Unhappy anniversaries

Today is the sixth anniversary of my first surgery.

It didn't hit me until last night when I went to check the weather on my phone. The rain is returning to Tacoma, and I wanted to know if I could walk in the morning. As I scrolled down the screen, my eyes hesitated on the date.

Friday, August 28.

That sounds familiar, I thought, even as my body began to react to the memory that my mind was slower to process. My stomach tensed, my shoulders hunched, my throat constricted. And I knew.

My surgery was August 28, six years ago, and it was a Friday.

I've been crying off and on ever since that moment with my phone last night. I thought I was past this. I suddenly pictured myself in our apartment the night before surgery, tethered to the intravenous food backpack, throwing up every few hours, washing with harsh antiseptic soap, terrified of surgery despite the complete loss of all normalcy in my life--even the promise of some partial restoration of human function was not enough to keep me from using all my mental powers to resist the fact that I was going in to surgery the next morning, Friday, August 28.

"I'm glad we're not still living in the apartment," I told my husband. "It all happened there."

He looked surprised. "I never would have thought of that," he said.

There's a lot you never thought of until you've been through the worst. I never would have thought I wouldn't be able to sleep because I was reliving a trauma from six years ago. Somehow, the parallel world of six years ago feels very near, like only tissue paper divides me from it, the same date, even the same day as six years ago.

It feels like it's all happening again. I look at the clock and think, in a few hours, I'll be waking up in terrible pain, convinced something is wrong, because it shouldn't hurt this much. And then a student doctor will flub up his first epidural insertion as I beg for them to hurry.

I've been avoiding calendars all day, a scalpel to the gut every time I see the date on a powerpoint presentation, on my weight tracking app, in my planner.

"It's just that I still can't process how bad it was. And six years ago today, I didn't even know that it wasn't just one month off work--it was two more surgeries, four more hospital stays, rerouted intestines, a bag for eight months, a year off work, three years to get my strength back. I still can't make sense of it," I told my mom as I walked, much earlier than usual, unable to sleep (the rain held off after all).

"I know," she said. "Just let yourself feel the grief."

It was good advice. I kept trying to tell myself, I'm not alone. Other people must feel the same about their traumatic, long-dreaded dates, their life-changing dates. But I've never heard anyone talk about it.

Tell me, do you have unhappy anniversaries? Can you leave a comment if you do? What's your story? I want so much to know I'm not alone.