Keep Calm and Ask the Green: Other People's Surgery Edition
April 13, 2017 12:03 PM   Subscribe

My husband's having (not horrible) surgery a week from tomorrow. As of about midnight last night, my anxiety spiked through the roof. How do I relax and focus and get through the next week?

A week from tomorrow, my husband's having surgery. It's nothing major, technically outpatient (it involves general anesthesia, so he'll be spending the night for observation), and it's not related to anything horrible or scary. I'm not at all concerned about the actual recovery (and taking-care-of-the patient process), nor am i worried about the prep work of getting everything ready, but I'm suddenly horribly anxious over the actual surgery itself.

I'm currently on a low dose of buspirone for anxiety, and that does a cracking job at keeping regular day-to-day anxiety at bay, but falls short in the face of something like this. My psychiatrist has exactly one appointment available in the next week, and I can't make that due to a different surgery-related commitment, so I'm hoping to find some tried-and-true advice here, both for the next six days/nights and especially for the 4+ hours that he'll be in surgery.

tl;dr: what helps you with short-term breakthrough anxiety?
posted by okayokayigive to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Honestly, ativan (lorazepam). Can you ask your psych's office to call in an Rx for a few pills? Save one for the day of surgery, take the others as needed. My regular GP has done that for me. If your psych requires an appointment, call your GP? For me, lorazepam starts working within about 10 minutes.
posted by clone boulevard at 12:10 PM on April 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

What helped me coping with anxiety about my brain surgery was realizing just how many surgeries are done per day. This isn't something you deal with all the time, but there are thousands and thousands of surgeries performed every day without incident. Of course, this is hard for you, and I totally sympathize, but your husband's surgeon alone has probably done hundreds, if not thousands, of these operations. (I also use this to deal with my anxiety about flying - I think about all of the planes that take off and land daily without incident).
posted by FencingGal at 12:11 PM on April 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yes, seconding clone boulevard's suggestion for benzos. I take a tiny dose of Xanax (alprazolam) when my anxiety breaks through like you're describing. My GP calls it my "In case of emergency, break glass" drug.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:32 PM on April 13, 2017

Best answer: I have anxiety for which I take a low dose of Lexapro daily. I have a Xanax rx for sleeplessness as well.

What has been helpful to me (and has taken some time to figure out) is to learn to reframe the sensation of feeling anxious as normal in some circumstances. A human brain going through major events -- like a family death, divorce, job loss, or the surgery of a loved one -- is wired to experience some symptoms of distress. It's how we knew to run from the mastodons or whatever. It's when those responses are out of proportion (or all that time ) that it's a pathology.

You can certainly get an rx for something like a benzo if needed. But I would also be sure and give yourself a lot of credit for just getting through this - even if it's somewhat ragged. You are running away from a mastodon here. Be good to yourself -- have the extra ice cream, a good cry, a nap, whatever you need to get you through each day. You and your husband will get through this and you can reassess your anxiety treatment when your day-to-day is a little more settled.
posted by pantarei70 at 12:39 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would it be worth knowing the ins and outs of the procedure and the actual risks of it? Can I ask what procedure your husband is having?

I find that a little more certainty helps quell my anxiety about anything.

On the day of the surgery, ask the doctor and anesthesiologist everything you feel you need to to feel great .
posted by actionpotential at 12:49 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm going to dis-recommend additional meds at this time, because no one here is your prescriber or pharmacist and buspirone is a bit of a unique drug.

There's a careful blend of knowing enough and too much, and misinformation. I'd suggest seeking out reliable and bland sources of information, if that is the sort of thing that helps you. If it isn't, don't google things.

Stay off social media.

Ramp up whatever it is you do for self care. One thing I've given myself permission for us to do something that we don't do, but feel drawn to, but that's actually perfectly safe. I'll pull over at a random trailhead, or lake, and just be present there. Leave work for half an hour and get a soft serve.

The other option is to get really intellectually invested in something that can be picked up and put down. Grid style logic puzzles are my coloring.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: On the day of a loved one's surgery, I asked the surgeon to install some new brakes while he was in there.

An uncle of mine had a buddy who went through xenotransplantation of a pig's heart valve earlier this year and recruited the rest of the family to come up with pig jokes to text the guy while he was in the hospital recuperating. We asked whether he could smell truffles now and if his wife found that his kisses taste like bacon.

YMMV but, along the lines of what actionpotential mentions, before the surgery I felt like I was accomplishing something by obsessively reading everything I possibly could find online about the procedure. PubMed Central and looking for surgical textbooks on Google Books was useful (though this was a few years ago, and unfortunately more and more content becomes inaccessible there as time passes) and I expect I would have found this recent FPP that automatically finds open-access versions of journal articles very useful.

It was also fascinating and soothing for some reason to leaf through the entire catalog of a medical supplier which specialized in surgical needles and sutures, oddly enough even though I'm somewhat squeamish. I'd have never imagined there could be so many kinds of needles.
posted by XMLicious at 2:18 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Er, I should note that if you look in medical literature you do of course end up coming across statistical mortality rates in addition to details of the condition and procedure. Though if, as you say, the type of surgery is nothing major, it may be reassuring in that case.
posted by XMLicious at 2:22 PM on April 13, 2017

Best answer: If you live in a decent sized city and you're inclined towards meditation at all, try a float tank. I find them extremely relaxing and very helpful for outbreaks of anxiety. Just focus on breathing until you do nothing. It's also a good way to set aside time to take care of yourself, not just the patient.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:46 PM on April 13, 2017

When I had major surgery, I was kept in a unit near the OR for monitoring, while my wife waited in my room wondering why I had not returned. Eventually, a friend found here there and started making inquires. But my wife was off-kilter for a long time as a result.

So my advice for the day of surgery is that you have a no-nonsense friend to order you about and yell at the nurses on your behalf so that you don't get frozen with anxiety.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:17 PM on April 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's nothing major, technically outpatient (it involves general anesthesia, so he'll be spending the night for observation), and it's not related to anything horrible or scary.

I was the patient recently in this scenario. I binged a lot of Netflix shows. When I got really anxious, it turned into watching animal shows suitable for children (Too Cute on Animal Planet is perfect for this). I had relaxation apps on my phone (waterfall sounds, etc). I meditated. I deep-cleaned my apartment so it was something I didn't have to think about when I was recovering. (Not quite the same scenario, but I'd bet it'd be relaxing for both of you to come home to a clean house.) I avoided all news for about 2 weeks before and after surgery. I took walks in nature. I hugged my cats.

tl;dr - distraction, distraction, distraction. Whatever is gonna happen is gonna happen and worrying about it will affect your health and his recovery, because your anxiety will rub off on him, and increased cortisol levels inhibit post-op recovery. I hope I didn't just cause more anxiety! It will be okay. Now's a great time to rearrange your closet, dust the ceiling fans, and regrout the tub.
posted by AFABulous at 5:06 PM on April 13, 2017

Best answer: It sounds trite, but when I my husband was in the hospital awaiting surgery and my anxiety got crazy, I bought a colouring book and some markers and distracted myself. I also stayed at work during the surgery and went to the hospital to coincide with when he would be waking up.
posted by kitcat at 6:14 PM on April 13, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Benzos aren't an option for me because Reasons, but I appreciate the feedback (and memails)!
posted by okayokayigive at 8:53 AM on April 14, 2017

« Older Help me be an awesome manager!   |   I want you to want me. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.