Have you seen the movie, The Meg? I have a bit of an obsession with shark movies. I love them, like completely geek out about it. I admit I haven’t seen “Sharknado” or any of those ones that like to stretch it extra far, but movies like the Jaws series (classic, am I right?), The shallows (basically Blake Lively in the water by herself and I was still riveted), 47 meters down, open water, deep blue sea, you get the picture. Last night while I was watching the Meg I realized that everyone has at least one moment (or they will), that pivotal thing that happens that’s huge. Life changing. Their Megalodon.
I know I haven’t blogged my thoughts for a REALLY long time. Its easy to put blogging on the back burner and no matter how often I think, “oh I really should do that” it just doesn’t get put on the top of the priority list. Until now, I guess. But maybe I’m just procrastinating because I need to clean my bathroom. Who knows (Me, I know. that’s exactly what I’m doing). But it was about time I posted an update.
Middle C had her surgery in October. Her right foot was cut open, rewired and closed back up. It’s painful to watch her sometimes. Not because she complains, but because she’s so resilient. She doesn’t complain, she overcomes, she’s powerful and positive. And then behind closed doors, usually when she’s heading to bed we get tears. We see her emotions and frustration with her feet. She prays every night that Jesus would heal her and she wouldn’t need to do anything more – no more surgery, no more braces or casts, no more. My heart breaks. I cry. It’s so hard. So we sit and let the tears flow as we cuddle together. I’m tired of pretending I’m her rock. I’m not. I’m broken. My whole heart hurts. It’s March and she’s still praying desperately to be done. She tries to be sneaky and take her brace off, leave it downstairs hoping I won’t notice. I want so badly for her to get to wear sandals all summer without worrying about which shoes will give her blisters and make her brace uncomfortable later. I want her to have freedom, even for just a little while before the next time. But right now in order to taste that freedom this summer I have to be tough, she has to wear her brace and do her physio stretches as much as we can so in a month she maybe able to have her summer off. Pray for us, plead on her behalf. My heart is so broken watching her journey through this. Being a parent is the hardest thing in the world.
Peaches also had surgery. Twice in the last two months. She was born with a plugged duct in her right eye. So bad it would seal shut and goop up or constantly tear. Little Man calls it her eye boogers and is pretty great about catching them and telling me so we can clear them out. ALL.DAY.LONG. We had been referred to someone locally but when Middle C had her surgery her surgeon suggested we see someone at the Children’s hospital because they maybe able to get Peaches in sooner. He was right. We have had surgery twice before we’ve even had our follow up appointment with the local surgeon (and the follow up would have just been a visit to determine when surgery would be, so we would have still been at least 4 months away from that). The first time her eye cleared up right away, she had almost two weeks without any eye boogers but then it didn’t heal properly and she woke up with her eye sealed closed again. So we called the hospital back – this last time they were more aggressive with the repair, causing more bloody noses and pink tears. When I put her drops in I can see they just sort of sit in her eye, which makes me nervous but I’m hoping it heals nicely this time and we don’t have to go to phase 2. We won’t know until we are done the round of antibiotic drops to see if her eye stays clear. So that could use some prayer too.
So now that you know we’ve had three surgery situations within 5 months of each other I guess I should say the part I haven’t said. I’m really open about my journey. I don’t shy away from honesty or openness, even if it’s private stuff. But I’ve struggled, I have started so many blog posts and never published them on this topic. I think I want to be sensitive to how other people would read what I have to say. I think I am over analyzing the whole thing. I think I feel anxiety, because that’s the issue. I have anxiety. I struggle with pretty severe anxiety constantly. It’s been a problem. It’s infiltrated every single area of my life. And we really noticed it coming to a head shortly after I broke my hand and needed surgery. We didn’t put it together until my husband heard a podcast that made everything click. He had me listen to it and I sobbed my way through while I listened. How common it is, how often it happens and yet how little support is out there or how people are so slow to diagnose. How could it be so common and yet parents who have lost a child, or have kids in hospital a lot aren’t being screened for it? Why isn’t anyone checking in?
I have PTSD.
PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is most recognized as a diagnosis for soldiers after they return from war. I was shocked. I’ve never been to war. Why did it manifest after a safe, low stress surgery? Nothing about that was traumatic for me, not that I could identify. Why now?
But PTSD commonly shows up after a repeat event. So you have a situation that’s hugely traumatic, you grieve, you work through it, you keep going. Then something happens that imitates that situation and BAM! that’s when PTSD would show up.
For me my surgery with Elouise was my Megalodon. It changed my life, it completely altered how I think, how I feel. My anxiety was at an all time high as soon as we found out she had died. And as time went on I thought I was okay, I was doing okay. I didn’t notice. And maybe I never would have if I didn’t break my hand. Or maybe my unmanaged anxiety made it trigger after I broke my hand. I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a way to really trace it back. But I do know that after moving from the hallway into the OR the day of my hand surgery I don’t remember anything. I can’t recall that surgery at all. Not the OR, not the recovery room, not going home, nothing. Because my brain refuses to process what happened because now I associate surgeries as an extremely traumatic event.
I’m getting better with the girls’ surgeries. I did really well especially this last time when Peaches had her second eye surgery. I still get migraines because my brain is trying to shut down and distract me – classic PTSD brain avoiding the situation is what my counsellor said. He said its remarkable that my brain has learned to avoid the stress by providing migraines. We are working through it. It’s complicated. But I have another doctors appointment for my migraines this week. It’s really hard to manage the pain, especially when I’m supposed to be dealing with a kid who just came out of or went into a surgery. I carry Advil and peppermint oil everywhere I go. But once the pain starts I have to ride it out, sometimes its over in an hour, once it took three days. Usually my symptoms start with the “aura” where I see silvery, shiny wavy lines around the peripheral of my vision. If I can take pain medication at that point I can often reduce how long I’m out for. If I don’t catch it soon enough often my eyes will start to black things out – like the first time it happened I thought a man was wearing an eye patch (think pirate) but really my brain just saw one half of his face and he had sunglasses on. It was bizarre – what my eyes see and how my brain translates it is very confusing. My hands and feet usually get tingly and numb. Once my face got numb and my tongue felt so funny, I told Andrew it felt like teeth were growing out of my tongue – I don’t know how else to describe it. So we have more doctors appointments, we see specialists, I’m seeing a counsellor and did an eight week course on managing anxiety (which I had a terrible attitude about when I started but after going through the whole thing I highly recommend it). I’m hoping that my openness and honesty about my journey can help someone else. If I can just impact one person than all of this seems like it means something.
If you think of us, pray for us. We are working on being better friends, pouring into others lives, even though our trials don’t really seem to be letting up. Community is so important when you go through hard times though. No matter how awkward and hard it can be make sure you have someone to talk to, even if it’s a counsellor that you’re paying. Mental health is so important. It really does impact everything. Take care of yourself.