It’s a beautiful summers day and I’m looking out of a vast window of the eighth floor of a building. The Thames meanders into the distance past the Palace of Westminster. The London Eye turns slowly on the South Bank and people look like ants crossing the bridge each way, north and south. I imagine that many would pay a lot for this view and I can enjoy it for free. At least I could if my pupils weren’t dilated and my right eye in meltdown.
This is a blog post about anxiety and gratitude. It is also about emergency eye surgery.
At supervision, a couple of weeks ago my bewilderingly powerful health anxiety was in full swing.
“There’s something wrong with my eye. It’s probably a brain tumour.” I say, only half-joking.
Turns out it wasn’t. It was a torn and detached retina which, on being fast-tracked by the optician to the hospital led to a referral to London for emergency surgery this week.
So here I am. Squinting into the sunshine in my attractive surgical gown and non-slip socks.
One of the things most noticeable about anxiety is that it lives in the future. What we imagine is often far worse than what we end up experiencing.
“Are you claustrophobic?”
“Can you lie completely still for an hour?”
I try to answer the doctor’s questions as best I can. I tell him that I have never fancied potholing and that I can lie still under normal circumstances, perhaps reading a book, but I’m not sure how easy I’ll find it when someone is cutting into my eye.
In theatre, I hear the consultant say,
“His retina is like a colander, isn’t it?”
Easily resisting the temptation to say, “I am here you know” I lie still.
Instead, I think about the past twenty-four hours. How quickly everyone has responded to me, how well everyone has taken care of me. I think about how I felt on the train this morning traveling into London and the palpable anxiety of everything which was to come.
In the middle of experiencing the thing we’re anxious about there is very little choice but to just get on with it. At this point, mostly we find that the anxiety has all but disappeared.
At home, I am lying on my side where I have to remain for seven days. My daughter comes in and says;
“I’m here to keep an eye on you”
“Very funny” I reply
I’m sure I detect a smirk but I can’t be sure because I only have one eye and the other one, the good one, seems to be buckling under the extra workload.
The dog, also shortsighted, is disgruntled that I am taking up so much space on the sofa.
It would be easy to feel sorry for myself. My eye is swollen and sore, I have a splitting headache and I’m tired of lying down already and it’s only day three. I can’t walk the dog, I can’t really go outside, and I can’t drive for the next six or eight weeks.
But despite it all, I’ve encountered so much kindness this week that it’s hard to feel anything other than humbled and grateful.
Sometimes, when you’re feeling particularly unlucky, it becomes apparent just how lucky you are.