Last Thursday my Dad had an operation. It was only supposed to be four hours long, so when the surgeon hadn’t reported back after four and a half hours… I began to worry. After five hours, I started googling surgery complications and other reasons why it might have been delayed. After six hours I started panicking and fretting and tapping my teeth together. After seven hours I shed tears of fear, convinced that something had definitely gone wrong. Finally, after eight long hours, we got word that it had been a great success, and my Doodi was doing well. 🙂 Apparently the operation had only taken the predicted time, but the surgeon had delayed updating us until my Dad had stabilised in the recovery area. As soon as we knew all was good, I went straight to bed. Exhausted and ill. Since developing Pulmonary Hypertension, my body can’t cope with worry.
It’s not the first time since getting PH, that I’ve made myself poorly from worrying. On the eve of being a bridesmaid, I had to miss the pre-celebratory meal as couldn’t move due to weakness. On the day of my husband’s marathon debut, he had to come straight to A&E from the finishing line (still in his sweaty gear), as I had breathing difficulties. In the week leading up to my benefits appeal in court, Phil had to dress and wash me every day, as I was too exhausted to do it myself. After hearing the Brexit result, I had to spent the entire day in bed, shaky and nauseous. Since getting PH, whenever I stress or fret or panic… my body gets poorly. I wasn’t always like this. In my life before PH, I rarely showed physical symptoms when I was stressed. Thank goodness, as I used to be a real worrier. A female Mr Worry. I constantly thought about the “what ifs” and the “maybes”, and imagined every possible outcome to my woes. But as I functioned fine, I saw no reason to change my behaviour. I could still teach a room full of excitable children, after a flittering night of sleep. I could still spring clean the entire house, with worrisome thoughts circling my mind. I could still lie still and watch television, with adrenaline surging through my arteries. Although I periodically read newspaper articles designed to worry worriers that worrying is worrisome… I didn’t believe it could be harming my body.
But then when I developed PH, I quickly found that now whenever I fretted or stressed or overthought, I became poorly. Pounding headaches, achy body, heavy limbs, breathless. Racing heart, disrupted sleep, body flushes, breathless. Shakier shakes, complete exhaustion, body weakness, breathless. Constant nausea, pulsating veins, hunger pangs, breathless. And fatigue- overwhelming and extreme fatigue (worrying uses up precious energy coins). Nowadays my body faces a daily battle to keep me alive due to dodgy lungs… the ‘fight or flight’ responses provoked by worrying make the heart and lung’s jobs many times more difficult. The tensed up lung muscles and elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate and restricted blood vessels and extra adrenaline, all make breathing and pumping blood more challenging. The number and severity of symptoms I experience, is directly proportional to the amount of time and intensity of my overthinking. So sixty minutes of stressing over a tax return will just result in a flushed face and headache… but a long day of Doodi operation panic, will cause a full bombardment! And the only way to recover… is to STOP worrying!! 🙂
Over the last five years, I’ve made a real effort to change my ‘Mr Worry’ behaviour. With the help of a wonderful anxiety therapist, many books, guided meditation and hypnosis audios, I am no longer related to the little blue man. I rarely stress about the small daily niggles, like being late for a meeting or stuck in a traffic jam. I rarely stress about things I can’t change, like my prognosis or the world news. I’m far from being a zen master though, as still succumb to my innate worrier instincts when facing big and scary life trials. However with the techniques I have been taught, I can usually quickly stop or reduce my panicking, without too much damage to my body. Much to the relief of my heart and lungs! 🙂
We’ve had a tricky month in our house. The most stressful prolonged period in ages. As well as my Dad’s illness and subsequent operation, Phil has also been poorly and off work. I’ve been meditating every day, journaling my thoughts, writing worry lists and employing all my other coping strategies. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep myself calm and avoided a hospital visit! But my ‘at its PH best’ body has still been pummelled; small amounts of stressing each day have taken their toll. I’ve been tiring more quickly, taking longer to recover, and had many many sofa days! But happily we have still managed some (shorter) trips… well needed boosts of fun. Thankfully, the tide now appears to be turning. My Doodi is doing well, and Phil is slowly getting better. And as I’m worrying less, my strength and health is returning. Some storms can’t be avoided, so you just need to do your best to survive them. 🙂
Oh and if anyone has an operation in the future… please tell me it’s going to take a lot longer than you expect it to! 😛