Healing is emotional as well

Doctor's office again
Doctor's office again (Photo credit: Sidereal)

One of the most essential elements of healing a body that has been injured, damaged or ill is to soothe and comfort the psyche, the soul of the person whose corporeal armor has, in a significant way, (even in the aid of better health), been pierced.

But it’s the piece that is consistently left out. When you leave hospital after a major surgery, you’re handed a thick sheaf of instructions, some in boldface type, all of which are — of necessity — focused on the physical.

Who addresses the needs of the soul?

Which is why, when I met a fellow hip patient in the hallway, a former dancer, a woman my age, we couldn’t stop talking to one another about how we felt.

Not our bones or muscles, but our hearts and minds.

A sense of shame and failure that years of diligent activity and careful eating and attention to posture…led us into an operating suite. The feeling of isolation, of being cut from the herd of your tribe, the lithe and limber, the fleet of foot. The fragility of suddenly relying very heavily on a husband whose innate nature may, or may not be, to nurture.

And a husband who knows all too well that physical intimacy is almost impossible, sometimes for years, when your loved one is sighing not with desire but in deep pain. When your hips simply can’t move as you wish they would, and once did. It is a private, personal loss with no place to discuss it.

I’m deeply grateful to know a few women like me: feisty, active, super-independent and all recovering, now or a while ago, from hip replacement. Every tribe has a scar, a mark, a tattoo.

Ours isΒ  a vertical six inches.

Time to wear it proudly.

19 thoughts on “Healing is emotional as well

  1. That’s the DANG truth. I’m currently recovering from surgery myself (mastectomy), and yeah, all those post-op instructions are nice n’ fancy n’ all, but what about the inner side? That part of you that has to come to terms with a new body landscape, a new way of doing things, a new way of seeing things, a new way of interacting with a partner intimately. My body isn’t what it was before surgery, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, or even what I SHOULD feel about it. I go through the proper mechanics of post-op, I make sure the incision is doing what it needs to do, that the drainage tube is clear, that I make the proper notations in my log book, that I dutifully perform the small exercises to keep my arm and shoulder moving. I do all these things and yet I don’t know what exercises I need for my inner self, or for my emotional adjustment or physiological remapping in my brain. I don’t know. And I’m not sure how to feel about that, either.

    So here’s to others who go through these events, and who know what it can feel like in the aftermath, when you’ve only got a rough map of your direction and just the will to get going, regardless of where. Just somewhere else, away from the knife, away from the tubes and the medicine and the stitches and the stiffness and the pain, and away from whatever put you in that position in the first place. I’m itching to go. I’m just not sure how, yet.

    Thanks for writing, and for keeping us posted on your journey.


    1. I’m so sorry to hear this!!! My mom had a mastectomy in 1993….it is a huge change in one’s body in every way, a loss (versus what is, for me technically, a gain.)

      You so eloquently describe it….the mechanics of it all. My husband just (bless him for his bravery) finished dressing my wound (God, could I do that?) and his gentleness is more healing to me than the Betadine and gauze.

      It is somewhat astonishing how we focus on the broken bits of our bodies (as we must) but have almost no language (or place) to talk about the soul that also needs tending in a really profound way. I found myself crying really hard yesterday, out of nowhere, and I think it was almost a molecular release of tension and anxiety, as I was not in any physical pain.

  2. I hope you continue to make a wonderful recovery, Caitlin, and that the pain and sense of woundedness is soon behind you.

    You’ve beautifully expressed something so important, yet rarely spoken of by medical staff when discussing surgery or illness with patients.

    Do wear your tribal mark with pride- you’ve earned it.

  3. belongum

    Caitlin, that was beautifully done mate! I hope you recover well and – well, just recover! I’d like to think you get back some of that ‘loss’ that such things rob you of. My mum is still trying to recover this for herself after a very troublesome knee reconstruction that’s plagued her for some three years now and you’ve made me stop and reconsider the depth of this loss for her in a whole other way… thanks Caitlin! Be well… πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for checking in!

      It is bizarre to know I have replaced bone with…ceramic, plastic and titanium. A very odd idea indeed. But the loss of self, of independence and mobility, or self-image…it’s big and no one ever asks about it. When they ask “How are you?” they mean…are you in pain? are you getting better? stronger?

      I’ve been feeling very fragile since the surgery until potential clots and infections are no longer an issue.

  4. Just working through another newly discovered permanent injury (in my neck) and relating to this very much. Having to give up even more of what keeps me sane. Wondering why i have to keep doing this to myself. Dealing with the constant criticism (don’t ask!).

    My saving grace – an old friend who is going through the same thing himself, a continent away. In a perfectly ordinary online conversation about MRIs and physiotherapists, he sent this message through “just know that you’re not alone.” The warmth shocked a tear out of me.

    1. Ouch! So sorry to hear this….

      I wonder about your notion (true?) that you are “doing this to yourself.” That adds a whole ‘nother layer of punition/remorse you do NOT need!If you’re really being stupid and careless (and maybe you are), OK, stop it! If not, shit happens…

      I had my first knee surgery (to remove torn cartilage) in Dec. 1999; the second (same op, other knee) Dec. 2000 and shoulder surgery May 2008. I have felt like a bloody broken machine!!!! What did I “do”? I am an aging jock whose many sports (like millions of others) have pounded my body…The hip…that was caused by my taking a drug meant to *help* that destroyed my hip bone. πŸ™‚

      The hardest part of orthopedic issues, for me is how lonely it is! That and the fact that is is often hard-driving and athletic people like you and me who get hit…any loss of mobility and independence is a horrible experience. I have been “coached” through this by a jock my age, a woman, a freelance photographer in DC I have never met (former colleague of my husband.)

      Her compassion and complete “I get it” ness of my very specific sitch has been invaluable. (Happy to make an intro for you, a fellow shooter, if you like….)

      1. In this particular case i probably did do it to myself. Without knowing, but it doesn’t quell the frustration. I’d kick something if I didn’t think I might bugger something else up in the process…

        On the bright side I have 2 great physios looking after me – one for treatment and the other one for rehabilitation (same clinic).

        Is that how the hip came to be. Damn :((((

      2. I hear you!

        The hip was already arthritic and narrowing in the joint would have made replacement inevitable — later. The doc gave me steroids in May 2010 to reduce terrible and unexplained inflammaation…and they caused AVN, which is dead bone in the hip. So every step since then was painful…ergo, surgery. This is the first time I have been painfree in almost two years.

        Best of luck with your physio!!

      3. “This is the first time I have been painfree in almost two years.”

        That is definitely a cause for celebration. Long walks on the beach soon i hope πŸ™‚

  5. Not focusing on the soul is a symptom of our culture, the ‘get-in, get-out, hurry up get-on with life’ idea, isn’t it. Take care of yourself and love yourself as you heal. πŸ™‚

    So glad to hear you’re now pain-free! I wish you a peaceful and blessed recovery.

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