Recovering From Surgery: What I Learned From Taking 6 Weeks Off Work
Most people underestimate the time they need to heal.
We are so used to forcing ourselves to be ready when we’re not, so used to pushing the envelope to “get more done.” When my doctor recommended I take a full six weeks off for recovery after my upcoming surgery, I took him seriously, and that’s what I did.
I’m in a post surgery healing group on Facebook, and one thing I noticed is how many people in the group kept asking what the bare minimum time was to take off work. For the intense surgery that we had, it’s a general six to eight weeks healing time. Now, some people may heal faster or slower than that, but pushing yourself to go to work too soon, without giving yourself proper time to heal, is just asking for trouble.
Several people in the group have posted about issues like their wounds opening, failing to heal properly, slower than normal healing time, fatigue, and other problems. Many of these issues likely could have been avoided if they just allowed themselves time to rest and heal.
Mental Health is just as important as physical health.
Not only does your body need time to heal, your mind needs time as well. Going through a big surgery doesn’t just affect your physical health. Your mental health can be often affected too. Depending on others, asking for help, and not being able to do your normal daily activities, (not to mention intense pain, lack of sleep, taking prescription medications, and a myriad of other factors) all make healing from a big surgery a huge tax on our already burdened systems.
Many people in the post surgery group, including myself, reported experiencing depression and anxiety after surgery. Going through a surgery often makes us more vulnerable, and when we are vulnerable is often when things come up. I noticed that past truamas and suppressed emotions came up for me, and I was faced with an opportunity to work through them. Journaling, listening to music, meditating, and coming back to my spiritual practice helped me to work through some of these issues. I also realized it was probably time for me to start seeing a therapist again.
Having a good support system that you can ask for help is crucial.
Once a man said “if you build it, they will come.” I say “If you ask for help, help will come.” Reach out to your friends and family. Chances are you have people that love and care about you who want to help. All you have to do is ask. Now, I know it can be hard to ask for help. As someone who is independent and used to doing things myself, who often even PREFERS to do things myself (I want things done the RIGHT way, after all!) I know that sometimes asking for help is the hardest thing for us to do. But we can’t RECEIVE the help we need if we can’t ASK for it. So ask! You’re going to need it.
I was blown away by the amount of love and support I received from my close friends and even my clients and people that I don’t know that well. It made me feel so good to know that people cared about me. Taking the help that I was offered helped me to relax and receive, inviting a deeper level of healing to reach me. Sometimes letting go of control opens the door to receiving everything we need.
Being forced to rest more helped me see how much I needed rest.
Let’s be honest: Most of us don’t get the rest we need. I’m talking about DEEP rest. RESTORATIVE rest. Rest that makes you feel energized and ready to be productive again. Most of us are just running on fumes, dancing dangerously close to empty. Overproduction is overrated. This forced rest has helped me to slow down, breathe deeper, and connect with a deeper layer of myself. It has allowed me to BE more and DO less.
Of course I’ve had to quell that inner voice that tells me I’m lazy, that I should be DOING something. I’ve had to tell it to sit the fuck down and take a chill pill. It’s really ok to just be, and allow yourself to not constantly be productive or working on something. Learn to be ok with it, and learn how to silence your inner critic.
Doing this has given me more energy to be creative, and I’ve been writing and journaling more. It’s given me time to pursue other interests that I didn’t previously make much time for because they weren’t lucrative or productive, for example: meditating, coloring in a coloring book, taking an online course on dreaming, writing a new poem, and watching a few good movies.
Taking time to slow down, rest, receive, and recover gives both mind and body a chance to integrate and heal. Like Trevor Hall said “You can’t rush your healing.” This is so true! It takes the time it takes. Taking adequate time off is necessary to give yourself the best change at full recovery.
All in all, I can honestly say I am so glad that I took six weeks off of work for my recovery. Taking time for myself and honoring my body’s need to rest and heal has given me the strength I need to return to work with renewed energy for my clients.