected and was completely manageable.
The following days I felt like a mess. I couldn’t get any strength. Then I’d start to feel good again and then I’d get shaky and just not feel right. It’s difficult to explain but I felt like I wasn’t in my body, that I couldn’t think straight, I’d go weak, and feel dizzy. I had no idea what was going on and was questioning a reaction to the anaesthetic.
Weeks go by and I get theses episodes that are crippling. They come out of nowhere. One minute I’m feeling fine and the next I can’t do anything. And frankly that’s terrifying. I’m a mum of two young boys and was working, I didn’t have time for this! And then we finalise that we will move to England from Australia for two years.
After getting diagnosed with anxiety and discussing with my doctor, given the circumstances, it’s agreed that I will go on some medication so that I can manage while also seeing a psychologist. Both are/were helpful. I’m still on the medication but no longer see the psychologist given our move. Seeing the psychologist was very helpful though and I highly recommend it if you are experiencing anything similar. She helped me put some things in perspective and that I had had some very stressful few years. This was a relief in many ways.
I would always consider myself an anxious person. I like things planned and organised and I tend to think things through. But any anxious feeling I had were always manageable, I was aware of them, it felt like nervous butterflies, but importantly I could still go on when I was experiencing them. But once the anxiety attacks started that changed.
One very beneficial piece of information I realised when I was seeing the psychologist is that I disassociate. So when I get attacks I tend to feel like I’m watching myself. It’s a weird feeling to explain. It’s like the world around me goes fuzzy, I can’t focus, its like my ears close and it’s hard to hear, and I just feel out of it. Through my sessions I realised I had been doing this emotionally for a very long time in order to cope. Somehow the surgery brought everything to the surface to a point where I had to face it and address it.
Another connection I made was that the Vertigo I have been suffering since 2009 is connected to anxiety. I’m not sure of the whole picture, but when I am run down and feel overwhelmed I am more likely to get vertigo. It can also come out of nowhere but there is a connection there.
Where to Now
No doubt it’s been difficult and confronting. I hate feeling out of control of my body and I’m still in the process of addressing it. Like I said earlier I am currently on medication and it has been successful with some side effects. My goal is to come off them when the time is right.
I’m still in the process of addressing my anxiety with the hope of it being in my past. In another post I will share how I have addressed it, but I must say that God is my focus and trust that this will only make me stronger.
We don’t have to be silent about anxiety. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and please seek help if you need it.