Saturday, April 22, 2017

Greenhousing ...or having to face one's vulnerability

" ... just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, 

to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive."
BrenĂ© Brown: The power of vulnerability 
lying in the greenhouse experiencing the vulnerabilty of illness

Last week I underwent minor surgery to remove a Lipoma from my mid back. It had been there for a few years and it had given me a lot of grieve. Most movements with my (left) arm turned quickly into pain in my back. Bad pain. Over the years I had to limit all activities to not get to this point of pain.

For years I had asked doctors to look at it, to remove it. I pleaded with them. Please remove it.
In January 2015 my neurologist took me serious and asked me to come into hospital for a 5 day stay to look at this part of my back, and my whole spine, as I have other issues to.
This happened in June 2015.
But. He was on holidays so someone from his team took over my care. 

It was like I was a completely new patient. Plans for MRI, Heart scan, physio etc were only made on the second day. But for most of the week I sat up in bed. Frustrated, as nothing was happening. What a waste of HSE money. To occupy a bed, with very ill patients on trolleys downstairs. Anyway, My biggest overall goal was to Get That Lump Out!

On the third night, I was woken up at half 9, and was taken to the MRI department. 
On Friday- my last day - I was told that the lump was "just" a lipoma. And in order for it to be looked at I had to be seen by a surgeon .... THROUGH OUTPATIENTS... his blew my mind, as I was IN the hospital. The surgeon or his team were probably walking past my ward every day, and could look at me, and my scan...

And I was given a lecture about 'happy hormones' ie. In other words: The pain is in your head...

I waited for over a year to get an outpatient appointment with the surgeon. I was on a waiting list.
"Yes. We can remove it, but can't guarantee that it will solve your back pain." He was a kind man.

Anyway. I ended up on a new list.
The surgical waiting list.

7th April 2017. I got a call if I can come in and have the lump removed on the 12th April. Sure!
(Help.... be careful what you ask for as it might just happen...)
I got worried about the surgery. But mostly about the anaesthetic. ME and Anesthetic are not greatly compatible.

Yes, I was very nervous.

But the doctors (3) and a nurse, were extremely kind and understanding. They used a non-adrenal-local anaesthetic, as requested. The nurse held my hand and coordinated deep breathing with the moments of excruciating pain.

The lump was much bigger, and deeper than anyone had expected, and not the neath little domed piece of fatty tissue just under the skin, as expected by the medical team. Seeing the extend of this lump, they concluded that it had been there for a while - and was thus harder to remove- that it had a weird shape and that it must have given a lot of pain... YES! But nobody had believed me.
They had great difficulty cutting and pulling it out of my back... It was horrible...

So, roll on one week. Or ten days by now.

The pain was and is bad.
But I am hopeful it will eventually will solve the problems I was having. If I can be patient right now.

Emotionally. It is painful too.
That is where Vulnerability come in : the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Over all these years of living with ME, I had to greatly adapt my way of living. Of how I conduct my activities. Look after myself. Ask of help. Find way to do what I like or need to do. I am pretty good at this (if I may say so myself).

After surgery, I needed soo much more rest.
It turned out I could not use my left arm for anything. Not even having it lie on my desk and use the keyboard of my computer. My arm had to be immobilized.
I had to immobilized.
But did not want to.

I wanted to go out and pull a few weeds from my garden. It makes me happy. Or empty a box with delivery from health food store. I wanted to re-pot the bean seedlings, cut a piece of bread. Go into my studio. Finish the Snapshots book edits.

and when I did it anyway. All gave me grief.
views during 'my greenhousing'
Yesterday I finally gave in. Fully gave in. 
And did Greenhousing. This is not getting my hands dirty in the greenhouse, but putting myself on the bench. To rest.
Wrapped in a blanket. Pot of tea beside me. 
Basking in the goodness of the warmth of the sun.
Hearing the birds.
Watching Sally Cat find a place in the raised flowerbed to have her snooze in.

I did let a friend know that I was feeling pretty miserable.
All I had left in me were tears. There was no need to talk, but sharing my feeling via a text message gave me permission to just be. To be tired. To be in pain. To be sad. To give in to rest. To feel the fear- what if my back does not improve, what if surgery made it worse... 
To allow myself to be vulnerable. To feel those horrible feelings, that nobody wants to deal with.

I thought I had a good knowledge of my body, and my mind. 
But each new challenge requires to yet again visit those feelings of vulnerability. 
Knowing that if I do not delve into those feelings of vulnerability I also would not feel the joy and gratitude in my life.
views during 'my greenhousing'
I feel the better for my day of greenhousing and extended rest.
I learned to be a one handed computer writer. To take out two bits of shopping out of the box at the time. To fold one pair of socks at the time. To not want to go out on the scooter. To leave the weeds enrich my garden in their own ways.

To be.
To let it all be.
To let me be.

Links and further reading

  • If you have a little time, I can highly recommend this very entertaining Ted Talk: The Power of Vulnerability by BrenĂ© Brown: about our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.  


Therese Doherty said...

This is a great post, Corina. It's maddening to hear how doctors just don't listen to their patients, or take them seriously. I think this is particularly so for women. I'm glad you finally got what you needed, despite it being far later than it should have been, and I'm sorry it has caused you so much pain. I hope you mend well.

And thank you for writing about vulnerability. This is something I am having to contemplate at the moment, that things are outside of my control, that I need to be gentle with myself, and to just let myself be. I'm having to re-learn how to cope with difficult times, lack of energy, and loss of self. And that delving into myself, into the situation, I hope will make me stronger and wiser.

Corina Duyn said...

Dear Therese

Thank you for your comment.
I agree. Women are not listened to, and if you have ME as well, then all is put under the banner of "it is all in your head".
I have trouble sitting on a chair, uless I have my special wheelchair cushon, which has a space for the tailbone. After using that for months, the constant pain eased. That pain was also put down to "it is all in your head..."

Vulnerability. Yes, a touchy subject, but one that can ultimately lead to more wellbeing.
It will make you stronger.

With every best wish to you Therese.
And all the other readers who are struggling at the moment.