It's all me, me, me...

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Vivre Sa Vie
London, United Kingdom
Well hello there. My name is Viv (well, it's not really), and, like a lot of people, I'm ever so slightly neurotic... I have panic attacks and anxiety (ranging from mild to pretty intense), on and off. I also have an amazing and quite high-profile job, so I'm choosing to remain anonymous on here. Not because I'm ashamed of the aforementioned neuroses, but because I don't want to be googled and for my colleagues to read bizarre posts about me breathing into a paper bag and popping lorazepam. I've worked for bookshops, mixed arts festivals and charities, and have met (and still meet!) a lot of famous, fetching and fantabulous people for my job. (See, anxiety doesn't need to stop you being AWESOME and doing what you want to do) Here's hoping you'll find some helpful hints and tips on here which will help you tackle the evil panic heebiejeebs... PS. I'm an Australian, but I live in the UK, and have adopted tea-drinking, pubs, Wodehouse, and a Welsh man.
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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

And on the third day, she crashed (with apologies to Jesus and ELO)

No ruby slippers, no wonderful wizard; just terror and bright backlighting...
Well, talk about talking too soon. After the general 'I'm alive!' joy of days one and two, I plummeted like a burning, nervy, post-chop Icarus tangled in charred plumage and mixed metaphors. 

Wednesday morning I woke up, and suddenly all was not well. I felt anxious - really, really anxious -  I didn't want the operation to have happened, and I was almost fainting with squeamishness about the wounds on my body and the notion of what had gone on internally when I was not there to see it. It reminded me of my poor childhood cat when he had an abscess on his back - he kept on twisting and turning and shivering his skin along his backbone to try and slide it off and get out from under it somehow. I wanted it all not to have happened, and I wanted to get out from under it. 

I fell into a massive, familiar pile of panic and anxiety, and took a Lorazepam to try to dull the edges, but somehow it combined with the leftover anaesthetic and took me in a horrible way - all wide-awake crazy thoughts and palpitations and trembles.

I couldn't sleep, I couldn't sit still, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't listen to my post-surgery relaxation CD because it made me want to faint, I couldn't take a Lorazepam because I was frightened of making it worse, I couldn't lie still because I was petrified of clots forming in my legs, and I felt absolute, complete, suffocating despair. I tried all the old tricks, and they didn't work. I got disassociation - my whole familiar world started looming and stretching in sinister ways, and I felt trapped in a waking nightmare. It was like a big, fat, supersized Ecstasy comedown (apologies for mature references!) but without the ecstasy (with a small or a big e). All agony, no ecstasy?

I convinced myself I had post-surgery trauma syndrome, that I had clots in my legs and internal bleeding, that I had an infection, that I was going mad, that I would have to have another surgery to fix this one and this would all happen again, and above all - that I was a colossal, self-indulgent hypochondriac who couldn't handle a routine operation like the rest of humanity. My thoughts were just completely and utterly out of control - the horse was galloping away towards the inferno and the rider was just freaking out on the sidelines with wet jodhpurs and a frayed whip. 

Needless to say, it wasn't a vintage few days. It turns out that it's not such an unusual reaction after all - apparently the body's hormonal and endocrine systems go haywire after surgery - and couple that with the general anaesthetic wearing off and some anxiety about recovery and you have a perfect recipe for panic-a-go-go. I just wish I knew that beforehand! 

It, however, remind me of a couple of panic-related things that are worth repeating:

1. Nothing REALLY works in a panic the way you want it to - because the body is specifically designed to create terror that is virtually impossible to override.  The whole point is that you're not meant to easily cognitively disassemble it - you're meant to fucking RUN. So I was reminded, at a cost, that the best thing to do is to grab on to something and hold on, and wait it out. To weather the storm and try desperately to hear the tiny, squeaky voice a mile off that stutters 'this will pass' in the face of the terrifying succubus screaming 'IT WILL NOT' in front of your face.

2. It does pass. I felt like I was in a horror film last week, and I'm calmly typing this now after a relatively happy couple of days. Yes, I'm still a bit quivery, but that always happens for a while after a storm of panic - I know I just have to wait it out until it completely passes again.

3. Anxiety and panic don't make you weak. This one is thanks to my stepmother, who came downstairs and wrapped me in a tight hug when she found me sobbing uncontrollably on my own, and told me about her experiences with panic and anxiety (she's also hard as fucking nails, and you would never, ever characterise her as weak or even approaching it) and shook me back to reality and self-respect. Everyone is flawed. Everyone has their vulnerable moments. But that's not what people remember of them, and that's not what they should remember of themselves. 

So. That's it. I think I've earned a bit of a relax at long last, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch Ingrid Bergman give weird, face bruising non-kiss kisses to Cary Grant - I've got a week's worth of recovery DVDs to catch up on...

Nope, that's still not it - we can clearly see your lips aren't touching, guys...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Surgical stockings and ruby slippers...

This outfit only needs some bottle green  surgical stockings to be complete...

Praise the lord or Buddha whatever hippy sprite you like (whatever gets you through the night), but it's over! Operation operation has taken place, and I am at home recuperating - languishing on my day bed like a Victorian lady with a bad case of TB (and sloth).

First of all - everything went really well, and I'm okay, so if you just want the headline news and not the garbled in-depth editorial, you have permission to stop reading NOW.

For those who are a glutton for punishment, stay tuned for Casualty - Viv style.

All went pretty well. I got wheeled into the pre-theatre room, and they had Jeremy Kyle up on TV, and his guests were screaming and hollering about aborted babies or something, so the woman kindly changed the channel and sat back down. I wasn't sure whether to say anything, but I was feeling a bit nervous and panicky about the immediate future, so I tentatively said 'uh, I think this one's actually a holocaust documentary?' as indeed the screen was full of sepia images of bunkbeds and corpse piles. She giggled and flipped it over to Frasier. Frasier's MILDLY amusing escapades did not entirely erase the DEATH DEATH DEATH images flashing across my mind for a few minutes.

Then I was wheeled into the Room of Doom; not what it said on the sign, but should be re-named, because it just felt like an ante-chamber of a torture clinic (do they do torture in clinics? Maybe if you go private...) or something - all tubes and breathing machines and metal trays of syringes in a row. Cocky anaesthetist and hard-nosed nurse are flirting over the top of my wobbly attempts at light-hearted conversation, and cocky anaesthetist suddenly says 'I've been having twinges in my gallbladder too, thought I had to have it out, but I don't. 'Oh' I said, 'if you did, would you have it done by surgeon x (my surgeon) and he said 'oh, no, I would never get it done by a colleague - if something went wrong he would never forgive himself, and besides, I know where he lives (cocky laugh)!' WHAAAAT?! IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?! He would never forgive himself - so he WOULD forgive himself if he ballsed it up on a stranger, i.e. me,  but on you, he wouldn't?

And why the hell are you even putting my surgeon's name in the same sentence as 'getting it wrong' when I am literally being wheeled in to have him rifle through my insides with sharp knives? WTF? Just as these thoughts were racing through my mind and I was starting to feel like maybe I could just hop off the trolley and catch a bus home, I completely lost consciousness (he obviously went 'shit, that wasn't very reassuring, was it? Quick, force the anaesthetic in now, go, go...')

Anyway, next thing I know, I'm shivering and shaking like I'm in a bucket of ice, I have no idea what's going on, and I have a mask over my face that I keep on trying to rip off. They're soothingly trying to force the mask back on because my temperature is low and I need oxygen, but to my ragingly confused mind I am just being smothered by a bunch of people I can't really see. I'm crying that I'm cold, and they've got loads of hot fans underneath my covers on the trolley, and I'm so upset about what is happening that I ask one of the nurses who I can't really see to hold my hand. She holds my hand under the covers and I think I calm down a bit. God knows how long that went on, but eventually I get wheeled back to my room, and I can see my boyfriend there, but only just, because it feels like I'm just being drowned in unconsciousness - I swim up for a second and then get pinned back down again, against my will. That carried on for the rest of the day, basically. I guess we can safely say now that I'm not a big fan AT ALL of the old general anaesthetic, and will happily leave it a good long while before doing that again.

So apparently it all went well - the evil little stone-choking-fat-pinching bastard is out and languishing in medical waste somewhere, and I can move on with my life.

I've got some VERY fetching anti-embolism stockings on as we speak, and some actual ruby slippers on the ends of my tootsies for some Technicolour Garland glamour too. You can just imagine, what with the stockings, the infrequent bathing, the needing to be helped up to sitting position and the special surgical dressings for my wounds - my boyfriend is just out of his mind with frenzied desire and a urge to pledge his life to me for ever.

'Cocky Anaesthetist  just said WHAT ???!'

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