Who Died and Made Me Therapist?

I’m in a group of fellow South African women undergoing various surgery. We share prices, experiences and photos. I have been on there for a few years now as this particular surgical journey started in 2017. That’s when I first started doing research and finding out if medical aid would pay. (Only if you’re on the expensive plan, or a member of one of the government employee ones.)

I’ve been sharing my own very specific experiences, commenting when people ask questions I can answer. And sharing each failed surgery to fix the same thing. Hopefully this one is IT!

But yesterday, someone sent a message asking me to find out if their medical aid would pay for their surgery. I am not a medical aid worker. No idea what gave her the idea I would do what she should do. But I told her they wouldn’t anyway. None do.

Another one told me privately that she was extremely depressed and weepy. She wants to be normal and care for her 18 month old. She has been extremely regretful of her surgery. She feels extremely tight and uncomfortable, hates the swelling, and hates that with the her skin having been removed and nerves severed, she has no feeling.

She had her surgery probably a week before mine. I haven’t even reached a week post-op. What could I say to her? I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me. Why was she reaching out to me with such a tale of sorrow and misery? Who died and made me therapist?

I really felt bad for her. I recall in 2020 how at the two week mark, I was in floods of tears standing in the kitchen unable to do what I wanted to do. I told her that I’ve also read that temporary depression is normal after surgery and that all her concerns and complaints are valid. I tried to listen, empathise and make her feel heard. Doesn’t help that her husband had told her not to do it as every surgery has some kind of side effect. Now she feels like she didn’t listen and it’s her fault. I hope I made a difference. I told her I will check on her daily and she must let me know how she is coping.

I can so relate to wanting to be mom again. My house looks like a disaster zone and there’s nothing I can do about it. The ones old enough and intellectually capable enough to be told what to do are already busy caring for my twins.

She’s not in physical pain though. That’s the difference between her and me. I am. I just finished crying just now, making my husband ask what’s wrong. I didn’t sleep. The abdominal binder digs into my hips, into my side, is it my skin. I sweat from its heat. It’s thick, hard, and extremely uncomfortable. Because I’m sleeping in a recliner, I woke up the other night bolt upright, head forward, pressure on my abs-the very abs I’m not meant to use at all. The pain was bad and I was terrified I’d ripped the stitches. I don’t even know how I ended up sitting upright.

There’s a lot of pain going on caused by many things besides the op. I have a dear friend who constantly checks on me and says all the right things, “Shame sis, get well sis” etc. She just checked on me now and I told her I’m in a bad space. Her turn to be my therapist. 😅

When my husband realised why I was crying, he’d just returned from a jog. So he says, “Shame, do you want Nicki” (another dear friend) “to come give you a hug? I know I’m all stinky and will gross you out.”

But true too that I need a hug. And Nicki is awesome at verbal hugs. Just like another Joburg friend of mine. I feel as miserable as the stranger who wrote to me yesterday. I can’t even just get out of bed and use the loo. Something as simple as that is difficult and painful.

I need a hug. if I need a hug, many others do too.

And so, in the absence of friends who understand, I can see why I’m the stranger’s therapist. She needs a hug. And if in the midst of my suffering I can be her hug, why not?

Saturday night was miserable. And I was alone as my husband had taken the children for a drive. Nausea and a runny tummy had settled in. A friend of mine had been texting me and sent a voice note.

But the voice note was from her husband telling me they are worried about me and care about me and are praying for me.

I cried!

When you’re alone and down and sick, knowing that at that very moment, you matter, it makes such a huge difference.

It was my hug on Saturday. And so, I’ll cot I use playing therapist to anybody who’s miserable.

We all need a hug sometimes. And free therapy.

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