I look into the mirror a lot lately and for some reason, I do not recognize myself, I feel like I have forgotten who I am. Not just the physical changes but when I look into my eyes it feels like I am looking into a strangers. I feel like my identity is diminishing and I am becoming someone I don’t know. I never thought I could feel so weak, vulnerable and helpless, no one ever imagines their whole identity changing because of an injury.
When I first had an operation called a Radio Frequency Neurotomy, I was so scared that this operation was going to leave me in more pain than I was in beforehand. But I was running out of options so this operation had to be done.
I had ten spots in my back where the surgeon used a special device that sends out microwaves to burn the end of the nerves in my back. I woke up after this operation quite well and went to sit up in the hospital bed and found that my pain level had dropped a great deal. I was so happy, I thought that this operation had been a complete success and that it had fixed my back pain. I sat quietly with a big smile on my face and I was beginning to remember that person I was before I suffered from Chronic pain. The surgeon came out of theater and stopped at my bed for a chat, he asked me how I was feeling so I told him the good news. He looked at me and smiled but in the way like he knew something I didn’t. He explained to me that the reason I was feeling so good was that the anesthetic he injected prior to the operation was still numbing the area. Once the anesthetic started to wear off I was in a lot more pain than I was before, It felt like my whole back was seized up after a big truck had run me over. After two weeks the pain subsided a bit and I felt like I was in less pain than prior to the operation, It seemed that the surgery didn’t get rid of my pain like I dreamed of but it did dampen the sharp constant pain.
I was now able to work out a little bit but to be honest, it was still hurting a lot but I managed to carry on by using pain killers and the don’t give up attitude. I was taking a lot of painkillers every day just so that I could continue to look like I was getting back to my old self again. Eventually, after 4 months or so the pain returned to what is was before the operation and this really upset me. The fact that the operation only worked a little bit and that the full brunt of the pain was back just after 4 months nearly broke me. I went through this operation another 4 times and went through the whole emotional rollercoaster over and over again.
I was so stressed and angry at myself, I could not do any of my hobbies and every time my friends would be out doing something fun I would make up some excuse to stay home because I was so scared that they would see that I am not the same person anymore. The only person who I would share my true feelings with was my partner, we built our relationship on being honest and always telling the truth. I would tell her everything and she would listen and provide me with the support that I needed. After a while of her dealing with my constant anger outbursts and stressed behavior, she began to suffer in silence about how she was feeling because she didn’t want to stress me out. When we talked about it and I found out that I was causing her to suffer I was devastated, I felt like the only person that helps me is being hurt by my shit attitude and angry behavior.
I had slipped into Depression not long after my partner spoke about her suffering, I have caused her to suffer due to no fault of her own. My pain was beginning to destroy everything in my life, first my career in the Australian Defence Force was going to be over, I couldn’t do any physical hobbies or sport, I couldn’t even have sexual intercourse with my partner. All these things I couldn’t do were beginning to be my only focus, I would eventually end up hating myself and punishing everyone around me as if it was their fault I am like this.
Depression and Anxiety is a very slippery slope, once you are sliding down, it is very hard to get back up again.
I want to finish this short blog off with a few points I would like to share:
- Ask for help, you will be amazed at the support you will receive
- Don’t think that because you have a mental illness you are a weak person
- Just because you are struggling now doesn’t mean you will struggle forever
- Mental health does not discriminate it can affect anyone
- Do not be afraid to ask someone “are you ok”
- Remember that we are all human and we all need to support each other