WHEN SH*T HAPPENS, SMILE

After major surgery, the process of healing is long and slow. Progress occurs in leaps rather than steadily. Periodically, you notice a jump in progress. Today I can stretch. Tomorrow I can pick up my dog. Next Monday, I can (slowly) navigate the stairs. Suddenly, I can drive and manage a trip to the grocery store, go out and take a few pictures. It’s all in slow motion, but it’s happening.

Surgical pain decreases. Incisions heal. Then, progress stops. That’s it. The surgical part of your resurrection is accomplished. The rest of life comes rushing back.

Speaking of back, the spine that didn’t work before still doesn’t. I can’t walk any better than I  could pre-surgery. The rest of my chronic problems are back too.

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While I am realizing how much my back hurts, everyone is telling me how great I look. How much better I must feel. I realize that — appearances notwithstanding — I don’t feel all that much better because what was bothering me the most wasn’t what they fixed. If I try to explain that, everyone tells me not to be so negative.

So I shut up. It’s natural, I guess. After all, I just had four different kinds of heart surgery so ergo ipso, my  heart must have been a major component in what was bothering me, right?

Wrong. My heart was failing but I didn’t notice. Impossible you say? Not really. It was a gradual thing which I attributed to asthma and other problems I’ve had for years. The bursitis in my hips bothered me most and my difficulties walking and doing stairs was less heart, more arthritis. My digestion has been a disaster for more than a decade, the result of botched surgery. That didn’t change.

I know the quality of my life is supposed to have improved. I know because everyone tells me so and I do mean everyone, including almost complete strangers. As far as they are concerned, the fact that I am going to (in theory) live much longer than I would have without the surgery signals a major improvement in my quality of life. Never mind that I didn’t actually know I had a problem with my heart and wasn’t concerned with it.

I was (am) more worried about a recurrence of the cancer I had 2-1/2 years ago.

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The reality — which no one wants to hear — is life and its quality have stayed the same. Making me sometimes wonder why I bothered. I want to blame someone, but who? There are no bad guys in my scenario. I can’t even blame myself. Shit happens. A lot of it happened to me.

So I guess I have to keep searching to find the up side to all this beyond (maybe) increased longevity. I need something else. Even if that isn’t what everyone wants to hear.



Categories: Health, Medical, Photography, Relationships, UPDATE!

Tags: , , , , , ,

30 replies

  1. Hope you are on the mend and feeling better!

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  2. That’s got to be frustrating. I don’t have any major health issues (at the moment), but what you mention is kind of why I don’t like to talk about them if I don’t have to. It’s just too hard to explain to people who don’t have them.

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  3. How about an outpouring of concern and well wishes along the way, along with the desire by so many that you return to SERENDIPITY to share your wisdom and your photos? That’s something, ain’t it?

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    • Yes. It is. I think if it weren’t for this, I’d have totally lost it. Being able to write and communicate means a great deal. The people I know online comprise most of my contact with the wider world. For people who are physically limited, the Internet has been an incredible gift. 50 years ago we’d have all been shut ins. Thank YOU and thank all my friends in the cyber-world.

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      • You are welcome and thanks for all the work that goes into maintaining regular content on this site. I now have some idea what that’s like.

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        • Thanks. I suppose it is work, but I don’t really notice it unless I’m otherwise busy … like when I was in the hospital and first recovering. THEN I noticed. Normally, I just do it while Garry’s watching a game or something. I don’t seem to get writer’s block, but I do run out of new photographs.

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  4. I wish I could just give you a bear hug and let you cry your heart out. Be gentle with yourself. Know that energy is going your way. Bless you.

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  5. I might not know EXACTLY what you mean, but I get that, “you must be feeling great” line all the time. When I got out of the hospital, everyone said how great I was doing, yet I felt like shit. If I take a shower or put some makeup on, I must be feeling good. No, folks, I’m doing those things because I have to, not because I’ve had some rapid turnaround of a chronic mental illness within the past hour or so. Gah!

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    • The assumption that if you look okay, you must feel at least as good is both weirdly flattering and infuriating. Serious problems, physical and mental don’t just disappear and never bother you again. Maybe you have to walk in our mocs for a while before you get that. Probably. But I swear the next people who tell me how everything happens for a reason … and every cloud has a silver lining … are dead meat.

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      • I don’t find it flattering, I find it infuriating. Congratulations on taking a shower, Rose. I mean, jeez! Or, you smell nice, Rose. Good hygiene does not equal mental health.

        I understand the “everything happens for a reason” and “clouds have silver linings” stuff are totally whacked out things to say to any person who is going through something rough, mentally or physically. Here, let me tell you the advantages of being bipolar! Eff off!

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  6. When sitting amidst a group of senior women, all older than you, never mention aches & pains. All you get is, “Wait until you get to 83”! I can’t compete with age, I don’t want to. I don’t even mention most aches and pains to my doctor. There’s little they can do to fix arthritis, they just give you something to dull the pain. I don’t want bandaid fixes I want cures and there aren’t any for most aches & pains brought on by age itself.

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    • Skeletons of cave people all have arthritis. It seems that’s what nature does to us as we age. It doesn’t go away and it doesn’t improve. Just that mine is, for a bunch of reasons, rather worse than it would normally be for someone my age and has been for at least 20 years. Stuff that happened to me long ago inevitably caught up with me in my late 40s and 20 years later, I can barely hobble around. I’m by no means alone in this. I have some friends who are actually worse than I am, which has to be shockingly awful. We don’t talk about it much except to swap ideas for somehow managing to keep going since we can’t climb stairs and many of us are having trouble driving. Trying to reposition our lives so that we can continue to live life.

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  7. I imagine it is hard to find a silver lining when living with chronic pain or illness, and certainly after undergoing surgery and finding life has not changed much. People think they are helping by telling someone they look great, that it helps the person feel great, like a pep talk, believe it and you’ll feel it, rather than validating the truth of how the person is feeling, which might really make them feel better- its called empathy.Sad that not so many people know what that is.

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    • Thank you for getting it. I don’t mind looking good. Who does? But I also need to be allowed to express the difficulties. It’s the classic thing they do to women. No matter how bad you feel, no matter how down you get, you have to smile because otherwise, you’ll upset other people and we all know that we are here, in this world, to make other people feel okay. Chronic illness — ALL chronic illness — wears you down physically and spiritually. Because it is, by nature, permanent,, you can’t look forward to that bright day when it will all get better. It is less a matter of looking for a better future than trying to find some stuff you can do despite everything and make the most of that. And hope it’s enough to make life worth living. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t write, I’d give up.

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      • I was thinking to myself as I commented on your post that your photography and writing must be the bright spots in your life that keep you going.(ok Garry too 🙂 ) I had the tiniest window into that feeling of will I ever feel better when I broke my elbow. Life became a series of just waiting for the sun to set so another day would be over. It wore me down to a real breaking point and I distanced myself from all those who kept giving me their sage advice & feelings about all I could do. Let them walk one day in my shoes I kept thinking. And that wasn’t lasting chronic-it was 14 months. I applaud your telling it like it is, so that hopefully people who are clueless will get the message.

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        • As you learned yourself, people mean well, but after a while, the most well-meaning people start to make you grind your teeth. It’s as if you aren’t allowed to be unhappy about your problems. And that’s not fair. It’s not mental illness to be bummed about real problems, especially problems about which you cannot do anything. Patience may be a virtue, but as you discovered, it has limits. Time moves slowly when you cannot do the things that you want to do, used to do and always have done. Especially if you know you can NEVER do them again.

          You need a space to grieve before you can try figuring out what you CAN do that will fill the holes in your world. It’s fortunate I’m a writer because this is something I still can do. Photography also, though those long hikes to find the perfect picture are rare these days. Redefining life, redefining yourself, learning to accept the unacceptable is not for the faint of heart. And not liking ones choices or limitations is not being negative or defeatist. It’s honest.

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  8. The trouble is, people like to say something that helps. And when we can’t, we’re at a loss for words. Wishing you well.

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  9. A world of all possible heavens .. and hells.

    I’ve been very, very lucky in this lifetime. It sure not hard for me to look around and see a lot of people that have things a lot worse than I do – many folks I would not trade places with.
    I’m grateful for that. (Not that I’ve done a lot with it.)
    Still, at times,it sure hasn’t spared me from events I’d rather not have experienced.

    For what that’s worth, this did teach me a degree of compassion. And I believe that’s worth something. IF I only knew how to help people.

    I believe there is a Plan .. I do know there is a source and place of unconditional Love in this universe. I’ve experienced that too.

    But I still look for the blueprints.

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  10. very much so,can i relate in so many wayz, keep on keepin on marilyn 🙂 Q

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