The Benefits of Appendicitis

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Within hours of posting my previous post, I began to suffer abdominal pain.   Not being keen on doctors, hospitals, and Western medical procedures generally, I went to bed with pain- killers and a hot water bottle and lived with it for approximately 18 hours (hoping it would pass off of its own accord) before finally surrendering and submitting myself (at 10pm) to my local Accident & Emergency department on the advice of our GP’s out of hours service.  It turned out to be appendicitis, I was admitted at 4am to the Acute Medical Ward, and had an appendectomy on the morning of 5th November.  In the UK this is Bonfire Night, one of my favourite nights of the year, but unfortunately I could experience nothing more than my own kind of internal fireworks, and they weren’t very pretty.

Since then I have been recuperating slowly. Very slowly.  My philosophy this last year or so has become one of looking for the positive aspects of any experience.  Invariably, with hindsight, we can see how apparently undesirable experiences are actually of benefit to us in some way, and I like to bring hindsight forward as quickly as possible, frankly so I can just feel a great deal better about the experience I am having while I’m having it, and lessen the suffering.  Intense abdominal pain both before and after the operation made finding positive aspects particularly challenging – really, how could being in agony, and having all my plans derailed, be of benefit to me?  I took about 5 days (i.e. my entire hospital stay) to start getting there.

Talking to friends about the experience, I realise I have been describing it with two driving-related metaphors. At first, it was “being run off the road by a juggernaut” (victim mentality). More recently, “hitting a tree at a 100 miles an hour” (a little more responsibility implied).  Both of these are relevant to the positive purpose (as I see it) of my appendicitis, because for the last four years, all through my PhD, I have consistently described myself as “driven”.     Part of me was doing the driving (no-one else was doing it, for sure) but there’s a sense in which, being “driven”, one is clearly a passenger… as became obvious once my PhD was handed in, because I had gained so much momentum I simply couldn’t stop.

So life stopped me.  My body stopped me.  And as I began to pick up pieces of my work in the recovery process, an hour here and and hour there, I was able to see more clearly what was really important, what I needed to prioritise, and above all that I needed to say “no” to more things, and be easier on myself.  Instead of trying to focus on four things on once, I am currently focusing on one – my talk at the Globe on Sunday for the Shakespeare Authorship Trust.  I am the final speaker of the day, which is an interesting position to be in, and I intend to make the most of it.

Best of all, thanks to my appendicitis, I am no longer driven.  I am doing the driving, at a more leisurely pace.   And I’m allowing myself to stop every now and then, stretch my legs, and enjoy the view.

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4 thoughts on “The Benefits of Appendicitis

  • November 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm
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    Ros, glad you went to the doc in time. Hang in there with recovery. I’ve been through lots of medical stuff and it takes good five-six weeks just to recover from the effects of anaesthesia, much less the sugery. Yes, you learn that the self survives and even thrives without the planned routines. I remember you telling me about your big project and I thought it sounded impressive. Good luck!
    Amy (Seren).

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  • November 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm
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    Ros, Fantastic. You are so observant. An inspiration to those of us that think about working it out but dont spend the time actually working it out. Enjoy Driving!

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  • November 26, 2010 at 10:57 am
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    Hi Amy, Hi Emma, thanks for your comments.

    I’m glad I went to the doc in time, too, Amy. I really held out as long as I could but in the end, you have to accept pain is there for a purpose! It’s strange adjusting to a different way of functioning in the world, but truly necessary. The big project continues in its post-PhD form (The Marlowe Papers needs a rewrite before its ready to be released into the world) but I shall pick it up again in December. Gently, though, since no heavy lifting is allowed.

    And thank you, Emma, for the compliment, though of course I had plenty of time to hone my observation skills while I was lying in bed. I do so like to make things make sense (or at least seem to make sense). And often that is what writing poetry is about. Thanks for dropping by.

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