March 31, 2019

Things I'm afraid of

Things I'm afraid of

It is just a few days to surgery now, so it seems like a good time to talk about the things I'm afraid of, aka The Anxiety Digest:

  • That the surgery won't work. This concern doesn't occupy that much of my active worry, the success rate for this surgery, in my particular situation, is very high. But the fear does hover in the background: like a spider hiding behind the TV that, every now and then when you've forgot about it, pokes its creepy little face out and then scuttles away before you can squash it. I call myself Buddhist, but it appears that spiders really test that theory...
  • That the surgery will work - will stop the pain - but will cause some other problem. There's a list of possibilities, I talked about them in my post about my pre-op appointments, and I don't feel like giving them more airtime here.
  • That the surgery will work: I'll go off the meds, the numbness will recede quickly, and the pain won't return (at least for a few years). But that then I will develop TN on the other side of my face. This is scary. This is my elephant in the room, only it is not an elephant, it is an elephant-sized spider. I know that the number of people who develop TN on both sides of the face is low - a single-digit percentage of those who have one-sided TN. And I know that it wouldn't mean that this surgery was useless. But it would certainly feel that way.
  • That I'll forget to take something important to the hospital, or forget to do something important before we leave. I get this way about any kind of travel - let's just say that going through a TSA checkpoint with me is... unpleasant. To combat this fear, I make lists. It helps, but there's the added dimension of planning for my (temporary) incapacity, which is a whole other thing:
  • Not being in control - of myself, of the situation, of what happens to me, etc. My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ, aka "The Mastermind." Admittedly, we can be control freaks: we get rather twitchy about doing things the right way - once we've figured out what that is. The flip side is that, if you let us loose on a problem, at the end of the day we will have: fixed the problem; built something to avoid the problem in the future; and identified and fixed another problem you didn't know you had that was going to bite you in the ass down the road. So knowing that I'm not going to be able to keep an eye on all the moving parts of the situation, so that I can anticipate and avoid/fix problems... that's scary to an INTJ.
  • That something will fall apart at work while I'm gone. See the previous two paragraphs. It isn't that I don't trust my coworkers - I do. They are awesome, and part of the reason that I'm able to do this surgery now. But we aren't a huge university, so, like many people on campus, I'm the only person that does most of what I do. I've put systems and backups in place, but the "what ifs" still pop into my head (hello again, control freak).
  • That recovery will be horrible and awful and etc. And it will be: at the very least, it will be unpleasant, I'll be exhausted, and I'll probably be in pain, and for at least a couple weeks. I won't be able to do things - I go stir crazy when I've been stuck on the couch with the flu for two days, so I'm fairly sure that after about a week, I'll be yelling "bored now!" So this isn't something I'm afraid of. It is just something I'm... "dreading" is too strong of a word, "not looking forward to" is too mild. I'm somewhere in the middle of those two things.
  • That I'll die. I know that this is not a life-threatening surgery. I've had major surgery before and been fine, I'm in good health, and I'm in the hands of an expert, at a highly-respected hospital. I know that, statistically, I'm more at risk driving to the hospital than during the surgery itself. But it is really hard to know that I'm having brain surgery and not have this fear show up, just a little. So there it is.

With all that said, there are many things I'm grateful for:

  • I have health insurance with good coverage. They approved the surgery in the blink of an eye, and I'm not going get buried in debt from it. This is huge - and it is unconscionable to me that, in a society as wealthy as ours is, that anyone should have to forgo medical treatment and live in pain. So I'm grateful that I have it, but mad that not everyone does.
  • My husband. He has been so understanding, supportive, patient, and kind. This is overwhelming and scary for him, too. He does not like hospitals, but if they let him, he'd be in the operating room, holding my hand, even though I was asleep.
  • My friends, family, and coworkers. They all want to help; there is a small army of professors ready to bring casseroles, should the need arise.
  • Having a job with sick leave and disability insurance so I can take this time off and not have financial problems.
  • That I'm otherwise healthy.
  • We live just an hour from a clinic that specializes in TN, with doctors that are experts in TN, and that are leading the fight to find a cure.
  • Modern hospitals. I just re-read one of my favorite childhood books, "Curious George Goes to the Hospital." It was published in 1966, and... yeah.