How a General Anaesthetic Almost Made Me a Junkie
It’s been almost 5 years since I stopped taking the medicines that were ruling my life, and until last month, although I had my moments of panic, I never truly doubted my decision – even in the worst of my healing crisis.
The truth is, I healed myself of multiple chronic conditions primarily by coming off meds – all of them, bit by bit.
Doing this allowed my body to rebalance itself physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Crucially, it helped me develop a greater awareness of my needs and how they arose, resulting in a more trusting bond with my body overall. How many chronic sufferers can say that?
Drugs Don’t Heal Us – We Do
Controversially, I believe we ALL have the ability to heal whatever chronic conditions we ail from. Getting there, however, demands that we have infinite faith in our own body and its systems – however faulty they currently appear to be! From this point, it’s simply a matter of retraining our brain and nervous system to work better and more efficiently (i.e. cutting out all debilitating and harmful energies whilst cultivating the nourishing, healing energies).
Take this from someone who spent the entirety of her childhood and 20s in an ever-worsening state of chronic and debilitating ill-health (requiring ever more, stronger meds), and then spent the majority of her 30s (this Jan I’ll be 38) attempting to cure/reverse those myriad chronic complaints and illnesses. Spoiler alert: healing is called a “journey“ and not a “destination“ for a reason!
Putting it to the Test
January 2018 marked 5 years since I stopped using topical and inhaled steroids for my asthma and eczema and the pivotal point in my healing journey. My experience has left me more conscious, more enlightened, more trusting (and loving!) of my body, and deeply mistrustful of the standard medical model of symptom suppression and non-integral intervention.
And so it is completely natural for the universe to send me the biggest test of all: a required knee arthroscopy to remove badly torn cartilage which was causing pain and impingement on a daily basis (and which I’d done my best to nurse/ignore for over a year).
Not to mention many pre-op appointments to perform x-rays, MRI scans, attend consultations and discuss my “options”, have emergency physio when my knee locked out completely the day before our anniversary, and finally to take all my stats, measurements and general life history in preparation for the Big Day. Every stage demanded that I steel myself and keep all my wits about me.
Beware the Cascade of Interventions
As I did my utmost to remain in a space of gratitude – both for the opportunity to fix my knee and to numb my own fear around the procedure (as gratitude and fear can rarely co-exist) – I remained alert to the need for crystal clear awareness as I moved through the medical machine. Pam England (Birthing from Within) lucidly describes this as the “cascade of interventions” and I have several first-hand experiences of its slippery nature and how easy it is to feel helplessly sucked into each new leak or surge of quite unnecessary tests, procedures and drugs.
My first shock was learning I’d need a general anaesthetic. I’d just assumed it would be local, and I’d be awake throughout. Losing control is a big trigger for me – after all, this would require me to put all my faith in the procedure and those performing it. There could be no backing out once I went under. Moreover, I had no way of knowing what would make up my anaesthetic: this kind of information just isn’t shared with patients. Short of confirming my known allergies and stating categorically NO STEROIDS on my pre-op forms, I again had to simply trust. My waterfall-activation alarm sounded when I was then told (not asked) to take some pre-op painkillers. What the heck for? I’d already been very clear that I didn’t take medicines of any sort, and hadn’t for several years now. But they were insistent, and again I had to surrender and trust (though honestly, at this point it felt more like humouring them).
Trusting the System
So there I am, sexy backless gown on as I lay on the trolley: left knee marked up like a butcher’s joint, my modesty covered with a cotton blanket, and the anaesthetist searching for a good vein to start. Here we go!
After a false start (my left-hand vein retreated instinctively at the needle-probe), I was soon hooked up and being told to breathe deeply. For a brief moment I wanted to panic – my right hand had gone dead! And then I was out.
When I awoke, my first feeling was of drowsy relaxation – the kind you feel on a Sunday morning lie-in when you have nothing pressing to do. It was delicious. I wriggled instinctively and snuggled down further into my blankets. Eventually a nurse came round to say hello and ask me how I was feeling, and soon I was being trundled back to my private room to come fully back to consciousness in comfort. A feeling of grateful privilege overtook me, and I was proud of myself for surrendering to faith when all my senses told me to be on high alert!
Then the itching began. My knee didn’t seem painful, though I couldn’t move it a lot. But the whole of my left leg ITCHED ferociously. It penetrated my comfortable grogginess to the point where I pushed aside my blankets to scratch unimpeded, and gasped to see (what I imagined) my leg bright red and inflamed, from ankle to inner thigh. Immediately it brought back all my horrific memories of the first few months of Topical Steroid Withdrawal where the skin turns bright red and hot (and incessantly, horribly itchy), typically stopping at the ankles and wrists. It looked exactly like that, and all kinds of possible consequences crowded my foggy brain: WHAT IF…?
The nurse put my mind immediately at rest: the redness was not inflammation but simply the dye they used in the surgical cleaning fluid they used to prep the area. My worst fears were allayed, though my skin still complained loudly. It was a subtle reminder to me that surrendering to faith also required adequate knowledge to be able to deal with unexpected ‘surprises’.
What if I’d Been Wrong?
My biggest test was yet to come, however. I left the hospital with not one, but three packets of painkillers, of which I was to cycle all three continuously until I ran out. I humoured the doctors, and popped them in my bag with absolutely no intention of taking any. That night my state of relaxation peaked, as I washed and calmed my leg, got into comfy PJs and snuggled up to my wonderful hubby while he read to me from a brand new adventure story (La Belle Sauvage). I remember thinking that I hadn’t felt this relaxed in many years – not a single itch, or twitch, or niggle. My whole nervous system felt quite blissfully drowsy and I ended up having the best night’s sleep of my 30s. I awoke feeling utterly refreshed and new, with a continuing sense of blissful rejuvenation. Without noticing, I found myself wondering, for the first time in 5 years: maybe drugs aren’t so bad after all?
And the questions and ponderings persisted, as I continued to feel good throughout that first day and subsequent night. Though I tossed and turned as normal that second night, I awoke again feeling fairly refreshed and buoyant. And there was another bonus too: my skin had almost completely cleared itself of eczema. It felt smooth and mostly itch-free. Suddenly I enjoyed the feeling of what it would be like to be ‘normal’ and not require my usual regime every-single-day. I could imagine simply getting out of bed and dressing if I felt like it! No need for salt baths or full lymphatic oil-massage. And I’d be able to wear what I wanted because my skin would feel strong, not fragile. That day I wore short sleeves even though it was late October, and it felt wonderful.
Perhaps I’d been too hard on the medical world? Perhaps I should start allowing myself a few drugs now and then, to help things along and feel calmer, more ‘normal’? After all, that’s how I navigated the horrors of Topical Steroid Withdrawal, tapering down to antihistamines and a very short period of sleeping tablets to alleviate my chronic insomnia.
And I imagined having an anaesthetic once a month – letting my body fully relax and repair (so I thought), whilst feeling utterly blissful into the bargain! Maybe this is how class A drugs feel? Maybe I should start a little recreational use? I don’t have an addictive personality so it’s not like I’d get hooked….
The Aftermath (and My Biggest Lesson)
And so the ponderings continued. I started to believe what I was telling myself: that the drugs were enabling me to more fully rest and repair from the inside out. I even began to reprimand myself for being so vehemently anti-medicine, and so monolithic about it.
Then quite suddenly, the fog descended. What had felt so light and beautiful, like a brave new world, just as suddenly vanished. But instead of leaving me back in my usual place, I was taken on a journey right into the depths of the underworld. For the next week I burrowed the darkest of places, finding no light in anything. Everything felt utterly devoid of meaning, and I wanted no place in it. My skin flared worse than ever and I tossed and turned all night long, only to fall into an exhausted slumber as everyone else awoke. I didn’t want to surface from the comfort and safety of my bed, didn’t want to even think about washing and dressing. It was all too much. I wanted out, completely
Just like that, I’d gone to the other side. A side I’ve not seen since my 20s when I suffered from bipolar disorder. In the midst of it, of course, I didn’t make the connection. It felt more like clarity to me at the time – oh, how I was wasting my life and how useless I really was! Nobody needed me. Nobody really cared. My god, how egotistical I’d been! Thinking I could actually make a difference – what a JOKE! The world didn’t need me and was much better off without me.
After about 4 days of this profound bleakness – and just as I was getting used to it as my ‘new normal’ – things changed again. It felt as though a dark spirit has left my body, without protest. My head cleared, my emotions levelled, and I was back to being me again.
It wasn’t until I began relating this entire episode to a good friend that I realised what had happened. The concoction of drugs which had collectively made me feel so deliciously floaty and light had simultaneously overloaded my liver and caused a miniature healing crisis as my body attempted to rebalance itself. And as soon as the last remnants of those drugs had been swept up and out, balance was indeed restored.
I hadn’t suddenly returned to extreme manic depression; I was simply processing crap out of my system! My friend, a qualified nutritionist and holistic healthcare practitioner, concurred. And I found myself genuinely shocked at how easily I’d been duped by my body – or more accurately, the drugs taking over and then being flushed from my body.
The Magic Within Our Reach
What it all comes back to for me, every time, is this: we still want to believe there is a magic potion to take away all our cares. We still want our three fairy wishes. We want desperately to be absolved of all responsibility for our own health. In a world where even the young have to adult, adding in intuitive, informed and integral self-care feels like just too big a burden to bear.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Truly, our bodies really are designed to find homeostasis – and as we already know – body, mind, emotions, inner power and spirit are all inextricably linked. Feed one and you feed them all.
So, what are you feeding yourself? It’s crucial to look not only at the physical, but also your regular barrage of automatic thoughts, feelings, how you tune into or dispel your inner power, and how you choose to connect (or not) with everything external to you, of which you are a vital part.
What You Can Do Right Now (Even Whilst Taking Medicines)
- Above all else, the most crucial action you can take is COMPASSION. Know that, if you’re at a point in your healing where you need medicines or other support to get you through, and you’re using this support from an integral, informed stance, then you’re exactly where you need to be: no guilt or shame need intervene here, from yourself or anyone else. Fuel your compassion with clear awareness, entering into any support pact as informed as you can be – whether that external support is a drug, a mentor/counsellor/coach or even a spiritual practice.
- Grow your own healing muscles whilst receiving support. Test your mindset with the notion that one day soon, you will no longer need it. Try out what that feels like, and also what triggers it brings up for you! Be HONEST with yourself about what you need and what you can really do without. Yes, you *will* be tested – many times, and in different ways. This is where it’s crucial to find your own faith and nurture it: faith in yourself as a whole (including your “failing” part!) and faith in the greater whole that is championing ceaselessly for your rebirth.
- If you feel as if your self-care muscles and inner instinct need a bit of tuning, check out my FREE audio series of messages and meditations to help you Mute the Noise in your daily life and tune in (blissfully!) to what really matters.
I am grateful to have my knee back in use again, and rehabilitating nicely. I am grateful to the many doctors and nurses who tended to me as I went through my operation. But I’m possibly most grateful for the entire experience which made me question my whole belief system, which shook me to my very foundations, and which ultimately opened me up to a brand new level of self-trust, appreciation and awakening. I would be so honoured to share more of my own journey with you, and give you the support and tools to facilitate your own. Take back control of your ultimate wellbeing and vitality: the true magic is right here, within your reach.