It’s been a few weeks since my last post, but I survived…literally!
A few weeks ago, and a few days after my last blog post, I found myself unexpectedly being wheeled into emergency surgery. I had no idea what was happening to me and I was going in and out of consciousness as one doctor was frantically asking me questions that I had no way of answering on my own. Everything was happening in slow motion, I had no clue how I had gotten to the point of being wheeled into surgery and it all felt surreal. I turned my head and saw my fiance, Drew, answering for me; he looked stressed, confused, and scared and I wanted to tell him I would be okay, but I couldn’t say anything at all. I was terrified and my last thoughts as I entered the operating room were of my two kids. All I could think of was how awful it would be if I couldn’t continue to be the primary caregiver and role model in my children’s lives. I wanted to wrap my arms around them again and see my son’s big blue eyes and my daughters beautiful, contagious smile. They need me and I need them. I wanted to cry, but in my state, I couldn’t even do that.
Hours earlier, my day started with a cup of coffee and a review of my notes for a nursing final I was about to take. I felt fine throughout the final and finished with no issues. As the day progressed, I began to get hot flashes and I felt lightheaded. Since I had just completed another semester of nursing school, I assumed my body was telling me to rest. I dropped my kids off with their father for his parenting time and went to my fiance’s place to unwind with dinner and a movie. As the night wore on, I felt cramps and random sharp pains throughout my stomach; within 3 hours the pain became unbearable. I woke up Drew and told him I needed to get to the ER immediately. As we began to walk to the car, I went down to the ground and everything went dark. Once Drew got me into the car, I began to wake up. I was terrified, I had no idea what was happening and I kept crying out to Drew that he needed to drive faster. I knew something was terribly wrong as I felt myself deteriorating quickly.
Reflecting back on this, I now realize my blood pressure was dropping significantly every time I stood up causing me to pass out. My dangerously low blood pressure levels along with my heart pounding out of my chest was an indicator I was going into shock. Once I got to the ER, I was taken in immediately. The physician and nurses tried to stabilize my vitals, gave me pain medication and ran tests. I was shivering uncontrollably as they tried to put me in a wheel chair for a CT scan and I passed out again. When I awoke, I was on oxygen inside an ambulance that was taking me to another hospital for surgery.
I suffered from a ruptured hemorrhagic ovarian cyst that resulted in internal bleeding into my abdomen, also known as hematoperitoneum. It was completely unexpected and I have never been through anything like it. I lost a lot of blood at a rapid rate, which caused me to go into hypovolemic shock. I cannot thank the nurses and Physicians at the Ohio Health ER in Lewis Center and Grady Memorial Hospital enough for taking action as quickly as they did and for taking such great care of me. There is no way to prepare anyone for something so spontaneous and I don’t know what I would have done that night without Drew by my side. He was there to answer for me and make choices when I was unable to comprehend or communicate with the medical staff. He once again confirmed the many reasons why he is my safe haven, my rock and the love of my life.
Drew working on his fantasy draft from the hospital. He never left my side.
I was discharged from the hospital with a few incisions on my abdomen and a very low hemoglobin count of 9.1. I was not given a transfusion because of the risks involved, which left my body dependent on improving the low hemoglobin levels on it’s own. This has been the hardest part of my recovery. It has left me feeling physically, emotionally and mentally drained as I’ve spent the past few weeks recovering at home. I had no signs or symptoms until the day of the rupture and when I asked my doctor what I could have done to prevent it, he said absolutely nothing and it was just bad luck…go figure.
During my recovery, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on the gradual decline in my overall health the past few years. This decline began with increased anxiety that continued to get worse once I came out publicly with my story. According to experts, when you experience something anxiety-provoking, your stress response activates. This is known as a state of “fight or flight,” this state prepares your body to react with a release of cortisol and adrenaline. It has been proven that the more trauma one is exposed to the more damage is done to their body over time as a result of living in a constant state of fight or flight. This eventually teaches the body to fight itself, causing autoimmune disorders, chronic illnesses or even cancer.
The day after my surgery, my ex-husband, my abuser, reported me to our Guardian Ad Litem because my son missed his flag football practice. Although he knew I had just been released from the hospital, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a stab at me while I was down. Dealing with health issues is not only exhausting, it’s expensive. It should come as no surprise that abusers and their enablers enjoy seeing their victims struggle. They get a disgusting thrill off of knowing we are sick or in pain, while dealing with the stress of our everyday lives. Situations like mine should motivate all survivors to make their health a priority. We cannot take our power back and we cannot protect and care for our loved ones when we are in a state of physical decline. I’m forever grateful for my fiance, my dad and my sister for stepping in these past few weeks when it was needed the most.
This past decade has been an overwhelming experience with trauma and stress as a result of my toxic and abusive marriage, a contentious divorce, and now an even more contentious parenting situation. This explains the health issues I’ve been dealing with. Most survivors of assault, domestic violence or any other trauma, likely, do not realize the collateral damage that is happening to our bodies as we are trying to survive and heal. We all need to recognize the importance of making our health a priority and this begins by taking the necessary steps to recover rather than bury it all. It’s much easier to bury our feelings and numb our emotions, but as I am learning, we eventually pay the price.
After I left my marriage, I chose to move forward as a single mom by keeping busy raising two kids, while balancing nursing school. The endless hours of studying, class and clinicals made it much easier for me to bury my thoughts and focus on rebuilding my life. Although I spent time working with a therapist, attended a few EMDR therapy sessions, journaled quite a bit and now I have this blog, I know I can do more. I recently read a book, which I highly recommend, The Body Keeps the Score by Psychiatrist and author Bessel Van Der Kolk. This book dives into the different types of trauma and how it impacts the health of the survivor over time. The author explores the various ways to recover from trauma that are proven to be most effective. For those who don’t want to take the time to read the entire book, here is a summary that is worth a quick read:
People often tell survivors of abuse to just leave and move on with their lives. They assume everything will get better once the abuser is gone, but that is far from the truth. Co-parenting with an abusive and controlling ex-spouse is re-traumatizing and consists of never-ending emotional and financial abuse. When survivors are shamed for telling their story or their experience is trivialized and discounted, they are once again being re-traumatized and experience even more collateral damage to their physical and mental health. Victim shamers and blamers need to step back and realize that we don’t come forward for attention, we come forward because we are cornered, desperate for help after being failed by the system and in need of a way to lift the burden of living in silence.
As I continue getting back to a healthy state, I will likely cut back on blogging for a short time. I realize that my first priority is my family and my health…everything else will have to take a back seat. I’m juggling quite a bit right now and there are things I’d like to delve into when the time is right, so this blog isn’t ending by any means. I hope this post helps those of you that are also dealing with health issues during your recovery from trauma while also trying to survive the fight, please know that you are not alone!
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Yesterday, was the first time since my surgery that I had enough energy to go on a walk with the kids and our pup Charlie. I enjoyed listening to the kids tell me about their day and what they want to be for Halloween. It truly is the little things that matter the most.