February 06, 2018 09:06 AM

Stacy London elected to undergo back surgery in Dec. 2016 to put an end to four years of chronic back pain — but she never expected the crippling clinical depression and physical pain that would come with her recovery, and the financial issues that followed.

London, 48, wrote about her post-surgery year, one that left her “broken,” in an essay for Refinery29. She said that going into surgery, she expected to have just six weeks of recovery.

“The truth is, I didn’t understand the extent to which back surgery would cripple me — emotionally and physically,” the former What Not to Wear star wrote. “The time in the hospital alone included some of the most agonizing moments I’ve ever had.”

Under a heavy dose of medication post-surgery, “everything was foggy,” she said, and even after London was weaned off of the meds she was in too much pain to think. That’s when her financial problems started.

“I realized I wasn’t just untethered from a job, I was untethered from a purpose. I had nothing to hold on to,” she said. “And, honestly, I just wasn’t thinking about my finances. In fact, I would have thrown money at anything — material or procedural — to make the recovery process easier.”

London started spending wildly on everything — food delivery twice a day and piles of expensive clothes — to pretend she wasn’t sitting on her couch in pain. She soon was dealing with anxiety and depression.

Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Refinery29

“Some time after the eight-week mark, I started to feel…well, weird,” London said. “Paranoid in a way I’ve never experienced before. I didn’t want to go outside because my anxiety of slipping or someone bumping into me was too much to bear. I was so anxious it was impossible to sleep; I’d have uncontrollable fits of crying. I didn’t feel sad exactly, I just felt sick. Like something was eating me alive. As it turns out, what I had been feeling was clinical depression (who knew?), which I later discovered is quite common with surgeries involving the spine, brain, and heart. The body is traumatized on a deep, subconscious level. My guess is the body feels like it’s dying. It’s scary. And no one really explained this to me.”

RELATED VIDEO: Kristen Bell Speaks Out About Suffering From Anxiety and Depression


London tried to distract herself from her depression by spending even more money on additional clothes, and an extravagant vacation to Europe to salvage her relationship with her then-boyfriend, Nick Onken. But her personal problems continued to pile up, from her and Onken’s eventual breakup, to a major flood in her Brooklyn home, to learning that a former boyfriend had committed suicide.

“I was determined to have a life that made me happy,” London said. “Why I thought material items had that much to do with it, I can only attribute to wanting things that stay. Because heartbreakingly, people can’t always do that.”

And almost exactly a year after her surgery, London learned from her accountant that she was running out of money, a moment that pushed her to “wake the f— up.” She purged her overflowing house and closets to sell the excess clothes, and is now ready to get a fresh start in 2018.

“I don’t know if this new year will be better than the last one,” she admitted. “Everyone keeps telling me not to worry. How could things get worse? I honestly don’t want to know the answer to that. What I want now is some glue. And hope is very sticky, indeed.”

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