The Struggle of a New Optimist
“I like the man who faces what he must, With steps triumphant and a heart of cheer, Who fights the daily battle without fear.” – Sarah Knowles Bolton
I’m not really certain whether I have truly earned the title of “optimist,” but I’ve certainly come closer than I have ever been. But it seems as if every moment I achieve blissful optimism a major setback arises – I’m talking about earth-shattering setbacks. Yesterday I wrote about how great it felt to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet today I received bad news – extremely bad news. I found myself starting down my old path of pessimism when I left the doctor’s office asking myself, “Why me?” “Why me” is one of those questions that start us on a self-destructive path to other questions and ponderings, such as my typical, “This is not fair,” montage. The light that I must focus on is I recognized this moment and stopped to think, not react. Uncertainty brings a lot of anxiety, and my day was saturated with it.
I have noticed a major difference in the way I react to stressful situations. I no longer crumble for hours – sometimes days. Today I was given the news at work, making it even more important that I keep composure. I set the phone down after the conversation finished, and breathed. There were a few tears, but mostly just deep breaths. When a coworker came into work in the afternoon and discovered the news, she told me that I seemed so calm. If I can look calm on the outside, there’s a good chance I can learn how to be calm on the inside.
Surgical Complications and Fear
After my last two surgeries that resulted in major complications, such as the RSD, I fully expected a painful recovery from this third one…but if you read my post from yesterday, you learned that I was pleasantly surprised by the reduced pain and ability to walk on my foot immediately following surgery. I suppose I should have waited one more day before posting – or perhaps it’s better that you can see the daily ups and downs.
I have learned to absolutely fear infections. After being treated with IV antibiotics for seven weeks, I never want to see bacteria again in my life (good thing I opted out of a microbiology profession). Before going into surgery, I was petrified of receiving another infection as they removed the last of the hardware from my first surgery. As you know, RSD patients are more susceptible to infections, which did not aid in my anxiety. The surgeon chose to send the hardware off to pathology as a precaution, expecting nothing to return. But today my fear came to the surface. Preliminary pathology reports indicate that clostridium perfringens had been festering in the hardware that was removed. I have been taken off of the antibiotic I was prescribed following the surgery and placed on two new ones. Infectious disease also insisted I could not wait to be seen a single day; I have an appointment with them tomorrow morning (which is practically a miracle given how long it takes to get on his schedule). The stitches were taken out so that any existing toxins would not propagate under healed skin.
I simply cannot wrap my mind around a way in which I can overcome this crippling fear – fear of the unknown and fear of this very serious bacterial infection. When I asked the surgeon whether this was something I should be concerned about, she immediately stated that it is a very serious bacterium.
Perhaps what I should be asking myself is not how does one overcome the fear but how one remains optimistic in the face of fear. Let’s hope you see a post in the near future answering this very question because at this moment, I honestly do not know where to even begin – other than breathing.
“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.” – Swedish Proverb