After surgery, you may have feelings rushing through your mind. One minute you may be sad, feeling worthless, and then all of a sudden you become anxious and overwhelmed. These are all very normal feelings after surgery so be assured, no you are not going off the deep-end – but perhaps feeling depressed or anxious. Feeling depressed after surgery, as well as, feeling anxious is pretty common.
Feelings – Nothing more than Feelings
Do you remember that song? Well maybe not. Your body has just gone through, to what it views as, a traumatic event. You have, more than likely, been put under anesthesia, you have been cut open, your body has been manipulated, probably in a way that it hasn’t been before – you bet you have feelings and they can be very powerful. On top of the feelings, you may have questions rolling through your mind -Will you ever feel better? Will you be able to do things for yourself again? Will you be able to do the “normal” things you did before surgery? Will you ever be able to sleep soundly? Will this ever end? These are just a few of the questions that might be running through your mind and the list can go on and on. Though it’s been said that feelings are nothing more than feelings they can also lead to feeling depressed after surgery – depression, which is more than just a few fleeting thoughts, can become debilitating if allowed to go on without addressing it, as too, can anxiety.
Depression can encompass so many thoughts and feelings. Feeling hopeless, experiencing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, fatigue and being discouraged. But be assured, in most cases, as you move along in your recovery these very feelings will begin to shift. This happens as your pain lessons, as you’re able to sleep better, as you’re able to do more for yourself and as you get back to your normal activities. When these things start to occur then too, your feelings of depression after surgery and that dark cloud should start to lift. However, if you, or someone around you, feels that the depression is more than just these types of feelings reach out, talk to your doctor and get help.
Another issue you might wrestle with is anxiety. Who’s going to pay my bills? When will I get back to work (to be able to pay the bills)? What happens if something happens to me and no one is here to help? If you let your mind continue down the path of anxiety you can come up with so many “what if” scenarios. Many people have anxious feelings following surgery and it is completely normal. In fact, anxiety can be real in the sense that maybe you have good reason to believe your bills won’t be paid, you are living alone and if you fall what then? One of the best things you can do is face the issues head-on, for instance; call the companies you are having trouble paying, explain the situation and see if they can make some type of accommodations. Finding solutions to your questions will relieve some of your anxiety and make you feel more in control. As you progress through your recovery some of the anxiety will naturally lift.
Ways to Help Yourself
So, you’ve identified that you are feeling depressed after surgery or perhaps you are being flooded with anxiety – what can you do to begin to feel better?
- Be sure you are eating a well-balanced diet. Try to eliminate sugar, or at least limit the amount of sugar you’re consuming. Sugar, in itself, can set you on a roller coaster of feeling up and then crashing. Limit processed foods. What are some examples of these – hot dogs, frozen dinners and bacon. These are just a few examples of processed foods – there are many more. Again, you want to eat a balanced diet – remember the food pyramid – that’s what you want to follow. Don’t limit protein because protein helps restore muscle and muscle growth.
- Drinking enough water – a good measure of water intake is aiming for 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water. Example – If you weigh 200 lbs. aim for 100 oz of water a day. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration and your body may not function as it should – from your kidneys to your brain – so get that water in.
- Getting enough sleep can be tough when you’re still recovering and have pain. Medications can also interfere with sleep. So be sure to take naps during the day if your sleep is interrupted throughout the night. Remember when we used to hate naps as children – nope, not anymore more lol. This is the time for you to relax so don’t do too much and get as much sleep as you are able – this may be the only time you can give yourself permission to do so without others complaining about all you do is sleep. Seriously though, don’t underestimate the value of rest.
- I know, I know – you may loathe exercise. But there are so many types of exercise that you can participate in – Exercise has been proven to aid in the production of endorphins which in turn lift your mood. First and foremost, you want to ask your doctor if you are cleared for activity. What type of exercise should you participate in? I’m not talking about running a marathon at this time. Short walks are a good way to start. As you progress through your recovery you can also increase the amount of exercise and also incorporate other types of exercise into your program – yoga, walking with the goal of further or longer time increments, or biking. A recumbent bike is one activity that many like because of the comfortable seating and you can read, watch t.v. or listen to music and not have to worry about traffic while riding. At some time in your recovery you may be able to resume weight workouts – but again consult with your doctor and get his release for any type of exercise.
Medication, most times, is needed after surgery. It helps with pain; however, pain can lead to feelings of depression after surgery. So be sure to continue with your medication and keep an open line of communication with your doctor. Take the prescribed amount and don’t quit taking your medication without letting your doctor know. Sometimes cutting out meds can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms and we don’t want that.
Is What You’re Feeling Normal?
Feeling depressed after surgery is not uncommon. So many things are going on with our bodies after surgery that it’s surprising more people don’t experience depression. It’s true, feelings are nothing more than feelings but, those very feelings can be intense. Always, always talk with someone if you continue to feel depressed or have thoughts of harming yourself. As you progress through your recovery those feelings of depression and anxiety should start to lift, especially if you take steps to conquer them.