Last week, I was discharged from the hospital four days after surgery. During my stay, my body had gone through a trauma. I was operated on, intubated, and mechanically ventilated. I was managing pain that felt beyond my control. I was sleep-deprived, medicated, and not in a good state of mind.
I was given paperwork, including a hospital admissions summary, my medications list, and a discharge plan outlining when to call the doctor or 911 in case of an emergency. These instructions explained to me in what seemed like 30 seconds meant nothing to me. The discharge plan outlines physical symptoms of which to be aware. Unfortunately, the mental and emotional symptoms are not covered in the instructions.
My anxiety kicked in almost immediately. In the hospital, it was easy to rely on others to take care of my pain, answer questions, and report my symptoms to. Anxiety made me wonder, “How will I be able to manage this on my own? Is this normal? Why am I still feeling this pain? Did this surgery not work?”
When I realized that my anxiety was getting the best of me, I focused on getting the pain under control. I made a list of times that I took each medication, and when each was due, I took it. I made a list of symptoms to track and share with my doctor at my post-op appointment.
Over a few days, I became more depressed. When recovering from surgery, there is not much to do but rest, relax, and let the body heal. To some, this may sound amazing, but if you have a mental illness, it’s torture. I struggled with feeling sad and putting myself down. I thought I should be doing more or getting better more quickly. I wasn’t paying attention to each day’s small victories. I was too focused on the bigger picture. I wanted to sleep most of the day.
Sitting around, having time for myself, and resting are difficult. It makes me think and question more, and it makes me irrational. To help with this, as I was feeling better, I wrote down things I could do that I may not have been able to do the day before. I shifted my focus to making my own breakfast. Concentrating on the smaller victories and documenting some of them on my social media accounts made me feel supported.
It has been a week post-op, and I still feel the emotional toll that this surgery has taken on me. I fluctuate between feeling happy and proud of my accomplishments one minute and crying at the simplest of things the next.
Along with the emotional challenges, I was struggling mentally after this surgery. The feelings of lack of control over my body in the hospital, the panic I felt right before being put under anesthesia, and waking up wearing a large mask that was mechanically ventilating me are still in my mind. The fear is still there during the day when I find my body trembling and I feel the anxiety tighten its grip at night.
The discharge instructions don’t say anything about waking up from nightmares. They don’t mention the fear, sadness, anxiety, and difficulty with just being able to “relax and rest.” All of these feelings after surgery are real. The important thing for me and anyone else who is struggling with post-hospital emotions is to recognize the anxiety and the depression and talk about what may be keeping you up at night. Don’t hold that inside. Worry and sadness will only make it more difficult to recover. Address it, discuss it, come up with a plan. The body deserves to heal.
Can you relate to feeling anxious or depressed after a hospital stay?
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