things i learned from almost dying

About a year ago this week, I was recovering from emergency gall bladder surgery.  My surgery happened on Easter Sunday, and without it–right when I had it–I probably would have died.  Luckily for me, my pain became unbearable–and after a huge misdiagnosis–I was desperate enough to find my way to a great hospital.  I remember thinking it was far too early for it to be Easter already.  I was supposed to start a new job that Monday.  Instead, I was in the hospital and had to push my start date out a bit.  It was not a good time.

The surgery itself wasn’t that bad.  Adjusting to life after my surgery has been a bumpy road, though–full of so many lessons.  I’m a totally different person in a lot of ways.  Life has been sort of insane lately, so I wasn’t able to observe the anniversary as I intended.  But sitting on the other side of it, I do want to share some of the things I’ve learned from this crazy year.

  • It’s better to know than not know.  And you can’t avoid the inevitable.
    I lived my life, for many years, in fear of modern medicine.  My Mama’s illness scarred me, and I no longer trusted the machine that is Western medicine.  So, when things didn’t feel right, I put my head in the sand or tried to figure it out myself–causing me incredible amounts of unnecessary pain, huge medical bills, and putting my life at risk.
  • I may be smart, but I’m not a doctor.
    My surgeon said I’m kind of dangerous.  I know a lot about the human body.  I am good at research.  I think I know more than I maybe do.  All of these things make me really independent.  I am often unable to ask for help, appropriately.  This gets me into a lot of trouble, sometimes.
  • Letting other people care for you is hard, but essential.
    When I had no choice in the matter, I realized how much I needed help.  It made me a lot more proactive about my health–in all areas–and unwilling to accept misery.
  • There’s all kinds of wisdom.
    I turned to alternative medicine a lot this year, and it’s a huge reason I finally feel better.
  • Get second opinions.  If something doesn’t feel okay, don’t accept what you’re being told.
    Had I listened to my urgent care doc, I probably wouldn’t be here today.
  • You must change.
    If your body is telling you you’re broken–what you’re doing every day must change.  You have to listen–or it will make you listen.
  • Work is a means to an end.  Living is all that matters.  Slow down.
    Taking care of myself has always been a huge challenge, but I just can’t run myself ragged anymore.  For one, I really don’t want to.  For another, my body is still healing and needs more than I used to give it.
  • It takes time to get better.
    This is one thing I find maddening.  I am all too impatient.  I want to be perfect yesterday.  I get frustrated that I have to accommodate my body.  But the truth is, if I don’t, I’ll feel much worse.
  • When one thing goes wrong, everything comes out of the woodwork.
    Things I put up with for years were diagnosed.  I went through so much shit.  It drove me crazy.  But now, I’m fixing what’s wrong.
  • Life is beautiful.
    You really start appreciating small kindnesses…the people who check in.  The people who remember your bad days.  Kitty hugs.  It matters.
  • Good health is such a gift.
    I still feel like shit more days than I feel good.  I savor those good days where I feel normal.
  • Fear stays with you.
    It took me a long time to not be afraid–to trust myself again–to not beat myself up for being human.
  • I’m stronger than I think I am, and the things that scare me most are not so scary.
    I underestimated myself, a lot, before my surgery.  I lived in a lot of fear and shame.  I was terrified of far too many things.  This experience taught me to dig deep, have faith/patience, and hope for better days.  It taught me I had a lot of strength.
  • There is never enough time.
    While I have slowed down so much–especially in the last couple of months–I am much more driven and clear about what I specifically want from life.  I’m much less willing to compromise or settle.
  • Everything changes.
    Who I am has changed.  My relationships have changed.  I see the world a lot differently.  I am a much more emotional person.  I am better at asking for what I need.  I take bigger risks.

All in all, I’m still learning and healing.  I’m still getting my shit together.  But, for the most part, life is really good.  I’m truly grateful for the lessons–even if the thing that caused the lessons sucked a lot.  I don’t recommend losing your gall bladder.  But it truly has changed my life for the better.

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