Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Art journaling, mindfulness, and surgery

Close to a month ago, I fell while playing softball and heard something tear in my knee as I went down.  I knew it was bad, but was hoping for the best. I had to have my first MRI and then the doctor told me the bad news.  I'd torn my ACL, which stabilizes the knee. He said it looked like two frayed broom mop heads touching.  It took all my energy to try to process what he was saying, surgery needed, general anesthesia, taking a piece of my tendon from my quadricep to graft to my ACL, drilling holes into my bones to snake the new piece of tendon through and attach to the demolished one and six months of rehab.  I got out to my car after the appointment and started sobbing.  I was so disappointed with myself for getting hurt.  How could I be so arrogant to think I could play softball and not get hurt. Now I was going to be a burden to my family, co-workers, and friends. We had to cancel a vacation that had been planned for 6 months to visit family in the Finger Lake region of NY.   

That evening, I sat down and made this art journal page.  

It felt good to create, work through my fears, and stamp a message that I needed to embrace.  In the weeks that followed before the surgery, I made several more pages.  With each page I felt like I was healing my emotions and speaking to myself with more compassion, as I would speak to a friend.  

The thought of the surgery still kept me up at night and made me queasy, but that's when I relied on my mindfulness training.  I stayed in the present moment and reminded myself that I was not in any danger and that worrying about the future would only rob me of my present time.  The morning of the surgery I pulled this mantra I had printed and looked at it the whole way to the hospital.  Instead of thinking about all the things that could go wrong, I focused on how I would be able to go for hikes with my family, walk to work, and get back to yoga.  The simple things that bring me joy.    

The surgery went well, but the general anesthesia did throw me for a loop.  I couldn't keep any crackers, fluids or pain medicines down.  But, that wore off in a few hours and I was able to eat a banana, take some pain medicine, and rest.  I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. However, I am proud of myself for going into the surgery with a positive attitude, which hopefully allowed me to not activate a stress response in my body that produces the flight or fight hormones.  I was able to speak to all the hospital staff from a place of gratitude, instead of fear, and told them that I appreciated their efforts before being knocked out.  It feels like a major win to me and a great lesson learned.      


Roman Dean said...

My wife is an amazing woman, and she does yoga and meditation. She also writes in her journal on a regular basis, but she had never heard about creating an art journal. She has health issues, but she seldom lets them get her down. Thanks for the post because my wife now has another way to help her cope with life.

Roman Dean @ Mac MGI

jennyb said...

Wow, Katy.... I really missed the magnitude of this. I've generally felt that we're in touch with each other, but this reminds me that we aren't, really! :=\ And, that's ok; that's where we're at, right now (and three years ago!). I value your friendship, nevertheless ~ and I hope that you're fully recovered from this mess!! xoxo