Listen when people need you to hear them

My previous blog talked about not knowing what to expect as I went through my medical treatment. Given what was nothing short of an astounding response I thought I might update, as well as share what I’ve learnt from writing the first time. 

How am I progressing? 

I’m doing ok. I can breathe (ie through my nose) which is a major plus. The surgeon left a dressing in above my nose, which I’m told will dissolve. It remains uncomfortable and tender. I’m desperate to blow my nose but I know I mustn’t and as a result I’m still suffering from regular headaches. In fact every time I think I’m ok I get hit by another headache which reminds me not to push things too quickly. 

What’s changed since last time?  

I had my second operation last Monday. This was largely to take out the pack that had been left in my nose after the first op. Over the two weeks the pack was in, not being able to breathe through my nose was pretty uncomfortable. Gravity did its best to force the pack out and I looked quite grotesque at times (even worse than usual) with this thing bursting out of my left nostril.  

Whilst still a general anaesthetic, this time it was only a 45 minute operation and it appears to have gone well. Unlike the first surgery, I recovered quickly and couldn’t believe I was able to walk to the car less than 6 hours after the operation. Since then I’ve taken it relatively easy, increasingly doing more work fighting myself not to overdo it. 

One of the more surprising things is that for an operation on my nose, I’ve had incisions on my leg (where I have a nice scar), both hands, right arm and my back. While the leg is still a bit sore (no running for the next month at least), everything else seems fine. 

What hasn’t changed since last time is how lovely everyone has been. Whether its family looking after me, colleagues at work telling me not to come back too quickly, or friends asking after me…it means an awful lot.  

What did I learn from the first blog?

As mentioned above, the reaction to the first blog was incredible. This included the number and variety of people who left messages or contacted me to see how I was, many understandably saying something along the lines of “I knew you were having something done but you were so laid back I didn’t realise it was serious”.

These days we talk a lot about mental health and wellbeing. We know increasingly some of the challenges society has with depression and mental illness. This seems particularly the case with men, who naturally keep things hidden, not opening up, not sharing before it can explode with dramatic, and in some cases tragic consequences. 

The impact of my first blog was not so much about me but I think what it meant for others. I was humbled by those who contacted me directly to share their stories – people who I knew well enough but not necessarily close friends I talk to regularly.  

I fully understand that my condition is serious – more serious than I first thought having done more research – but not as serious as what so many others go through – a sudden shocking diagnosis of a life threatening condition that requires long periods of treatment that come hand in hand with thoroughly horrible side effects. 

My story seemed to resonate. People told me they were grateful that I had opened up, that I shared how I was feeling and not purely from the medical perspective. I talked about the difficulty of knowing what to expect when you had no knowledge of what you were walking into. I talked about the shock of suddenly realising you have something serious when there’s no apparent reason for it or hint anything is wrong. 

All of this reiterates the importance of being open, of sharing, of finding someone you can talk to whenever you need it – which may just be a one-off thing, or something more regular or whatever, we’re all different.

Understandably our physical health is personal, but bottling up how you feel can have a deeply negative effect on mental health. The pandemic, lockdown and all the pressures of our current daily situation will only exacerbate this. 

My conclusions are two fold:

Firstly it is good to speak. If you have something on your mind, and you are struggling share it find a way of doing so in a way that works for you. Whether it’s a blog, a phone conversation or just through what’s app don’t keep it to yourself.

Secondly be receptive and open to people who want to talk or be listened to. I can promise that if anyone wants to share with me then please do – I’d be honoured to help if I can.

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