Having a total of 5 surgical procedures all within a 6 month period (3 major neurosurgeries, a lumber puncture and brain surgery), there is no doubt that both my mind and body have suffered from severe anxiety and stress. Prior to having all these surgeries, I had some experience when having bilateral knee surgery (both knees done at the same time) in 2012. So I thought going through surgery once before meant I would be as cool and calm as a cucumber – but I can honestly say that each surgery was a completely different experience and is just as nerve-wracking.
I think anyone who is told by their doctor that they will need to have surgery (whether it may be minor or major) it is always a big deal and will impact your life in some way. With any type of surgery, everyone can relate to the overwhelming feelings and emotions you first experience when processing the diagnoses, risks, outcomes, uncertainty and worries that carry along with your recovery at hospital and home.
Typically, it is natural to experience never-ending thoughts and ‘what if’ scenarios that can keep you awake at night and difficulty sleeping, having ‘butterfly’ nerves and the heart racing weeks to days prior, the feelings of not being in control, the fear of what pain you will experience, and having to trust and depend upon surgeons and nurses you may not have met before that will be literally holding your life in their hands – and yes, of course this is scary!
I like to say that it is the fear of the ‘unknown’. I will admit that I was absolutely terrified before my first neurosurgery. When it was explained to me by my U.S.A. neurosurgeon via telephone how life-threatening and severe my case was due to the amount of compression on my brain stem, I feared whether I would even make it through the surgery alive. I was told that the surgery carried extremely high risks. I was told there was a major artery situated just millimetres away from where he would make the incision and a small wrong movement would risk me bleeding to death. I was told that there was a very high risk of having permanent nerve damage which could lead to permanent paralysis and further complications. I was told I would most likely lose all mobility to my neck and head. I was told there was no guarantee that my chronic debilitating pain and numerous neurological symptoms would go away – that simply the surgery would stop my severely compressed brain stem from killing me. I feared for what my life would be like if I survived this surgery. I feared I would lose who I was as a person, as a daughter, as a twin sister, as a friend, as a Masters student – me as a whole. I feared all worst-case scenarios and what would happen if I didn’t survive. I really did fear for my life. I had no other option but this high risk lifesaving surgery. This was before I knew I would embark upon the most terrifying time of my life and be faced with another 3 lifesaving surgeries in the months to come….
However, even though a tremendous amount of fear, anxiety and stress had built up inside of me I was able to find a way out to make this whole experience less scary and daunting. Thank goodness for one of my cousins! She strongly recommended these incredible tracks that really helped her through difficult times of pre-op nerves for her knee replacement surgery. She had a very positive and successful experience with the power of meditation – a quick and easy purchase/download from iTunes:
I cannot recommend it enough! It helps prepare and train your unconscious mind to feel calm and relaxed for all the thoughts and feelings you may experience in the upcoming weeks and on the day of your surgery.
There are 4 different tracks which cover an introduction, guided imagery to help in preparation and getting ready for your surgery, affirmations focusing on healing during recovery, and a track that can be played in the operating room if you are awake during surgery.
I would recommend to start listening to the pre-op guided imagery meditation track at least a few weeks to a month before your surgery and play it once, twice or as many times as you would like a day – every time you are resting and before you go to bed as it helps you go to sleep.
The first time I listened to the tracks I was in a feeling of panic and felt my heart racing when the guided imagery was making me envisage being wheeled into the operating theatre. But, after listening to this on repeat twice a day and repeating positive lines and imagery in my thoughts a few weeks before my first major neurosurgery in January (craniocervical fusion, skull realignment and chiari decompression), I was very calm, relaxed, positive and confident the morning of my surgery.
Before being wheeled into the operating theatre, I listened to the guided imagery track which helped my mind stay in the present and reassured my belief that everything would be OK. I looked around at other patients being prepped for surgery and saw the look of fear on their faces. But I felt completely safe and reassured that I was in the best hands being taken care of by all the surgeons and nurses. I didn’t experience any stress, anxiety, and my mind didn’t run away with my ‘what if’ thoughts – success!
After surgery, I listened to the post-op affirmations track which helped kept me calm at times of worry and pain, and lowered my anxiety making me feel relaxed so I could sleep peacefully during the day and nights in hospital.
I am happy to say that the combination of meditation and beautiful soothing music helped me get through all of my surgeries and recoveries successfully! Even though it has been over a month since my brain surgery, I still listen to the affirmations track as it helps keep me calm and think positive outcomes in my recovery both with my mind and body whilst going through specialist physiotherapy and vision therapy. The affirmations enable me to stay motivated and strong during both the good and bad days.
Through my experience of surgeries and living with a chronic disease it has really taught me how powerful the mind can be in life situations both in a positive and negative way. It can be so easy to let fears and negative thoughts drown your mind with anxiety and stress. Yes it may feel like more effort to think positively in a situation when anyone could understand you only thinking doom and gloom, but always remember you are able to choose your thoughts and get yourself out of anything – the mind is powerful and can make you believe in anything! Getting into a routine of positive thinking and envisaging seeing yourself out the other side of a situation being successful, healthy, calm, happy, safe, loved, stable etc. can do wonders when being faced with fears.
I really do hope if you have to undergo surgery at some point in your life that you can use these fantastic guided imagery tracks and tricks. I can guarantee that it will prep your body and mind to keep you relaxed, stress-free and eliminate any fears before the big day!