Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Does the PTSD of Illness & Pain Ever Go Away?

I developed tendonitis in my right wrist -- probably from using an external mouse on my computer. I saw a doctor. Got a removable splint to wear and was told not to strain my wrist. No big deal, and no PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

A few day later, I sliced open two fingers on a sharp metallic edge of a tray I did not notice was so sharp. Blood gushed. I could see the fat layer of my fingers. I used the voice (you know the one. We all have it in serious situations where obedience is required and no questions are to be asked) to tell Richard - I need you to drive me to the emergency room, now.

I was fine during the waiting and the stitching. I joked with the doctor, got to know her life story, gave her recommendations for local restaurants.

Then, over the next few days, I was either hyper or low-per -- unable to sit for more than two minutes or unable to get out from under the fleece blanket and off the couch. I either felt feathery, as if gravity were not strong enough to hold me down; or I felt compressed & dense, as if I were the center of a cosmic black hole.

I was hypervigilant about the wound -- checking it a few times an hour to see if there were any signs of infection or to see if a stitch had come loose. I held my fingers under a fluorescent light. I examined them with a magnifying glass.

Within the course of a ten day period, I made two visits to the surgical physician's assistant and two more to after hours care. I was sure something had gone wrong.

As I was experiencing all this, I also had the awareness to ask myself if my excessive scrutiny might not be a leftover from the terrible fear of things going wrong that chronic pain can infuse into one's very cells. The answer was - Yes. I knew my behavior reeked of PTSD; but I couldn't stop it. I needed repeated confirmation that everything was OK.

In fact, one doctor I saw told me there were no signs of infection. But a few days later, the surgical physician's assistant I saw confirmed that I did have an infection, still in its early stages. I was relieved she caught it. But the misdiagnosis only reinforced my watchfulness.

Now, about three weeks after the finger slicing, I am calming down. I trust it's healing, as it was meant to do.

But when will the PTSD of living with pain finally heal?

1 comment:

FridaWrites said...

With time--I broke a finger once and it was worse than breaking the bones in my feet. I think the adrenaline makes a difference. Temporarily, beta blockers can help with PTSD (see studies) and are pretty mild. It's taken the edge off some events/bodily traumas for me.