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Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2317
   Posted 12/8/2008 7:21 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi all,
I'm kinda new here. I read posts in this section often, but haven't posted until now. I'm hoping maybe someone might have some advice to share with me about what to do.

I have surgery coming up in 2 weeks (it was supposed to be next week - my fault, but that's another story). I am really, really, really ... really, really terrified of it -- not the surgery itself, the anesthesia. I asked if it could be done awake, but no luck. I don't normally get all stressed out about things, but sedation/anesthesia is the one exception.

I have had some bad experiences with it in the past, but nothing that should warrant the horror I feel even thinking about being anesthetized. I tried some anti-anxiety meds, but didn't tolerate them at all. I tried counseling, but that didn't help the last time (and I had months to prepare the last time). I'm just terrified beyond belief. I can't even sleep at night lately b/c I have nightmares about getting sick or dying from the meds or from some other mistake that the AN could make. I try to picture a relaxing, successful sedation, but it just turns into a mess (even when I was seeing a psych I couldn't do it. he was a nurse in his former career & said my hr & breathing were spiking too high to continue that type of treatment).

I know in my head that only 4 out of 1 million anesthesia patients die, but I can't seem to get my heart to believe that. It feels like it will be 100% for sure that something will go wrong. And the more I miss out on sleep b/c of all the nightmares, the worse I feel & the more scared I get. Does anybody have any ideas what might help or any stories about what worked for you? I know I need to get past this so I can have the surgery & move forward with the life I want for myself; I just can't figure out how to do that.


Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2317
   Posted 12/8/2008 8:03 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks, Nikki!
My surgery is the 23rd (god willing & provided that I can make it to my pre-op physical on Wed. I missed it today b/c I dozed off for 5 min. just as I was supposed to leave. My PCP's rule is no matter how late she's running, if you're not there when the second hand hits the 12, you lose your appt. So now I've got a whole extra week to try to keep my stress under control).

I know it's not too likely that I will die. The thing is my g-pa died when I was little b/c the anesthesiologist made a mistake. My whole family fell apart. I can't even tell them that I'm having the surgery b/c last time I had surgery my g-ma had two heart attacks the day of my surgery & my mom collapsed outside of pre-op from anxiety. I will have some friends of mine take me to the hospital this time & will call my family once everything's okay.

Hopefully that will help. I will keep trying just to tell myself things will be fine. At some point I've gotta start believing it if I say it enough times, right? I hope so. :|

thanks again,

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 12/9/2008 12:34 AM (GMT -6)   

Hello and I understand your fear but we will all be praying for you so you will have your own special family watching over you.

We often waste way too much of our time and energy focusing on what we don't like, what we're worried about, or what we think needs to be fixed, changed, or enhanced.

There are great things happening in your life and around you all the time.

Celebrate the good stuff around us, in others, and in ourselves.  Practice meditation if you would like as it works for many and you have a whole week to get it down. :-) Meditation

Choose a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed by other people or by the telephone.

Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

Eliminate distractions and interruptions during the period you'll be meditating.

Commit yourself to a specific length of time and try to stick to it.

Pick a focus word or short phrase that's firmly rooted in your personal belief system. A non-religious person might choose a neutral word like one, peace, or love. Others might use the opening words of a favorite prayer from their religion such as 'Hail Mary full of Grace', "I surrender all to you", "Hallelujah", "Om", etc.

Close your eyes. This makes it easy to concentrate.

Relax your muscles sequentially from head to feet. This helps to break the connection between stressful thoughts and a tense body. Starting with your forehead, become aware of tension as you breathe in. Let go of any obvious tension as you breathe out.

Go through the rest of your body in this way, proceeding down through your eyes, jaws, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, upper back, middle back and midriff, lower back, belly, pelvis, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet.

Breathe slowly and naturally, repeating your focus word or phrase silently as you exhale.

Assume a passive attitude. Don't worry about how well you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say, "Oh, well," and gently return to the repetition.

Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.

After you finish: Sit quietly for a minute or so, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes open. Do not stand for one or two minutes.
Plan for a session once or twice a day.

Try this and know you can control your anxiety.  You will make it through.

Gentle Hugs



Kitt, Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic & Depression
& GERD  Forums
*~* *~*
Not a mental health professional of any kind
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.~Mahatma Gandhi~
Clickable Link: Anxiety-Panic Resources

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2317
   Posted 12/9/2008 1:53 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks so much, Kitt!

I can't believe how much you wrote in your post to me! You are so thoughtful. I will try that tonight for sure!

I was going to write that I don't spend a lot of time worrying, but after thinking so more about your post I realize the reality is that any time spent at all is too much. Life is too short as it is to spend a single minute frozen with panic (and I've definitely spent a lot more than a minute! :).

Thanks for putting that into perspective for me. I'll let you know how the meditation goes.


Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2005
Total Posts : 4219
   Posted 12/9/2008 7:18 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Frances,

The way you described your fear is the exact way I feel about my fear of flying. I know it is safe. I really don't think I will die. But I can't control my heart rate and the sense of pure panic even when I try to picture myself on a plane. I still fly, but w/ the help of some xanax. Anyway - I found a couple fear of flying websites that were REALLY helpful. They talk about how to dispel premonitions, getting over past bad experiences, stoping the horror movie from playing in your head, etc. You might want to check out the websites and substitute the words plane for hospital and flying for anesthesia, pilot for doctor, etc.

They are:


Hope they help!
27 Year old married female law student (last year!!). Diagnosed w/ CD 4 years ago, IBS for over 10 years before that, which was probably the CD. I am sort of lactose intollerant too but can handle anything cultured and do well w/ lactose pills and lactaid. For crohns I am currently on Pentasa 4 pills/4x day and hysociamine prn. I also have bad acid reflux and have been on PPI's since age 13. I have been through prilosec, prevacid, and nexium. Currently I am on Protonix in the morning and Zantac at night. I also take a birth control pill to allow some fun in my life.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 900
   Posted 12/9/2008 7:35 PM (GMT -6)   
Frances.... Lordy, can I identify with your fear of anesthesia.... When I was scheduled to have my second C-section... I was convinced I wouldn't be coming home.... I had myself in such a state that I had written letters to each of my family members ... divided all my jewelery.... now isn't that ridiculous... I came through the section with a beautiful new daughter and feeling so foolish for thinking the way I had. Things very , very seldom go wrong... when they do... today's doctors and technology are there to fix it PDQ ....
I know I sure felt silly when I came home and re-read all my goodbye letters...
I think many people have this fear... it is normal...I think because we are not in control at the time... it makes us feel vulnerable .... but you will be ok.... I will keep you in my prayers... that some of your anxiety be relieved before your surgery and that your operation goes smoothly .
Healing thoughts and prayers dear one.
51 yr.old retired RN,Crohn's D for last35 yrs..severe esophagitis, migraines,strictures,urethral stricture,depression,probable MS.,RLS, arthritis, PTSD ,general anxiety disorder.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2317
   Posted 12/9/2008 8:43 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks, Fitz. I actually have been working on that. The anesthesia anxiety sites are far fewer & not as clear cut helpful as the ones for fear of flying, but I'm trying to piece some stuff together. There are a ton of sites for needle phobia, but I'm okay with needles -- well, mostly ... I still get nervous when I don't get to watch them get opened but other than that I'm okay with them. I've had plenty of procedures under local & am okay with doctors, hospitals & needles as long as I'm awake to either watch or listen. My pain specialist is super cool about it & will bring in the needles & meds un-opened into his office or the OR so I can see him check they're the right ones & hear him open the packages of needles. He tells me every time he opens a fresh needle & I'm okay then. I've been trying to find a site for people who are afraid of dirty needles, but no luck so far. Mostly I just try to find sites with pictures of anesthesia being administered. I also found a site that tells you step-by-step all the stuff that the AN will do. I'm not doing so well, though. My heart races & the room spins just at the thought of it. I'm going to keep trying though. Thanks for the tips.

You sound exactly like how I was the last time. I wrote out a will. Got a priest to say last rights (and I'm not even Catholic). Put all my stuff in order & left a note with my pastor to give to my mom in case I didn't wake up. I didn't tell my family about any of that b/c I didn't want them worrying. My mom is afraid of all things medical. She won't even go to the doctor herself. It's really bad with her b/c she got a cancerous mole a while back & let it grow & grow for a few years b/c she was so afraid of going to the doctor. It finally took them 4 surgeries to remove it all and she has a big indent in her skin b/c of how much tissue they ended up having to remove -- she is cancer-free now. It would have been much less if she would have just faced her fear & gone to the doctor when she first noticed it. I really don't want to end up like that. I need this surgery to go back to work. If I get lucky I might even be able to go out with friends & start hiking again & re-gain the ability to participate in a lot of the activities that my pain currently holds me back from. I know it's the right choice for me & I will go through with it no matter how terrifying. I just wish it weren't so scary for me.

The thing is, last time I didn't feel silly at all afterward for having written the will, last rights, etc. Maybe it would be better if I felt that way? Did you do anything that helped you to laugh it off once it was over? If so, maybe you could share that with me.
The anesthesiologist said most people who are anxious are afraid of waking up during surgery. The next most common is being afraid of needles - but he said usually as long as people are distracted & don't see the needle going in they are okay. I'm definitely not the only one who is afraid of getting sick or not waking up, but he said that's not not usually what people worry about. My pain specialist is going to look into whether they can open the needle in the pre-op room so I can see it opened, but I know for my last surgery that THAT hospital's policy was to have all needles opened & filled by the hospital pharmacist. My pain doc [man, I wish he could be doing the anesthesia for my surgery] is pretty cool about all this (thank god!) and he said he will talk to the AN to make sure they don't overdose me or give me something I'm allergic to (both of which have happened in the past. The allergy was even written on my wrist band & I told them about it, but they were so angry at me for being stressed that they told me they were giving it to me anyways and gave me a super-dose of it to make sure I wouldn't wake up. I didn't wake up, alright. It was just a sedative, not even supposed to put you completely out, but I didn't wake up until 6.5 hours later. Finally, they put me in a wheelchair & sent me home even though I was still pretty heavily sedated b/c the outpatient clinic was closing & they didn't want to admit me to the hospital. I didn't know where I was for three days & threw up so much I nearly died of dehydration (finally a friend of the family made a "house call" and got me help)). I worry a lot about that b/c this is the same hospital. My pain doc told me it will be different b/c there will be an anesthesia team & they will have to give me IV fluids & if something goes really, really wrong they can code me and get extra help. He said they are well-supervised (unlike the outpatient clinic) and can't get away with the kind of reckless treatment I got before. He also said if I wake up & am really, really sick I can page him and he will talk with the on-call doc so I can get well. I am trying to focus on that.

I appreciate all your prayers. I really am trying my hardest to feel better about all this. I'm starting to be a little more okay about the needle medicine. I'm still really awfully stressed about the N2O. That will be my next step. Tonight I just need to relax so I can make sure to be on-time to my pre-op physical. I'm gonna try some of those meditations Kitt recommended. Tomorrow I can keep working on the stress.


Green Grove
Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2424
   Posted 12/9/2008 9:30 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Frances :)

It is really nice to meet you and welcome :)
Much Love, Hugs, Peace & Comfort :)

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