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Yesterday was hard. Very, very hard. I knew as soon as the lockdown was announced I would be facing Thursday.

It is our fourth lockdown here in Auckland.

My photographer, Georgia, who has also had a hell of a week put it so aptly – the tentacles of this COVID pandemic are long reaching.

I have written this up as a blog to save a long post on social media but also because it is part of my journey. My own deeply personal journey and research into trauma and trauma bonds – most of which I am only at the very raw beginning stages of, for things that happened decades ago. While this seems separate, I know it is not and I know I am barely scratching at the surface of this.

As many of you know last year in June I had major surgery for an advanced cholesteatoma in my right inner ear. Any new followers or readers can see the back story here. This was not something I could have prevented. No number of vegetables, exercise, sleep, elimination of my long held coffee addiction would have helped.

It is also something I will be managing for the remainder of my lifetime. A realisation which sunk a little deeper yesterday.

I am under the care of two surgeons for this currently, one private and one public. Due to the late discovery of this, COVID and insurance complications. This also keeps my options open given the life-long impact of this.

I had booked a follow up with my private surgeon and had been waiting for four months for this from November last year. I was glad I did because in the last couple of weeks my vertigo had come back and I knew that needed assessing.

I wish I could accurately describe the anxiety I have with each appointment for my ear. It is chocking. Lockdowns make this a million times worse. Firstly because of what happened when my surgery was put off and no idea of what was going to happen. Also, as it means I then go to these appointments on my own. I have no advocate. No one else listening when I can hardly breathe from my anxiety. Moreover, I have no support in there either. These are not just a check up – the ear needs delicate but painful and nauseating work each time. I have to keep my own work appointments and schedule clear for the entire day and normally the next day as well. Often I just need to go home and curl into bed to recover both physically and emotionally…..and yet again in a lockdown with three children at home this was also not possible.

I know many experience so much worse during these lockdowns, I truly, truly do. I know that many have their appointments and surgeries completely off the table. This was part of my anxiety when lockdown was announced on Saturday night, I had to wait until Monday to find out if Thursday would be going ahead, knowing if it did, I would be going on my own – but that was better than not at all.

I kept busy leading up until Thursday. It wasn’t hard given juggling lockdown, business, cookbook finishing & three children. But come late Wednesday night the anxiety I had kept at bay came rushing in. I didn’t want to go to bed in the stupid hope I could put off Thursday coming around. My mind catastrophising all the worst case scenarios.

The appointment was incredibly valuable and I was grateful I had it. Physically the ear was better than I had imagined, not brilliant but not needing immediate further surgery – which I had convinced myself I would be told. There are some areas of concern, including a perforation and of course the significant hearing loss. It has helped to ease some of the vertigo that had come back. The outcome of yesterday was that I would have another check up in three months time and there we will discuss surgery options, hopefully with my husband able to be present. This gives us time to plan and to start seriously putting money aside for this as well – it will cost heavily regardless. Cost in time off work (I don’t get sick leave as a business owner), paid extra help around the house, let alone the cost of surgery if we do go privately.

The emotional side, well that is still there for me to process. It has taken this long for me to fully comprehend that this is not going to be fixed. It cannot be. It can be stablised and improved but the ongoing management, surgeries, mini procedures are here for life. Trauma really is an amazing beast as while I have been told this several times since this all began and of course since June last year I am only truly getting this now.

There was still a part of me that thought I might be able to recover to the point I can swim and get my head under the water even in a few years. Yesterday was the first time since my surgery that I physically saw inside my ear. Seeing the difference between my ‘good’ ear and my ‘bad’ ear made it all very real. It still blows my mind how small and important and vulnerable and precious all the inner workings of the ear are. How much I took it for granted before all this happen. How close my facial nerve really was to the entire surgery and will be for future surgeries. Seeing this bought it home for me that I really cannot get my head under water – most likely for life – without great risk which is absolutely not worth it.

I was not ready for this. I wished I knew before hand. I wish I knew that the summer of 2018 was going to be the last summer I could jump off a jetty with my boys. That I could get into an ocean and submerge my head. The photo in this post is from that summer. On a jetty with my oldest son. The thought I will never do this with Ray-Ray is too hard to bear right now.

Where this also tugs deeper is that in previous therapy work, I have identified being under water as my safe place. My calming place. A place to visualise when the noise gets too much, and I need to still my mind. To be precise, the exact place I would visualise was being under water in a pool in India when on honeymoon with my husband. I can still see myself submerged under the water looking up at the sunlight sparkling on top. Knowing I was there with my husband. I was safe. It was quiet. I was free.

And it has been ripped away from me now. I don’t want to find a new calming place. I want my place. My place I have used and relied for many years. I wanted to at least have been given the memo that all this was going to unfold so I could experience that one last time, knowing it was my last time. That’s not how life works, I know but that does not stop me wishing.

As I said before this is a lot for me to still process and work through, along with all the layers of trauma. But it is time, and it may be the most important work I will ever do.

One last thing…if you have not paused and tuned into your beautiful body’s whispers or screams in a while, do tune in….please and see what she is saying.

X Dr Julie

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