Dealing with stress after medical trauma

Painting and drawing tools. Text: Have the tools? Now do the WORK. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt


Damage comes in many forms in the aftermath of a medically traumatic event to self or loved one.

Humans are fragile.

The point of no return is frighteningly close.

Way too many people I know have lost a parent permanently over a stupidity: the hospital ER staff didn’t consider Mom was dehydrated – until her kidneys were permanently damaged.

Inappropriate drugs in the hospital pushed Dad over the edge.

Cousin Larry went in for routine optional back surgery – at 70 – and didn’t come out. I am a couple of years younger only, and facing possible ‘routine optional back surgery’ to be able to walk properly.

The hospital gave a friend access to infections somehow, and he almost died after a routine biopsy.

I could EASILY not have made it: the 95% blockage causing the chest pain was missed TWICE by the ‘gold standard’ cardiac catheterization, and I was actually sent home as ‘fine’ the first time, to spend six days dealing with chest pain I had been assured was NON-CARDIAC.

Life is short and hard, and we all die at the end, but sudden death – and near misses – wreak havoc with one’s sense of self.

And most of the above happened to people I know in very recent memory, so you can say I’ve been more than usually primed/skittish/on edge. I was chronically ill, but okay because I could write, albeit slowly.

Fear must be conquered over and over again

I’m going to keep this short (ha!), and just put right here this afternoon’s fear thoughts. Maybe they – or the process of getting them out – will resonate with someone:

FROM THE FEAR JOURNALS: May 4, 2017 at 1:40 PM

PTS takes what it takes – I had to spend some time on it because I’m not just snapping back as hoped for.

Am I really that afraid to try to write, given the lame effort I produced on drugs?

I am.

I am afraid of having lost it somehow during this bad half-year, or just the bad three months past.

Fear. Common ordinary fear.


I don’t have enough of a following for them to read my writing if it isn’t great.


I wouldn’t WANT them to read my writing if it isn’t great.


What has taken a hit is my self-image as a great writer.


And the sad part is that I would never do that to someone else. Ouch.

Ego/fear. Takes something like this to shake you up again, because that self-confidence is a trifle fragile.

Or because talent is. Even with hard work, great writers lose it. The Peter Blatty example – Dimiter, which I found unreadable – is always before me (though I should reread The Exorcist – maybe I was less discriminating when I found it so gripping. Ouch.).

Common ordinary fear.

Which is fixed by work. If you’re lucky.

And now I can try to do the work again, and I am immensely grateful.

Even though I haven’t succeeded yet, and am getting frantic.

AFTER-EFFECT: It is taking me a lot longer to get the brain to the functional stage the way I used to, and some days there is no click, and THAT is the after-effect: time delay.

THAT is the drugs and getting them out of my body and the damage there still is.

Additional slowness – to a system that was marginal at best.

I refuse to consider that it may take a year to get ‘me’ back.

But it may take a few more days for everything to come back, for the damage to be repaired.

And I’m still afraid that the residual effects might be permanent: lots more prep – and much less functional time.

And I’m FAR tireder than I think I SHOULD be.

Silly me: where do I think all this effort came from?

Even good stress – defending my choice – is exhausting. None of it is cost free to people like me.

There’s never been any slack, which is why I excoriate myself when I think I’ve wasted time, like today, by not just gritting my teeth and getting back to work. Made it worse When I know I can’t write with that low an energy level.

And [my assistant] is coming, and the other front patch needs weeding, and…

Things are what they are

And none of us expect sympathy or pity for whatever life throws at us and we are forced to handle.

I don’t.

This is part of dealing with the Post-medical-trauma-stress: realizing that it didn’t just add its own bits, but it REACTIVATED all the fears about myself and my writing that I had dealt with/shoved under a rock.

Because that’s what stress does.

It is so hard to let more days go by without getting anything any writing of fiction done.

At least I did my exercises in the morning, and I got out in the afternoon. Both may contribute to eventual improvement.

I’m still working on it. [I’d rest even more if I thought it would help.] Obstinate type.

Comments always welcome – thanks for all the support as I put myself back together.


4 thoughts on “Dealing with stress after medical trauma

  1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    The putting oneself back together is HARD. That’s what I have found. When I started to emerge from the year-long health issue that devastated my 2014-15, I felt fear and I didn’t see my way at all clearly. I had to grope. Now, in 2017, I feel much more capable and stable. I have big chunks of my life back. But I am still working to reclaim some pieces of my life that were taken away. I want those pieces back, but I don’t yet have them back. And when I get taken out by a virus or an infection (like the past 2 weeks) that lasts for more than a few days, my low is a lot lower than it used to be, and it takes me longer to recover.

    I have been putting myself back together. I have made progress. But it came as a shock, when my health improved, that the repair was such hard work and is taking as long as it is. I’d thought that once I was better, I’d just bounce back. No. I’ve had to work my way back. And, in my case, my torn retina interrupted my work, which is why I still have so much left to do.

    But I have seen you do amazing things, Alicia, and I have faith that you will move forward through this stage just as you moved forward and succeeded in the previous stage. I continue to pray for you, my friend.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      And I for you.

      So sorry you have had to deal with more STUFF – I need to put those nasty viruses on notice that they cannot do this to you.

      This being human is sometimes taken to extremes!

      I know a small bit of what you went through with your precious eyes – and I’ve watched you battle back with determination and make huge progress since then. And publish many books. Take that, viruses!

      We writers get tempered in that fire – and are weird because we also observe the whole thing, taking notes for future books.

      And we are constantly surprised when we don’t just bounce back: eternal optimists.

      It’s a good clan to be in. For life.


      1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

        This being human is sometimes taken to extremes!

        Ha, ha, ha! That’s good! And too true. But you are right: looking forward to goodness arriving – keeping hope – is life-giving.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Despair, while so attractive sometimes, is boring – and leads nowhere. Like its Source.

          The Book of Job (Old Testament of the Bible for those not brought up with such) is one of the rocks which anchor Pride’s Children. Job is visited by plagues and problems, but remains firmly in God’s camp. That’s what we aim to do.


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