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Recovery & Depression

MJMcDevittMMJMcDevitt Posts: 71
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Has anyone else suffered from bouts depression during their fusion recovery? Had 1 level fusion and 3 decompressions on July 16th. Have been home for 3weeks and find that sometimes I fall into a funk or depression.

I have talked to visiting nurse about it but she wants me to talk to my family doctor. I have an appointment on Thursday.



  • It's not uncommon for bouts of depression.
    I think talking to your doctor is wise, though.

    You've been through a big surgery. You are homebound and have lost some of your independence. You are likely in some pain and/or on prescription meds that can have your emotions up and down. And, as much as people want to try to understand what you are going through, it's tough for them. In that regard, I found it most depressing because I felt I had to try to "keep a happy face" and stay positive when in fact I was still processing the health issue I was facing.

    Gentle hugs.
  • I haven't been fused but I have recovered from 6 surgeries. It's normal to feel out of sorts and a little down. Your going to have good days, bad days and really bad days. From what I've heard the recovery takes a long time after being fused. It's probably a good idea to talk to your doctor and let him know how your feeling. There might be some suggestions that he can make to help you. Are you getting out in the sun or getting some fresh air?? Even just a few minutes sitting in the sun and getting some fresh air each day might help. I know it sounds a little lame but vitamin D does a body good. When has your doctor told you to start walking? For me getting out has always made a huge difference. Hang in there you've got a lot of good support here!!!
  • If you can, go out and enjoy as much of nature as you can. I find there is nothing better for your spirits than to be watching what happens in nature, even right outside your doorstep. I went through some major depression during my recovery. Still have times when it creeps back up on me. Do see your doctor.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Echo, echo, echo on talking with your doctor. I too had 'depression' modes after each of my surgeries. I was told that some of it was all the junk processing out of my body from what the Anesthesiologist alone puts into us! Then your body is healing and stressed from invasive surgery, and too add the meds they give us post op!

    Get out if you can, walk, sit in the sun, drink your favorite beverage, listen to the radio - something soothing that you like, pet the cat. Hopefully it will soon pass. Take care Matt. *hug*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I have had some depression since my back injury in 2009, and since my double fusion on June 29th of this year I still experience depression. I do take mild medication for it, but I know that the pain medications if they are a narcotic can add to the depression. I mainly talked to my primary care Dr. about it, and I had my hubby with me which made it easier for him to understand the Dr. when he was explaining about post-op and depression. Also, if you have a true friend that you can confide in, that also can help, and they may be able to give some suggestions to help. I understand how hard it can be, because I have been confined allot to the house and can only tolerate being on my feet for a brief period. This board helps allot to be able to talk with others who are experiencing and feeling the way you are. My former co-workers keep in touch with me as well on Facebook and phone calls etc... I was let go of my job a few months ago because I can no longer do the work I was hired to do, and that didn't help matters. There are some days though that I don't want to talk to anyone, and that's okay too, but I try not to let it become a habit.
    Crossword puzzles, word searches, reading, are a few things that can help to keep your mind busy. I'm not able to cook or do many of the things I use to, but I try to find other ways to help fill that void. I have a deep faith in God and spending a little time in prayer helps. All these are suggestions, but remember if your depression starts going beyond what you think it should be, be sure to seek medical help. :)
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    It would be uncommon to not suffer some depression. And it's good that you've noticed it right off and are addressing it by talking to youre visiting nurse and asking questions here on the forums. You've been given excelent advice. So follow it. Talk to your Dr. he may have some good suggestions. I see a pain management Dr. and he sent me to a pain Psychologist. I've been seeing them both for years and I have been on different anti depressants over the years. I still see them and I still take a lightweight antidepressant.
    The important thing is you've recognised this right away and are doing something about it. It can manifest like a runaway train if you let it. If you can't see a pain Psychologist. You can get some very good ideas on how others have dealt with it. Right here on the forums.
    The worst thing you could do, would be to do nothing at all.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • I too will echo what others here have said. The healing process is long and at times it seems like it's never going to end, and that's depressing. The "four walls syndrome" gets to you too. Unfortunately, we can't hurry the healing process. I didn't like being dependent on my family and friends long term and that made me feel down, but I knew I had this one opportunity to get well again.

    Once I got to the seventh month out, I started feeling more normal and got that bounce back in my step. A lot of the back ache had gone and I was able to go for longer walks with my dogs. I've got my life back again now but I'll never be a 100% and I've had to make adjustments in activities.

    It's important to get out and walk in the sunshine because it helps to heal. Very often you meet others while you're out and it's good to stop and have a little chat. Music helps to lift my mood, as well as gentle stretching. Whilst it's hard to think long term when you're hurting and restricted so much, that day when you realize that life is very much better will come.

    Hang in there Matt >:D<


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008

  • with others here. :-)
    Firstly, the fact that you have recognised this and started to talk about it, will help you to move forward. Definately talk to your doctor about it. Also talk to us here. A lot of us have also experienced this and will be supportive. I have read of a lot of post surgery patients finding that they keep bursting into tears (men included).

    Also, for me, I found that getting out for a walk really helped me. It made me feel part of the world again and gave me hope that I could get my life back. Even the rain and wind felt great, but the sun was better. :D
    I am very lucky that there is a beautiful walk through woods and round a golf course, right on my door step. Over the months, I have enjoyed seeing the changes as the seasons move on. I love spotting the wildlife too.

    Something else I did, to help to focus on a brighter future, is I wrote a realistic list of things that I hoped to be able to do that I couldn't do before surgery.
    I delight in achieving these goals now, and crossing them off my list. Things like going shopping with my daughter, going to the cinema and theatre, walking on a beach ........
    What are the things you are looking forward to being able to do again?

    Recovery after a fusion is a very l o n g road and needs lots of patience. Try to find some things to do that you enjoy while you are so restricted. Try to have visitors call and do try to get out and walk (somewhere pretty if you can).

    Some advice that helped me was to not look at your progress daily. You are likely to be disappointed and the recovery will drag.
    Give yourself at least a week, or better still, a month. Then you are likely to see the progress that you are making. Also, be ready for some set backs, even well into the recovery. They will happen, but hopefully they are just a hiccup and you will move on again.

    Think how far you have come already. The future will be even better. :D

  • Heya Matt! I, too, have suffered with depression during this part of my journey thru life. It was my Pain Mangement Doc who recognized it. I am taking Cymbalta and it really helps. I started feeling better after just a few days although they say it takes a couple weeks. It is also known to help with nerve pain~win/win.

    I. like you, had a long hospitalization with several complications. My stress releiver has always been to go to the gym and get a good workout in. Can't do that now and I was at a loss.

    1 month after my surgery my nephew was tragically killed 2 days before his 24th bday. It's been a long hard journey, but my family is very close and we all live in the same city.

    It helps to talk to other. This forum has been incredibly helpful. I don't know if I could have made it without everyone here! We are here for you!

    Do talk to your doc. They won't be surprised and are probably on the look out for it! :)

    I'm not sure where you live, but early morning walks (to beat the heat) are nice. Can you get in a pool? That really helps me, mentally and physically!

    We are here for you! Kepping you in my thoughts and prayers! Shari
  • Thanks to all! Nice to see I am not a "freak" and I am not alone in my feelings.

    I do my excercises and take a walk around the block with my wife everyday. You guys are so right about everything. I tend to look at my progress day to day and get depressed, on the other hand my wife sees the "overall" progress and tells me how well I am doing.

    I see my surgeon on August 30th and am hoping that he will allow me to drive again. I think that will help with my depression,I will be able to get out and about.

  • Good grief, you are not a "freak", you sound like a normal Spiney! There's anothe thread out there about chronic pain and anger. Lots of emotions come into play.

    Getting the OK to drive again will be a big mood-lifter. Keep us posted on how you are doing,

  • Saw doctor Thursday night. He said that the type of depression I am telling him about is directly releated to the surgery and long recovery. He prescribed Clonazepam (Klonopin). I took first dose this morning. Within an hour I could tell me heartrate had increased. My heartrate was 108 and normally is 60. I looked it up and some of the less-common problems is "Increase or irregular heartbeat" and that I should let the doctor know immedietly. I called him and he said I was the first time a patient complained of that. I am now off it and will see him again Monday AM.

  • I had major depression and several suicide attempts long before my chronic pain and surgery. I have found that having back problems that are proven real with mri's, emg's, and surgery has been a good reminder of how invisible depression is and how little help or compassion you recieve unless you are vocal about it and not ashamed. Even with serious physical pain, few people are understanding or helpful. I would be careful about who you talk to about depression, it is a very scary thing for most people because, just like us, they have no easy answers or quick fixes. Remember, with most superficial relationships people do not want to suffer through it with you, they want to fix the problem for you or simply ignore it. When there is no easy answer, they do not want to help because that would imply that they have to consider themselves in that powerless situation, which no one wants to do. I think we have an unspoken idea that people who are suffering greatly somehow deserve their predicament, and that with hard work and good choices one can avoid all suffering. People don't want to accept that they are powrerless or vulnerable, and your problems remind them of that. I open up mostly to family or others who also have depression. However, once you start talking you'll find that more than you think are suffering with the same things you are.
    A thought that has helped me immensely is that I never had a choice about either my depression or my pain. I have always put incredible effort into getting better, but even then it does not come easily or quickly. Get rid of any guilt or shame by reminding yourself that this is not your fault nor the inevitable result of being a bad person. This is something that is happening to you and no one could sit in your chair and think their way out of it anymore than you can. I think long-suffering is an important part of life that shouldn't be avoided at all costs. Often it tells you that your life is lacking meaning, or that you're valuing things of this world too highly. You may say, well it's important to be healthy, but remember, everyone ends up old and 'unhealthy'. We all have to come to terms with losing our physical strength, and finding something more important than food, shelter and so on.
    I think depression can be more painful than physical pain, especially if you blame yourself or hate yourself because you are ashamed. I have good self-esteem nowadays, I like myself and have loving caring relationships that make life worth living. Even with a good head on your shoulders and lots of help, depression can be debilitating. Maybe you are considering that what you want in life can only be acquired with a healthy body, and so the happiness you seek seems out of reach. I would suggest that you change your criteria for being happy, let go of old attachments to hedonistic self-destructive crap and learn about what's really valuable to you and what you can be a part of, even as a 'gimp'. It's not easy, and very scary to start over, but something as stupid as given extra garden tomatoes to the neighbor, random kindness and true relationship with others, can give you immense joy that easily replaces the pleasures that were once so necessary. It's hard, but finding a new way to be happy can leave you happy and strong even in a horrible place. Imagine what would make life worth living in a road warrior scenario where everyone is suffering; loving relationships with others.
    I think people with depression are simply getting rid of there mid-life crises earlier than expected. Existential desperateness happens to everyone eventually, be good to yourself there is nothing wrong with you. Learn to love yourself even if you can't meet your ridiculous expectations. Consider that what you think you need to achieve might be either impossible or unhealthy, and take every opportunity to simply do what you can and be proud. I have gotten a lot of joy out of buying a bread machine. I make bread for the family and feel very proud about it, even though a year ago I would've thought it is gay and stupid. Like Yoda says, it's more about unlearning than it is learning. Be easy on yourself and just do the best you can. Learn to value yourself, not by good looks or something equally unimportant, but by who you are and what you're trying to be. Love yourself, no one else can do that for you. Okay I'll stop ranting, good luck life isn't easy for anyone.
  • for nearly 4 year now ..you tend to start to be able to be comfy with your own self .what i do is a little something every day .even if its just cleaning the Cristal vases or cleaning out a draw in the kitchen .its rewarding to do something .and with it being only little jobs ..you should not find them over taxing..there is always things to do and tv to watch ..the trap is to think too much about your circumstances.don't dwell it wont help you ..i do understand you but i am one of those people that likes my own company ..so maybe its easier for me to be on my own {until kath comes home}
  • For me the reality hit about 6 weeks ago when I was almost 7.5 months postop fusion. This is not going away. After feeling very sad about my future, I made a decision to look for options.

    I went to a PhD pain psychologist yesterday. We talked for 2 hours, and not only is he published, taken care of patients for 25 years, but he has severe back pain himself. HE GETS IT!!! No one else that I know, including family and close friends, understand what I'm going thru, and how life changing this is.

    Reach out for help...it is there, just take your time finding the right match for you.

    Good luck,


  • I wish I could figue out what you are saying
  • EXCELLENT! You stated that so well and it's all so true. I had been suffering major depression long before the surgery and my life is now so topsy turvy it really can be depressing. I have to agree also that often there is a more spiritual reason for our suffering but it's hard to believe that could be so. I know in my case it has led me to a better understanding of myself and what (and especially WHO) is meaningful in my life. During this time I have come back to appreciate the love I have from family, not worrying about finding it elsewhere. Thanks Pepe for a great response.
  • I hope that you are doing well today. I have also suffered from depression, before and after my surgery. I take meds to help with it. The meds help, but it doesn't give you that feeling that you can get back out there, and do everything :(. I miss not having back problems. I am here for you if you ever want to talk!!!!! ((Hugs)))
  • Matt,

    I had a 2 level fusion in 2008, and in June 2010 I had a 4 level fusion. (this time posterior which is tougher in my mind) I've been locked in the house now for 2 months with restrictions where I can't even pick up a gallon of milk to help around the house. What makes it worse is I'm one of these people that likes to be on the go all the time doing something. I can tell you it gets quite depressing and I'm afraid I've put a strain on my wife and kids due to my bouts or irritability. My wife just tells me it's male PMS and lets it go over her head. Take the advice of straker as he's dead right. Pick anything you can do and do it. But don't do too much; just what you can manage. Like he said, if it's nothing but cleaning out a drawer, at least you mattered that day. Before you know it, you'll be getting better and accomplishing a little more each day. And believe me, a little prayer never hurts either.
  • I agree with Tony(Straker) I try to relax and enjoy doing little things around the house like washing down the computer screen and keyboard and little things to make me feel like I've accomplished something. I haven't had spinal surgery but have had chronic pain for years and feel down sometimes but hopefully you'll start to start feeling better soon when you can do more things. Good luck with your Dr. appointment tomorrow, Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    Welcome to SH.

    I started having panic attacks prior to my 3 level ACDF 3.5 years ago. That surgery failed - It was a painful and depressing year between the revision to my current status of 4 level Anterior - posterior - cage- rods - plate - hip bone donation. I now suffer from depression and panic attacks related to chronic pain - medication and concurrent other medical conditions.

    Your body has undergone a surgical assault, your life has been (hopefully temporarily) changed as to what your daily routine consists of.

    I believe that some degree of post surgical depression should be expected and would be considered absolutely "normal".

    A "normal" abnormality that should definately be discussed with your treating physicians at your earliest opportunity.

    I am not a physician (nor have I ever even played one on T.V.) therefore PLEASE accept any of my comments or advice as about as valid and significant as a meow from the neighborhood cat. - Except for the part about talking to your doctors about what your feeling - be-it physical or emotional.

    The sun will rise tomorrow - I am certain!!

    Best Wishes,

    Spine-health Moderator
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