I opened my eyes; in the hospital and saw a woman throw up vehemently. It took me a few seconds to grasp my bearings—I was in the recovery room after my surgery. The last thing I remembered from earlier that morning was talking to my surgeon and then waving at my husband, father, and cousin as the nurse took me inside the operating room. I also remembered feeling overwhelmed looking at all the surgical lights and gadgets and telling one of the surgeons, “This is scary, just like in the movies.”
The painkillers made me forget for a moment that I had a few, invasive surgical cuts. I distinctly remember one of the nurses pointing at the other woman in the recovery room, “Poor thing, she is literally puking her guts out.” Apparently, this young woman had had a stomach related surgery and the anesthesia was making her sick. Of course, she was under the influence of painkillers so she couldn’t feel the pain from her stitches getting tugged. But I couldn’t even imagine how much more painful her recovery would have been.
At the time, I didn’t know that my surgery had turned out to be a complicated procedure. Apparently, the surgeon had to step out midway and seek my husband’s permission to go ahead with what they had to do next.
I was numb from the painkillers and woozy from the anesthesia. But I do remember saying a thank you to the universe. I wasn’t reacting to anesthesia—because I had been an otherwise healthy person most of my life, it never occurred to me to check with the surgeon if the post-surgery side effect was even a possibility.
I kept whispering gratitude and falling asleep again. Even in that drugged moment, I remember thinking that gratitude is probably what kept me sane and alive for the four months leading up to the surgery.
Here is how it all started: I was returning from Maryland, after helping a friend launch her book, in September 2018 when I fell critically ill on the train. I had taken a break from promoting my new novel, “Louisiana Catch.”
The book had gone on to become an Amazon bestseller and won the “Voices of the Year” Award (previous recipients are Chelsea Clinton and founders of the #MeToo movement).
In August, my husband and I did a much needed 3-week vacation in Central Europe after I had worked nonstop for over a year. Bringing a book in the world is a lot of work, especially when you have a family and a day job (I am a mindset & wellness coach). After we came back, I traveled to India for some wellness-related work. Two days after I returned from India, I left for Maryland for my friend/colleague’s book launch. I was supposed to resume my book tour in late September.
In the ER, where I saw my husband and doctor cousin’s confused faces as the doctors narrated what was going on, I felt grateful despite the inexplicable pain and chaos. I had a family by my side. What are the odds that my husband wasn’t traveling for work and my cousin wasn’t on call or that I didn’t pass out on the train?
When I got home from the hospital, we didn’t know my health would take a turn for the worse. I felt like a lab rat on which different specialists were experimenting, in the hope to find out answers. It was a dark period of my life, but I remember saying to my husband, “At least none of this happened when I was doing the book tour or when we were in Europe. Or in India or the flights.” I had spent a lot of time on planes promoting my book.
We finally met with a surgeon who believed in the same ethos as us. He was kind, pleasant, and compassionate, qualities extremely important to me. Gratitude is what I felt after our first meeting. What if I had ended up with an aggressive surgeon who wanted to rip out half my organs versus a conservative one who believed in using a combination of surgery and holistic healing. He recommended getting a massage and acupuncture post-procedure. I have had friends’ doctors tell them that acupuncture, yoga, and Ayurveda is all hogwash.
On low days pre and post-surgery, gratitude taught me to stay centered. Chronic illness can make you very lonely and aloof. Your life changes overnight. You might still look healthy, but you are in constant pain. You are confined to the house while others go on to live their lives. East coast winter and our premature sunsets can make for depressing moments. I remember touching windowpanes to get a feel for the weather.
End of summer to Ground Hogs Day—my living room window worked as my weather pal. Gratitude showed me the richness of my life—for close to five months, we had friends and family by our side. It’s not easy for anyone to devote so much time and energy to anyone’s healing.
But I am blessed because right from the ER to home to back again in the hospital for surgery to recovery after surgery to the holiday season, we had loved ones cheering us on and surrounding us with their time and love.
Gratitude showed me to focus on the beauty in my life despite my illness. Though the process has been slow, my body is at least healing. I am returning to work and seeing friends.
It’s taught me to focus on the universal permissions versus focusing on the restrictions. Towards February end, after months of home confinement, I flew to San Francisco and did a podcast interview with one of the leading marketing agencies in the health and well-being space about wellness, Louisiana Catch, and writing.
The way I see it, life happens when we are busy planning it. Either you constantly complain about how everything is working against you. Or you surrender to status quo with gratitude, fully believing it could have been worse and knowing that this too shall pass.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
About the Author:
Sweta Srivastava, Wellness Coach, Global Speaker, & Author
Sweta Srivastava Vikram (www.swetavikram.com), featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is a mindset & wellness coach, global speaker, and best-selling author as well as award-winning author of 12 books whose work has appeared in The New York Times, amongst other publications, across nine countries on three continents.
She helps executives and entrepreneurs make critical mindset shifts so they can use time more effectively, improve relationships, and lower stress levels.
Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the Indian Himalayas, North Africa, and the United States. Winner of the “Voices of the Year Award,” (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton and founders of the #MeToo movement), in her spare time, Sweta teaches mindfulness, Ayurveda, and yoga to empower female survivors of trauma. A graduate of Columbia University, she lives in New York City with her husband and works with clients globally.