Thanks for the kind words. I'm very glad the imagery is proving helpful. There are lots of possibilities for resources for you, but before I get rolling on that, I have to say that, as a therapist, I'm curious about this strong reaction, apparently right after your surgery. (I don't think quitting smoking would do it - that just creates garden variety misery and supreme discomfort!!)
Two common explanations would be:
(a) you've been dealing with anxiety all along (doesn't sound like it from your note), or
(b) the surgery activated a reprise of a traumatic childhood hospital procedure or illness (if so, I'm sure you've been going over this with your therapist).
But if neither of these is the case, there's a third possibility that could explain this: it's possible that you've acquired PTSD from one of those rare but ghastly anesthesia reactions, where you were awake and aware, but paralyzed, and then the whole experience got deleted from your conscious mind. And since the combination of terror plus helplessness is the perfect formula for catalyzing posttraumatic stress, this circumstance could really do it. You may never find out what actually transpired in the O.R., and you don’t have to know what it was in order to remediate it. But at least it's an explanation that might ease your bafflement about where all this pesky terror is coming from.
Now, as for resources, anything that helps you relax at will is going
to help, by starting to train your body to override the cascade of
alarm biochemicals that's flooding of your bloodstream with cortisol,
epinepherine and norepinepherine (the main actors, anyway - there are
plenty of others too). So you want to become highly skilled at
activating your relaxation response (or parasympathetic nervous
You can do this with breath work (Andy Weil has a great set of exercises), hypnosis (Relaxation Rx by Steven Gurgevich is excellent), mindfulness meditation (I’m very fond of any of these: Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation or the beautiful work of Bodhipaksa or, of imagery I've done, the Panic Attack , Relieve Stress or Healing Trauma audios would be good.
The main thing is to practice, practice, practice until you become a veritable self-calming machine. This regular self-training in settling down your overactive nervous system (no matter how it got that way... really, it doesn't matter as far as resolving this goes) is what's going to get the job done, along with the work you are doing with your therapist.
I hope this helps! Good luck!