I am very well aware – nearly telescopically aware – of the incision healing on the left side of my face and neck. It still feels stretched and lumpy and hot and even has some nerve pain. My doc says all of this is normal (already knew that), and that it could take 4-6 months for these symptoms to resolve (didn’t know that). [Happy Sidenote: All cancer removed!] So, I’ll be dealing with the healing process for a while.
Which isn’t much of a big deal except that I feel very Squeamish and Freaked Out by the look and touch/feel/internal feel of the incision and healing pattern. And I will only be able to see differences and improvement as weekly or monthly snapshots.
Because of this visceral reaction, all I want are hugs and to self-soothe by cuddling on the couch. I’d be ok with this, honestly, even though it’s against my mental health care plan. I would want company and connection, but at home – dirty as it is – so I don’t have to go out. Isolation is very much against my care plan. But I’m beginning to fall into the desire to withdraw and sleep all the time. Some of this is the post-surgical healing, yet I’m feeling some mood disturbance now.
Perhaps this is because I also feel squeamish and freaked out by my mental illness. My mood is much more stable now, yet still feel this way because I still feel internal stigma that I have mental health issues. And I am aware of others’ stigma that because I have mental illness I may be violent, or Off, or unreliable. There’s only so much anti-stigma work I can do. Mostly I work on my own stigma. I remind myself that I am approaching recovery and can do tasks of average life: work, housework, meals, social interaction. Took me a long time, but it’s all true.
I think this bout with cancer and the “natural” trauma of surgery threw me off more than I expected. I’m back in a phase for my mood and its stigma, and the pain and weird healing, that I need self-soothing. Keeping up with doctor appointments is one way, as are household tasks and holding to a sleep schedule. These are the anchors.
But the rest of the time – all I want are hugs and couch cuddling. And how is this working for me? I get to avoid the feelings. I’m realistic that I had cancer and that I had a major surgery and need to rest. This situation brings up all the surgeries I’ve had and the scars that I bear on my body from those experiences. I don’t need body art to remember times in my life, or the pain of receiving that body art, when I’ve had regular experiences of receiving marks on my body – with pain – that defines those moments of my life. I remember people and care at that time. I remember the scars of being in and out of the hospital to stabilize my mood, and the few who had my back in the most tangible ways.
My life feels marked by pain, what with the chronic pain I have to experience and manage Every Day. The flare-ups of that pain. And the regular occurrences of yet another surgery that plunges me into pain again. And now the chronic illness that has been plunging me into deep emotional pain regularly for the last few years.
I’m tired of it. I don’t have strength for this. I just want to skip to the end of this bout of pain instead of going through it. And THAT is probably the reason for the need of Hugs and Couch Time and Naps. Just spend the time as painless as possible. I want to regress. It’s self-preservation.