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How to stay positive after a rough couple of days?

Gretchen1GGretchen1 Posts: 105
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Depression and Coping
Anyone have any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions on staying positive after a rough couple of days and nights?

I am one day shy of 8 weeks post TLIF w/instrumentation and decompression at L5-S1. Like everyone else, I've had days I've felt great and days I've felt horrible. At my one month follow-up I was told the xrays showed my top two screws appeared to have moved a tiny bit and bone had not grown as well there as on the bottom two. I was then given a brace, pain medication refills, and another month of restrictions for work and driving.

I actually felt a lot better after getting the brace and using it. I started walking more since I felt more comfortable walking with the brace, and my trusty friend, the cane. Also, the weather got nicer and that helped a lot since I could get outside to walk and see all the trees and flowers starting to wake up. I had a daily schedule ever since surgery and have been trying really hard to stick to it.

It seems that since last Thursday my pain has increased, even with cutting back the amount of time per walk and resting more. Nerve pain in my left butt, hip and leg has returned and by the end of each day, every muscle in my lower body hurts. Resting doesn't seem to help as I get up even more stiff and sore. Walking does help with that so I figure it's just my body telling me I do need to keep up my walking, even though it makes me ache afterwards. I haven't been able to lay in bed comfortably since surgery and have been in the recliner since I got home. Even that is becoming uncomfortable and I'm having trouble sleeping again.

I've been stressing about my back pain, which is completely different then before surgery. I know I had a big surgery and I'm not that far into recovery yet to be feeling 100% back to normal, if I ever will. I have a follow-up appointment this Thursday and am so worried I'll hear something I don't want to hear.

I think myself and my husband have been doing pretty well handling the emotional end of all of this but the past week it just seems that all the built up fears and stress has begun to spill out of both of us. I'm worried I'm not healing as fast as I should be and I'm terrified I won't be released to return to work, even part-time, and I only planned on being out a maximum of two months.

I know there are people who have had much worse problems after surgery and tell myself how lucky I am. It just hasn't helped lately.

What do you all do when you get in these funks and don't seem to be able to get out of them? I am taking Wellbutrin, this was to help me stop smoking, but it hasn't seemed to help as far as getting into blue moods.

Needed to vent to people who understand and have been or gone through the same thing. People who see me tell me how good I look and how well I'm doing. Urgh, I'd like to hit them sometimes!


  • Sorry you've hit a rough patch. We all get setbacks and they can be quite difficult. I try to remind myself that there will be good days and bad days. On the bad days I TRY to take it easy, as best as I can with 2 young kids and a dog.

    It helps to vent, get all of the negatives out as best as you can. If you can't vent to a spouse, friend, family: you can always come here. I can't tell you how many times I have come to this site and felt better. Whether its realizing I am not alone, or helping someone else, this site is very great.

    Sometimes treating yourself to flowers, a funny movie, or good chocolate can be a little boost. Just remember we are always here to help as best as we can.

    Wishing you better days ahead, Lisa
  • Hi Gretchen,

    Oh the pain, the pain, the pain. I have not had an operation, but I have just had a few really bad days. I injured my back three years ago, had to stop work six months later. I take Lyrica for day to day pain and oxycodeine and mega-ibuprofin for breakthrough pain. Last Tuesday I had to go for an evaluation for my disability benefit, and the car service got messed up and then the doctor was all rough examining me - so it was three days of severe pain, stuck inside, dosed up on Oxy and Ibuprofin.

    So Gretchen, we are different, and the same.

    With regards to 8 wks post-op and pain - I read a very interesting comment here (probably by Gwennie) where she said that even though they do all this fancy micro-surgery, etc. now, and people walk out of the hospital next day, IT'S STILL A BIG DEAL - and your body has still been radically changed and this will take time. I have sought the opinion of three surgeons - the first one was old school fusion - cut through muscles/bones - he said 3 months to a year for recovery. Even though they don't have to do all that cutting now, it can still take a good deal of time.

    As for people who don't understand your pain - I look 10 years younger because I sleep 10 hours a day and don't work anymore. People are always asking "Is your back better?" I want to yell at them - "NO IT'S NOT!! IF IT'S BEEN BAD FOR THREE YEARS, WHY WOULD I JUST SPONTANEOUSLY BE BETTER TODAY (YOU IDIOT!!!)" However, I spoke to my sister over the weekend (a social worker) who suggested that probably no one ever will understand my pain and that I SHOULD BE THE EXPERT OF MY OWN PAIN. I found this a good way to look at things because I can be the expert, and rather than expecting others to understand, I will just let them know my limitations/needs/pain level at any particular moment.

    Thirdly - be gentle, relax, stop making demands of yourself - the pain cannot be defeated, only managed. I always do whatever works - I know my body best. FEEL GOOD WITHIN YOURSELF FIRST, AND THEN WORRY ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD. (I don't have kids though - I don't know what you do about that!!)

    Finally - I pray. I pray to be calm; I pray for healing - physical and emotional; I pray for love - from myself and others. I remind myself that God loves me - He loves all of us.

    I'm not a Dr, or an expert in anything - I'm just another person who experiences pain everyday, that severely limits my life. This is what works for me.

    All the best, hang in there, feel better.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    It can be so frustrating, especially for people who not dealt with the 'flare ups' for many years. I think its even harder for people coming out of their first or second surgery.

    That increased walking after the back brace and when you started feeling better. That very likely could be what is causing your the pain now. After surgery, there are many muscles, tendons, joints, etc that need to be 'exercised and trained' back to where they should be. During that period, it is fairly normal to experience heightened pain. But that should only last a couple of days.

    If new pain lasts for more than 72 hours, I think a phone call to your doctor is warranted. You can always call sooner if you are real worried.

    Keeping positive? Just knowing that things will get better. That pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.. Well for us Spineys, it may not be gold, but, it will be better than what it was today

    One way I know so many have been able to deal with those bad times is:
    The Roller Coaster Ride
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Feeling better after a little nap today. Sometimes it's easier to vent to people who know exactly what you're talking about, not just say, I know, to be polite.

    I've had too much time on my hands these past few weeks and my mind just starts going and going and going.

    I do have a follow-up appointment with my surgeon this Thursday and think that has added to my stress level. My last appointment didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Am just keeping my fingers crossed things are healing as they should and I can at least go back to work part-time. I think getting back out into "the world" will help my mood tremendously.

    I don't think people realize how bad going stir crazy really is.
  • I wish you didnt have to ask this question, because if you didn't...that would mean you weren't in the situation of needing this information. I wish your pain wasn't an issue in your life...in fact I wish your pain were not your pain...if that makes sense.

    My pain has been almost suffocating this weekend, and I know that my pain is indeed my pain. Doctors don't seem to care that a middle aged woman with chronic pain is indeed in pain, so I have learned to try to ignore as much as possible, and just try to concentrate on other things than this horrible stabbing pain in my neck. Part of the problem here is not having much to think about other than this nasty stinking pain these days. Not working is not good, in that when i was working I didn't have all this time on my hands, and didn't worry so much about money....hopelessness...other issues that I could bring up but no one reading this needs to be reminded of the nasty things that constitute reality for all of us.

    It definitely helps to be able to come here and vent to people who unfortunately understand the situations all too well. None of us deserve any of this garbage, but unfortunately it is piled in front of us, or we wouldn't be here.

    May this week bring better days to all of us.

    Jane in TN
  • Hi Gretchin,

    Glad you are feeling a little better today.
    I always get stressed before the next milestone out of worry which I think leads to increased pain. That being said, discuss these concerns with your surgeon.

    I'm about same time out on revision MicroD and unsure what to expect over the next month. At my 6-weeks I asked him "I haven't seen any change so how do I know if this worked?" He giggled. He said it worked b/c I saw the herniation and compressed nerve before the surgery and then I removed it. But then he said I know your concern...you are concerned about not improving due to reherniation or permanent damage.

    We then talked about options to help with nerve pain, what to look for to know if I was getting worse, and what his plans are if things don't get better. He also cleared me full time at 6-weeks but I told him I was concerned about that. He said based on that statement, he was too. He decided it was in my best interest to work full time remote (since I can do that) and only allow me to go in to the office 2-days a week. That took a huge stress off of me b/c it allows me to get up and walk regularly and take PT seriously.

    I hope your day goes ok...just 2 more nights before your follow up.
  • Gretchen,
    It is only natural that when those periodic bad times do come we surmise this is a predictor for the future, we accumulate periodic failure into a notion that things are worse than they are in reality and our “what if’s” become prominent.

    We all want a smooth transition back to good health and in setting our expectation beyond our reality is a recipe for future disappointment and apprehension. Gretchen’s notion of having too much time is only one aspect and just as we need to take care of our physical improvement our mental agility is equally valid. Concern is an understandable facet of improvement and only you know how much impact any excessive negativity changes our thoughts, feeling and subsequent behaviour.

    In knowing that our minds may be racing, we are aware of managing it more effectively, as Jane said, the void left by the routine we once had can soon be filled with despair, fear or apprehension. Managing pain more effectively is about you controlling what you can, this takes time, experience and accumulative skill, pain restricts our natural environment and as we improve we become more adventurous and expansive, concentrate on what you can do, all those things that you value and acknowledge your daily achievements.

    Many here never present to the outside world the reality of living with chronic pain and our future is ahead of us, the balance is in acknowledging the past and not letting it dominate the future.


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