Surgery scares me so much that I have a full on DNR in my will, and I'm in my 30s. I've got an appointment scheduled with a therapist, but I can't help myself envisioning a happier life selling my house and sports car to find a one-story and be wheelchair bound the rest of my life than deal with recovery. Some of my biggest fears are associated with this surgery. It's not that I don't trust doctors or that this is a relatively common procedure... it's just making me physically ill every single day in sheer terror about getting an IV in my arm, a drain in my leg, trying to deal with the pain, and the months of trauma trying to get back to normal. I don't even have it scheduled yet.
This is my second thread on the forum, and I'm sorry for approaching things so negatively. I don't really think I want reassurance, just a chance to vent. I feel like crying and can't stop obsessing about this. The pain in my hip is nothing in comparison to how flat-out scared I am of the surgery. Even the idea of being pain doesn't bring any relief. I'd rather just hurt some and not walk.
My first thread was about mental health as it pertains to this... if anyone has suggestions for where I can look for more help, I'd appreciate it. Thanks for reading otherwise, and I promise not to clog up the forum with my fears.
- just wanted to pipe in with some additional support for you. I just got the hip replacement surgery five days ago, and I had abject terror about the procedure all the way until I got wheeled into the OR, so I really related to this post. I'm hoping you may be able to get some solace hearing my very recent experience.
For months leading up to the surgery, I was in complete nervous system collapse. I didn't want to do it either. I got on Celebrex in November and prehabbed for a few months, which went great and led me to start fantasizing about not needing the surgery at all - until it didn't help anymore. The degeneration in my hip was structural - I had previously undiagnosed developmental dysplasia, which caused premature wear and tear on the cartilage - and even though I was relatively strong, the hip kept degenerating beyond what my muscles could help solve. I'm a very physical person, and not being able to access my body has been devastating to my mental and emotional health. I'm also prone to anxiety, and lept to catastrophizing pretty immediately, playing catastrophic surgical scenarios in my head over and over again. But the pain in my hip spoke loudly enough that I was also able to start imagining the catastrophes on the other side - what life would be like if I didn't
get the surgery. It's bleak to see worst-case scenarios down every path.
A therapist recommended that I allow myself to indulge in a different kind of fantasy: what would a best
-case scenario look like? What if all the people saying "you'll get your life back" were right? What could that look like? It took a while for me to permission myself to go there, and I won't say that made my fear disappear completely, but it did help enough that I was able to see a path to health after surgery. I imagined all the things I haven't gotten a chance to do yet that I really want to do (like learn to surf). That work allowed me to create a little bridge over the swirling terror whirlpools that were still there, but which I was now able to pay slightly less attention to. It wasn't easy creating that bridge. It took work and I had to tell the Protectors in my brain to please be quiet quite a few times. But it helped get me into that surgery prep room five days ago.
Once the anesthesiologist did an initial evaluation and saw how anxious I was, he started me on an oral anti-anxiety drug, and I was able to voice my fears both to him and to my surgeon. They both reassured me, and since I had decided a few months ago to trust my surgeon, because I picked him after doing a ton of research and meeting several different surgeons, I decided to believe them. Then I was out. When I woke up and settled into my hospital bed, I was hit with the most unexpected feeling of relief - the surgery was done and I was...ok. I really was ok. Maybe it sounds trite, but I didn't realize until that moment how unbelievably freeing it was to wake up and have the surgery be over
I'm now on Day 5 of post surgery healing, and there are no drains (never were any) and no IV (that was unpleasant but tolerable with pain meds), and I'm healing. No wheelchair. I don't really need a walker, either. I have some pain and some swelling but it changes every day and I can tell I'm healing. It's been incredibly helpful for my mental health, which I would not have believed before the surgery.
There is an element of giving up control in order to submit to surgery that can feel terrifying. I had to get to a state of intolerable pain in order to "let go and let God", as some people say. (Some surgeons like to think of themselves as Gods, so this sort of works even if you're a happy atheist, lol.) If you are a person who is comfortably in control of their life, but now there's this wildcard that you can't control, that cognitive dissonance can be incredibly frightening. I wanted to share my process of getting into the OR, and I hope to give you some clarity that you actually have agency even in deciding to go through with the surgery. You've outlined some choices you see for yourself if you decide to cancel the surgery - sell your sportscar and get a wheelchair, etc. You can also choose your surgeon and your surgical approach and your date, and even decide what to focus your mind on when you're making all those choices. (Definitely try to tell your brain to drop the leg drain because I don't know of a single hip replacement patient who has had to have one.)
Like others have mentioned, you can also choose to postpone. I hope to give you an example of what a process of choosing to keep the date could look like. I hope this is helpful.
Take good care of yourself, and please let us know how the journey is going for you. This community has been incredibly helpful for me, and trust, dumping your anxiety into words here is exactly what the space is for.
Have a happy Tuesday.