Recovery Writing: Notes from recovering after a major surgery

This is a short piece of “recovery writing” based on 12 days of the journal I kept while I was recovering from my spinal fusion surgery. I think of it as a poem in a diary/note style, similar to Robert Kroetsch’s notes (e.g. The Ledger). It gets a bit explicit, but it would have been far worse in those first first few weeks if I’d been able to write anything down.

3 Weeks Post-Op: Depression

  • Out of the hospital, into the flame. Mostly bedridden with small exercises up to this point. Using a walker for short (<5 min) walks.
  • Starting to experience severe depression and anxiety partially due to trouble sleeping.

Dec 27

  • skipped walk
  • first severe depressive feelings since hospital
  • cried that partner wasn’t there

Dec 28

  • walk: mall
  • fewer hopeless feelings

Dec 29

  • no walk
  • MOOD ???????

Dec 30

  • walk: 2 blocks no break
  • severe depression/anxiety just before walk in evening (unable to get shoes on)
  • walking improved mood
  • bad again later

Dec 31

  • walked around doc office/grocery store
  • some depression in afternoon, severe hopelessness in evening

Jan 1

  • walk: 2 blocks, no walker
  • walk: 20 min basement
  • morning: good mood yes
  • afternoon: depression fluctuating moderate-severe
  • evening: ok
  • pill at 9:30am and 7pm

Testing 1, 2, sleep

Scribble saying CAN'T SLEEP

  • Tracking behaviour to try to prolong sleep. Anxious recovery will be stalled due to lack of sleep.

Jan. 2

  • hydromorphone (M) pill early morning, tylenol early evening
  • nude
  • door slightly open
  • 2 blankets
  • 2 walks 20-30 min, one late evening
  • big stack of pillows under knees
  • early dinner
  • soft pillow under head and shoulders
  • mood: mildly depressed, low when mom asked to spend time together
  • RESULTS: bed at midnight slightly restless, too many thoughts, more restless, sleep face up 1am, woke up overheated, threw off 2nd blanket turned on right side 5am heightened pain turning took pill 5:30, pee, sleep… 6am, pink blanket, wake 10am

Jan. 3

  • tylenol right before, early morning M
  • satin pjs
  • door closed
  • 10 PM
  • 2 walks, latest early evening
  • big stack of pillows under knees
  • late snack-dinner
  • soft pillow under head/shoulders
  • RESULTS: mind restless, 11pm still awake, went nude, midnight still awake, sleep at some point, toss turn woke up 5:30am, peed, rearranged pillows, M, laid down again 6am, 6:30 still awake, 7am sleep, 7:30 AWAKE, 10:30… give up

Jan 4

  • no tylenol just M early morning late evening
  • nude
  • door open after heat on
  • pink blanket
  • midnight
  • 2 walks, 30 min evening
  • sat upright 20 min straight THUMBS UP
  • big pillow stack under feet, soft one under head
  • RESULTS: slept around 1am, woke 4:30, still awake 8am

Jan 5

  • same, but NO M!
  • 40 min walk, 40 min sitting upright
  • tried cotton nightgown, couldn’t get comfortable
  • RESULTS: went to bed 11pm, restless/itchy, slept sometime after midnight until 5:30am woke too hot, tossed/turned 2 hours, took M, relaxed but didn’t sleep until past 9am, woke 11

Jan 6

  • walk 30 min basement
  • Walk 30 min basement
  • M 6:30am
  • sat 60 minutes wow
  • less sleep, blame M

Jan 7

  • sat 80 minutes, break at 50
  • fuck M, done, pain not that bad now
  • almost hit 8 hours
  • might just get through a day of college classes next week…


PS, I’ve been listening to “Recovery” by James Arthur.

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