Dealing with the Emotions of Medical Trauma: The One Year Anniversary of my Blood Clot

12:01 PM chronicmigraineellie 1 Comments

A year ago today, I was hospitalized for a blood clot (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in my right upper arm. I wrote about it a week later for my blog, and dealt with the emotions for months after. A year later, I'm still dealing with the emotions and problems associated with having a traumatic medical experience.
For the past two weeks, I've had increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, waking up in panic every morning and just been generally an emotional mess. I assumed that it was just because I had started a my sophomore spring semester in college and had taken on more responsibilities. But as I looked at the dates, I realized that this time last year, I was dealing with the physical consequences of my chronic illness. For the first time, I had physical manifestations of my illness— a side effect from one of my medications. However, because of my age and gender, I was told that my symptoms weren't real. I learned just how messed up our medical system was, when I had to convince a medical professional to run a diagnostic test on me because this was my second ER visit in 4 days. I've talked a lot about my experience, and if you want to read more about my the events of my hospital stay, read my post here.

Today, I'm going to be talking about the emotional effects of this incident. At the hospital, I was given a shot of Lovenox, a blood thinner, on my stomach. The photo attached to this post is what I had for a couple months after. The bruise was a physical reminder of the trauma that I had been through. It could not be scrubbed away, or hidden. When I was alone, looking in the mirror, I was consistently reminded of what my body went through. With the blood thinners that I was on for 6 months, I lost almost every medication that I used to combat my pain. A migraine attack would be so much worse, because the only pain drug that I could take was Tylenol, which is like putting a bandaid over a severed limb. While I dealt with the pain, it was the physical reminders that hurt the most. My bruise reminded me of the struggle that it took to obtain medical help. It was a constant reminder that this was not a cruel dream, but a reality. I had to deal with the fact that I got extremely lucky. If I had fallen, or gone sledding like I was planning to, the clot could have shifted and become a pulmonary embolism. Luckily, it didn't. But I had to deal with the emotional consequences of my own mortality and the fact that my body was a battlefield, and I have almost no control over it. I would look down at my hand, and notice that the area below my thumb, which had swollen and become blue because of the clot, was still puffy and blue. To this day, it is still a big bigger than the same part on my left hand. The veins are slightly more visible, the area just a little oddly shaped.

But the bruise went away. After a couple months, it faded. It turned different colors, growing fainter every day. While the bruise shrank, the emotions stayed. One of my doctors told me that I had been through a medical trauma. I hadn't thought about my experience that way,  until then. It was traumatic. It wasn't a run of the mill health problem. There were real consequences at stake. Yet still, as per usual, my doctors had no idea why I got the clot when I did. I had been on the combination pill for three years, and had never had a problem with it. Nothing had changed in my lifestyle. I had no genetic pre-dispositions or autoimmune factors. Once again, I was a medical mystery.

The anxiety that surrounded my blood clot terrified me. I was on edge for months, worried that I would be sitting in class and have another horrible event happen to me. That was because I was in class when I started feeling the blood clot. I was too terrified to leave immediately, so I waited 15 minutes until the class was over before calling my parents and my doctors. About a month and a half after my blood clot, I was walking back to my dorm with my friends. It was cold outside, and when I got back to my room and started changing into my pajamas, I noticed the same red matrices covering my legs that had been on my arm and hand when I had the blood clot. I immediately freaked out. I went back to the hospital. I got an ultrasound to check for clots. It was just Raynaud's Phenomenon, but it was the first big flare that I had ever really had, save for some mild mottling on my arms and legs growing up.

To be completely honest, I'm still working through my emotions. Recovery is a process. While my body has healed, I am still dealing with the emotional repercussions of my clot. I've been dealing with doctors being dumbfounded and confused that I had a blood clot at 19. The constant question of "Do they know what caused it?" and the recounting of my experiences takes a toll on me. I've thought a lot about my future. I've thought about the fact that I can't take any products with estrogen in it, and that if I want to get pregnant, I'll be at higher risk for blood clots again. I've been told that I should be on baby aspirin for the rest of my life so I am at lesser risk for another clot. It's constantly in the back of my mind.

I thought that I should share this with all of you, even though it's very difficult for me. My initial post focused on what happened, and how I dealt with adversity. I didn't touch on the emotional aspect. It still hadn't hit me yet. The emotions didn't completely hit until my spring break last year, where I spent almost all of it sleeping and crying, dealing with everything that was going on. I hid the emotions I felt from a lot of people. I pretended that I was much stronger than I am when I told my story. I wanted to feel like I was stronger emotionally than I was feeling, and if I could convince other people that I was okay, somehow, I thought that I could convince myself too. It doesn't work like that. What does work is talking about my emotions, working with a therapist and reminding myself that I am still alive and here today. I have lived through so much already, but somehow, I'm still fighting. Without these experiences, I would not be doing the advocacy work that I am now. I wouldn't be me. Healing is a process. I'm very lucky to have an amazing support system around me. I am still in the process of healing, but the fact that I am able to share my emotions with all of you is proof that it is getting easier to deal with my blood clot and the physical and emotional trauma that I experienced.

As always, have an amazing, migraine-free week. I'm very excited for next week's post because that will be a recap of Headache on the Hill 2017!

1 comment:

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