Two weeks until my surgery, and I’m starting to freak out a bit

I know this isn’t a major surgery and that thousands of arthroscopic surgeries are done every single day with no problems, but that isn’t preventing me from feeling panicky and completely stressed out. I’m sure I’m over-thinking everything, but because I don’t know exactly how things are going to work, it bothers me. I’m a control freak. I like knowing things, especially when those things include cutting holes in my body. I’m trying to increase my meditation and I’m doing as much yoga as I can to try to relax my mind and body so I don’t feel like I’m going mental, but it’s not helping. Deep breaths…

“100 days of happiness” project, part 1

I’m not sure where I heard about this, but it was probably somewhere on the internet. The basic premise is that you write down one item each day that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be anything big, it can be something small that just makes you happy. The one rule is that you can’t repeat any of your “happiness” items. At a minimum, list a one (or two or three) word response stating what made you happy, and then you can expound on the item. I’d like to see other people participate, because I’d like to see what makes other people happy. My expanded list will be here on my blog, but I’ll write a summary on my Facebook for those who don’t read my blog. If you are participating, use the hashtag #100DaysofHappiness so that other people can see your lists. I won’t be posting once a day, but gathering notes for each week so I can add them in batches.

Day 1 — April 20 = Brunch! My sweet and wonderful friend made me mimosas and French toast for brunch, just because

Day 2 — April 21 = Goofing off. I spent a good hour just playing with them down on the floor and having fun while they jumped and chased after each other

Day 3 — April 22 = Cat adoption. It was my first ever chance to listen in on an Adoption Counselor call (a position I’m training for) and it was wonderful to hear how happy the applicant was when she was approved for her chosen kitty.

Day 4 — April 23 = Friends. I went and visited a friend after work, and had a lively discussion about costume design, cats, politics, and other random items (she’s quickly becoming a very close friend, which is surprising for a woman), and then I stopped by the PetCo that I semi-volunteer at and spent time with the center lead whom I hadn’t seen in a couple months because our schedules were so different.

Day 5 — April 24 = Tiggy. He is my unofficial therapy cat (although I’m working on getting him certified). He always knows when there is something wrong with me, and he cuddles with me and curls up on top of me to let me know he’s there for me.

Day 6 — April 25 = Rain! I love the rain; I always have. It started pouring down in buckets and I loved getting to listen to the sound of it as it freshened the air outside and washed away all the excess dirt and pollution.

Day 7 — April 26 = Clean car. After the heavy rain last night, my car has a layer of water all over it, which I can then dry off and I don’t have to waste water while still making my car look extra pretty and shiny.

I feel like my life has been turned upside down

I’ve spent the last 7+ months waiting to get my knee fixed, and now that I’ve gotten the approval, I’m a nervous wreck about the whole thing and I don’t want to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to have the surgery, because it really is the best solution for me, and I wholeheartedly trust my surgeon, but the thought of surgery scares the bejesus out of me.

As a result of being scared stupid over this whole thing, my quality at work has gone downhill significantly in the past month. I have no one to blame but myself, but I just can’t seem to stay focused on work when all I can think about is someone drilling holes into my knee. I’m angry at myself for not being able to control my fear, and for allowing it to interfere with my work quality, because I take pride in doing a great job all the time. I really hate that I’m letting the mental issues get to me.

Speaking of mental issues, the stress of the impending surgery has brought the spinal headache back into full-blown constant pain, which has brought my insomnia back. I’m waking up 3-4 times every night with my head throbbing and my eyes feeling like they’re trying to pop out of my head. I’m just not sure what can be done at this point, because narcotics don’t really do anything for me, and I don’t want to change anything that may end up causing a delay in my surgery.

I decided to be rebellious yesterday and took my brace off around 10am and left it off all day. I just could not abide by it any longer. I hate the brace more and more each day, because it doesn’t seem to help at all. I do know that it is actually helping, because when I don’t wear it, I can feel a definite weakness in the joint and it makes the most horrid cracking/grinding/crunching noises.

Due to all the medical issues I have going on, I’m trying to simplify other areas of my life. I’ve stepped back from interviewing prospective volunteers for the cat rescue organization that I volunteer with, and I’m learning to say no to people who ask if I can do favors for them. I’m trying to find a happy work/volunteer balance in my life. I have no social life to speak of, so that hasn’t changed. I don’t really have anyone special in my life besides my cat, and that doesn’t really count. I’m not interested in dating because I don’t want to have to deal with the inevitable breakup when I pack up and move back to the Carolinas eventually. Yes, I know that I could be missing out on something special by not giving the men out here a chance, but since I’m not happy here, I’d rather wait until I’m happy before I try finding someone else to be happy with.

That’s about all I have going on right now. Work, knee problems, stress, insomnia, stress, headaches, volunteer work, and stress. I am counting down the days until my surgery, and hoping that I’ll be recovered in time for our big fundraiser three weeks later. In the meantime, I’m just trying to get through each day as they come.

I’m getting nervous, and it’s driving me batty

Tomorrow I go see my orthopedic surgeon to schedule a date and time for my arthroscopic surgery. I know it’s the right thing to do. I know that it is the best, least invasive way to correct the problem, but the very idea of surgery scares me. I am very much a control freak, and the thought of being unconscious while someone is poking around anywhere inside my body just makes me feel so weird.

I’m fortunate that I’ve managed to get this far in life without any major injuries. A badly sprained ankle is about the worst physical malady I’ve ever had to deal with before now. I don’t even count the left knee pain anymore, since it’s been with me since I was 12. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to wake up one day and not be in pain.

Wish me luck tomorrow that I can get a surgery date very soon, so I can get this over with and resume trying to get back to “normal.”

I’m finally going to get the surgery I don’t want, and I’m almost happy about it.

After 7 months of agony, physical therapy, doing painful exercises 5-6 times a day, and generally being miserable, I received the call yesterday that my surgery has been approved by my worker’s comp, so at my appointment on Monday, I will finally get to schedule the surgery and hopefully get my knee fixed.

My biggest problem with this whole thing is that I’m opiate resistant (no heroin addictions for me!) and I have “anaesthesia awareness,” which means that I’ll be wide awake and able to talk, just not move, while under anaesthesia. It’s weird and creepy, and yet kind of fun. I’ve already told my surgeon to plan on just a local for me instead of a general, because it’s a waste of money to try to knock me out. Unless he gives me rohypnol. That knocked me out really well. Then again, it knocked me out for nearly 20 hours straight, and was one of the single worst nights in my life. (They don’t call it the date rape drug for nothing)

I’m hoping that I get my surgery scheduled quickly and that everything goes well, and I’m out of pain soon. Of course, getting to spend time with Mr Big Guns again will be quite pleasant. If you have to do physical therapy, I highly recommend finding an attractive person of whichever sex you’re interested in. It makes the sessions go by much easier. I’ll keep everyone updated as things go along.

Breaking down walls

I’ve spent a good part of my life building walls around myself, to keep people out. I think everyone does that to some extent, but some people build better walls than others. One of my biggest problems is that I feel too much. I don’t know if it correlates to my issues with depression and panic disorder or if it’s a separate issue. All I know is that everything from a misspoken word to an unintentional act can cut me like a knife and make me bleed internally. So,  I build walls. I hide behind them and try to pretend that I have a good life, doing things that make me happy. Sometimes that’s true, sometimes it isn’t.

The first wall I consciously know that I built was to protect myself from my father. He was not physically or verbally abusive towards me, I just didn’t matter to him. I was always the quiet one because my sister was always so boisterous and always had a group of friends around. Anything she asked for, he gave her. If she wanted to go out with friends on Friday nights, she was allowed to. I was given books and told to stay in my room and not bother him. I tried to be a good daughter and offered to help him with projects like working on cars and repairing things around the house, and he’d let me, but I never got a thank you for my help and I never felt like I was appreciated for my contribution. After my parents’ divorce, he started dating and I started baking as a way to pass the time because I hated being alone in the house by myself every Friday night while my sister was out with friends and my father was out doing whatever he was doing to find a new wife. I told myself that it was okay that I was alone, because it gave me the freedom to experiment with baking recipes, but honestly, I’d rather have spent the time doing something with my father. Every time one of my friends mentions that their daughter was going to a father/daughter dance, it made me wonder if I just wasn’t good enough for my father to go to a dance with me. So, up went a wall; one that I could hide behind and convince myself that I didn’t need my father in my life.

I built a wall to shut out my mom as well. Soon after the divorce, my mom went back to school and got a job to help support us. I don’t begrudge her that. Then, she decided to go to law school. All of a sudden, every spare moment of the day was spent with her nose in a law-book, studying whatever courses she was taking that semester. I never had that caring mom who helped me with my homework or talked to me about boys or taught me how to create a budget and balance a checkbook. I figured if she didn’t have time for me, then I didn’t want to make time for her. Instead, I started making sure that dinner would be ready when my mom and sister got home, and struggled through my homework as best I could without help. Of course my sister wouldn’t help me because she was older and had more important things to than to help her stupid little sister.

As I got older, I built more and more walls to hide behind. I created a persona in high school that allowed me to get by relatively unscathed and mostly (I thought) unnoticed by the majority of classmates. I was never the top of the class, but I was never at the bottom. I was never in the popular clique, but I wasn’t outcast. I just existed. At the time, I harbored the dream of going away to a college out-of-state, earning a degree, and beginning a new life away from everyone who knew me. That dream came crashing down three weeks before college was scheduled to begin when my father told me that he decided that he couldn’t afford to pay for my college, and it wouldn’t be fair to my sister, since she was only attending community college. So, instead, I also enrolled in community college and passed three unmemorable years there without making a single friend or feeling like I had actually learned anything.

It was around this time that my depression started. At first, it was just dysthemya. Chronic, long-term, mild depression. I had several bad experiences in high school that may have triggered it, or it may have just developed on its own. I don’t know, and I don’t have the self-will to examine it any closer. I learned to live with it, because I had no one to talk to or share my problems with. Eventually, it morphed into the panic disorder, which I still have, and eventually into full-blown Major Depressive Disorder. Any time I tried to talk about it, I was told that it was all in my head and that I just needed to snap out of it and be happy. The depression would go away if I let it. I was accused of being an attention seeker, trying to get people to feel sorry for myself with my mood swings and crying jags. In reality, I needed someone to explain to me that depression is a disease, just like cancer or Parkinson’s. Some people eventually get past it with the right combination of therapy and medication, and others don’t. So far, I seem to fall into the “don’t” column.

I was terribly ashamed to ever admit that I had depression or panic disorder, so I always blew it off as just having a bad day. I didn’t want to be seen as weak or helpless. I just wanted to be a normal person with the occasional bad day. There was a new wall around me, to keep my true feelings to myself so that no one could make fun of my weakness. That was a good wall. The people who knew me best never realized I had any problems, and I never shared my scarred life history with them. I was just another slightly strange person who never quite became friends with anyone.

Then one day I decided I was tired of hiding behind my walls. I decided that I wasn’t going to be stigmatized for my mental illness. It’s not contagious, so explaining it to others wasn’t going to cause an epidemic of new sufferers. I slowly started talking about my issues to people who seemed to care, and I found out that the people who are my true friends don’t care that I am not perfect. They see my flaws as making me unique, not broken. That’s  not to say that there aren’t still times when I hurriedly put the walls back up and hide behind them when everything is going wrong, but I’m getting better. I still won’t talk about certain events in my life that have shaped part of who I am, but maybe someday I’ll be able to do that. In the meantime, I’ll work on tearing down my walls and sharing my hurts and pains, explaining what depression and panic disorder is actually like to people who ask, and trying to be accepted for being me.

It’s taken 39 years, but I’ve discovered that I like me, cracks and all. I’ll never be a completely whole person, and I’ll never be able to guarantee that I won’t slip back into the major depression that causes me to curl up in bed for days at a time, crying for no reason. I’ll still have panic attacks for no known reason, but it’s okay. It’s just part of who I am.

Panic attacks are not fun

I have Panic Disorder (in addition to Major Depressive Disorder), and most of the time, I’m able to control it through medication. Unfortunately, a few days ago, I hit the perfect storm of running out of Xanax just before my delivery was scheduled to be delivered by my mail pharmacy, only to go check the mail and realize that someone had pried open the box and stolen all the mail, including my medication. I went into a full-blown panic attack on Sunday, knowing that I had to suck it up and try to just get through it using willpower alone. Fortunately, my best friend understands my condition and asked me to call him, and stayed on the phone with me until I could breathe again.

I don’t know what other people’s panic attacks feel like, but when I’m having one I get super-overheated and start sweating profusely, my heart rate goes way up (from my normal resting pulse of 55 bpm to as high as 150 bpm) and I feel like I’m going to die of a heart attack. My senses shut down until my eyesight gets so blurry I can’t see, my hearing turns into a whooshing sound like I’m trying to hear underwater, and my head feels like I’m spinning in circles too fast and can’t get my bearings. On top of this, I start to hyperventilate and can’t speak in complete sentences without concentrating really hard.

It’s a horrible feeling. One moment you’re fine, and the next you feel like you’re going to die at any moment. My doctor and I have tried to figure out what my “triggers” are for many years, and I don’t seem to have any. I just get random attacks. Thankfully, I was able to explain the situation to my mail order pharmacy and they are going to expedite a replacement shipment to me, and my doctor ordered enough at my local pharmacy to get me through until the mail order comes in.

The biggest problem with mental illness is that those who don’t have it don’t understand that it’s not a choice. I can’t just decide to be happy or decide to not have a panic attack. That would be the same as trying to not be female or not have brown eyes. Yeah, I can mask the brown eyes with colored contacts, but beneath the contacts, my eyes will always be brown. Same with mental illness, I can mask the symptoms but the underlying disease is always there. Having depression and panic disorder is not anything I would wish upon anyone, much less myself. It’s extremely stigmatized still, and it’s hard to control.

If you know someone who has depression or some other mental illness, please don’t tell them to just be happy and it will all get better. Ask what you can do to help them out. Sometimes we just need a person to cry on until the worst of it passes. I’m okay today, for the most part. I can’t tell you how I’ll feel tomorrow. Each day is a surprise as to whether it’s going to be an easy day or a difficult one. Thankfully, I have some great friends who understand me and don’t make me feel like I’m some sort of freak.  Next, I need to get my family to understand it.