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Scared of Surgery Anesthesia? You Can Cure Yourself of that Awful Fear

My First-Hand Account of Helping My Own Anxiety

By Maryan PellandPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - June 2024
We shall overcome with calm centeredness (author’s photo)

A friend recently published a story about their fear of anesthesia and surgical procedures. They said they felt like a coward. I am here to say they are not cowardly—they are human and normal. We are all anxious and intimidated when we face serious medical issues.

A little background on the topic: Fear of anesthesia is very, very common. One study in 2016 found that 88% of patients experienced anxiety just thinking about anesthesia. Women are actually five times more likely to realize fear, but many men have the same issues.

Here are the most common fears: 1) I won’t wake up. 2) What if I wake up in the middle of the procedure and can’t get help?

Though both situations do happen, you need to know that both are extraordinarily rare. The likelihood of dying under anesthesia is less than 1 in 100,000.

I have had my share of big procedures this past year or two, so please let me share how I helped myself successfully prepare for these traumas, even though I have always had a lot of anxiety surrounding even a regular physical. Happily, I have found coping tools, and here they are.

Action items—I personally did every one of these

I called the hospital and asked to talk to a surgical nurse. I explained my fear and asked her to tell me the hospital’s statistics of how many people died under anesthesia. She told me she had worked there full time for seven years and was not aware of a single one.

I confessed my anxious fear to my medical team and explained the impact on me. I asked them for advice.

I set up visits to a very skilled mental health therapist who trained in real hypnosis to augment therapy. For weeks before my surgeries, I visit with her, and we do some work to deal with the fear. She helps me understand the basis of these fears. She offers me exercises and ideas for dealing with my feelings. They are VERY common feelings.

I meditate every single day. On You Tube, Michael Seeley does meditations/self-hypnosis for pain, anxiety, and other issues related to this fear. His voice is soothing to me, and his videos help enormously.

I watch this guy’s videos, too. He is a practicing anesthesiologist who gives completely real and believable explanations and videos that would help any patient understand the entire process.

I ask my primary care doc for a prescription for mild anti-anxiety medications—a small amount (like six pills)—and I take the recommended amount the night before and morning of my procedure. I make sure the anesthesia team knows what I took and when.

I listen to recordings about surgery or anesthesia anxiety. There are some incredibly good ones. Find them on Google. Audible.com has some excellent ones, like Guided Meditations to Promote Successful Surgery by Belleruth Napastek.

Decide what works for you

This all sounds like a lot, but for me, it is the perfect way to focus. I spent part of every day and evening completely involved in preparing myself. On the way to the OR on my cancer surgery day, my husband was a mess, but I was calm and ready.

This protocol of mine has gotten me to and through eye-surgery, major cancer surgery, and an assortment of difficult exams and protocols.

My brilliant oncologist told me part of my very quick recovery last fall was due to my proactive commitment to confronting my anxiety and taking all these steps. He said my medications work better, my body heals faster, and my brain copes better because of the steps I take. My circulatory and other systems perform better during the surgery when my anxiety is under control.

If you’re approaching a big medical thing, know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t causing this issue; your brain sets it up as a survival technique, but you can manage your responses. I make my management techniques a very high priority and spend as much time as I need to gain focus and control.

That practice has helped me in my everyday life, too. Please take intentional steps to assist yourself and meet your own needs.

May you be well. May you make peace with your fears. May you be healthy. You can do this. Your feelings are normal. Keep walking a good path.

how tobodywellnessself caremental healthhealth

About the Creator

Maryan Pelland

A successful, professional writer/editor/publisher/mentor for half a century. Read me now before I throw in the towel. I love to empower other writers. My stories are helpful, funny, unique, and never boring. I write for avid readers.

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Comments (17)

  • Alex Huang26 days ago

    Thanks for sharing

  • Lost in Writing29 days ago

    Thanks for sharing, I hope you are doing better nowadays. Those thoughts scare me but I have had the blessing of 6 decades without having to "go under". However, I have an immense fear of going to the dentist after a young dentist in The Netherlands practiced a root canal with little anesthetic (despite my screams). I should have filed a malpractice claim. I haven't gotten over that yet.

  • Jane Kattabout a month ago

    Thank you for sharing such a reassuring and practical guide. Your tips and personal experiences are sure to help many facing similar fears.

  • Ainy Abrahamabout a month ago

    First of All congratulations. People are afraid of many things that happen to them for the first time. It's normal what we need to do is to read or search about their pros and cons. You have explored all the aspects, well done.

  • Gael MacLeanabout a month ago

    Although I prefer to stick my head elsewhere your advice is sound. Knock on wood I won't need it but good to be prepared.

  • Thank you for your story I am having cataract surgery in August of 2024, this story helped me because I am a little nervous about my eyes but I will be brave, I also had a Colonoscopy on May 7th, 2024 the nice Chaplin prayed for me and I had been praying about it too and it came out very well, I don't have to have another test for 10 years, I thank the Lord for it He answered my prayers for sure. Thank you again Sincerely, Lisa C.

  • Khan2 months ago

    So inspiring ❤️. Congrats on top story.

  • Melissa Ingoldsby2 months ago

    I had similar thoughts for my inutero surgery when I found out about my son having Spina Bifida. Very scary. Great piece to shed a light on the subject

  • Dr. Jason Benskin2 months ago

    Congrats on top story

  • Ameer Bibi2 months ago

    Many xan relate to it Congrats for TS

  • Esala Gunathilake2 months ago

    Congrats on your top story.

  • Paula R2 months ago

    I share with you the anxiety. We've got this!

  • Anu Mehjabin2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your feelings about anesthesia and surgery are completely normal, and you're not alone. Your proactive approach to managing your anxiety is inspiring. Keep taking those steps to care for yourself. You've got this! And congrats on your top story🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Caroline Craven2 months ago

    Such great advice. I don’t think anyone looks forward to surgery (apart from the surgeon maybe/ hopefully!) and these are some really useful steps to take.

  • shanmuga priya2 months ago

    Congratulations 🎉

  • Marie Wilson2 months ago

    Very helpful article! To the point & love that you included other resources. Congrats on TS!

  • When I was in for my cancer surgery I was actually frightened of having general anaesthetic, though I though as a kid I was fine when the dentist put me out. As you might have guessed I was ok, This will be a great help to many people

Maryan PellandWritten by Maryan Pelland

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