Recovery is Rarely Linear.
Right now, I’m recovering from an operation.
As well as this, I am recovering from other things; some are those I thought I had long since dealt with; others are things I wasn’t even entirely aware I needed to deal with.
In all cases, it has been a slightly strange revelation to realise that recovery – whether it’s from an operation, from abuse or from something else – is rarely linear.
Four days after my operation, I woke up feeling fantastic. I had already been pleasantly surprised by how well I was doing; I had expected to be unable to walk. On this day, I felt brilliant. I had the idea that I would get someone to drive me to Tesco, and do a spot of shopping. This lasted until around 11am, when I collapsed onto the sofa, exhausted. I stayed there for the rest of the day, and even dragging my sorry self up the stairs to the toilet took more effort than I was comfortable with.
Having never had a general anaesthetic before, I had no idea what to expect beforehand, and I really hadn’t expected that my normal daily rhythms of waking and sleeping would be so disrupted by it – or that no matter how much rest I got, I would still be so bone crushingly exhausted sometimes.
Now, four weeks later, the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off. My external stitches have dissolved; the small wound in my belly button is all but healed. I still have a hard knot of internal stitches though, between my abdominal muscles. Some days it feels fine; some days it hurts. Some days I forget it’s there, and stretch as I yawn – then I remember. The exhaustion still shows up frequently – though I think this may actually be more to do with mental fatigue from other things I’m currently dealing with.
Four weeks after the event, when people ask how I’m recovering it seems silly to say I have “good days and bad days” but that’s the truth. Some days I feel like I can book my physiotherapy appointment and begin the next phase of my recovery. Other days, I can wear only trousers with an elasticated waist, and I feel thoroughly defeated by how long and drawn out this process is. This is far from a steady, straight line of recovery; instead sometimes it feels more like one step forward; two steps back.
I suppose the thing is that actually my body is not only recovering from the operation I had. It is recovering from the thing I had removed. It might only have been a lump of fat no bigger than a golf ball, but it had been in the wrong place for five years – and in being in the wrong place, it had no doubt pushed and pulled many other things into the wrong place. All of these things are now slowly figuring out where they should be – where they should have been, for the last five years.
As well as this there is an emotional recovery, which is also not linear and not something I was expecting. The circumstances of the operation were fairly traumatic, as were the weeks leading up to it. I’m still recovering from all of that stress and upheaval, and – silly though it may sound – from being separated from S for a week.
Of course, I’ve written here about my physical recovery from an operation – because it’s easier to discuss, even in written form, than the other things from which I have been recovering.
Five years after leaving an abusive relationship, I thought I was over it. In actual fact, what I had actually done was process most of what had happened, and then cleverly avoid facing the possibility of actually being in a relationship where I might be vulnerable again. There were a couple of dalliances while S was still a baby, but neither of them went anywhere and I certainly don’t recall feeling vulnerable at all.
I was somewhat shocked then, to find that five and a half years after the fact, there are still things I have yet to deal with. The problem with this is that there are some things you can only deal with by facing them – and in order to face them I would have to have a relationship with a man. And recent experience has shown me that this in itself would be very problematic – again, because recovery is not linear. And because it would not be straightforward. And because the thought of “dating” sends shivers down my spine. And how can one in good conscience agree to “date” someone when there is a whole can of worms waiting to be opened the moment things become even vaguely romantic?
I think perhaps this part of my recovery will be a long, drawn out affair.