Tuesday, January 10, 2012
For Christmas, I got a bruise.
I spent the afternoon riding along the Florida highway, bumping up against the window, and lamely offering up my veins for IVs and bloodwork. In other words, I spent Christmas going to the hospital with an obstruction. And while the holiday holds little whatever for me since I celebrate Hanukkah, the chill of the hospital air conditioning was not something I had missed enough to appreciate it, and it became the beginning of my two week stay.
At first, my arm was swollen from an arterial stick, but slowly it turned into a rotten bruise on the outside of my elbow. Granted, I knew none of this, only that it throbbed and I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until I was standing in the mirror, post-shower, 2 weeks later that I gave myself a look of disgust and bemusement at the purple and red bruise clamped on my arm.
In more ways than one, and totally metaphorically, I feel like I’ve been put in a blender and shaken up and emerged fully bruised. If I - or the innocent people walking by me - didn’t know that I’d spent my time in the hospital recently, it would seem as though I was the latest victim in my latest TV obsession (‘Criminal Minds’) and that my bruises may be the result of something else entirely. But in truth, we all know they’re only from needles and blood thinners and incision sites etching up my abdomen.
And if I’m sounding bleak and exhausted and frustrated, it’s likely because I’m feeling all of those things at the current moment. There may be silver linings to every cloud, but then again sometimes it’s just a rain cloud and all it does it get you soaking wet.
In the hospital, I had refused to don the Johnny shirt that had been left on my bed. Up until the morning of my surgery when I had no other choice, I had lounged and slept in my own clothes, trying to remain my own self. But January 3rd rolled around against all odds, and I slipped into the Johnny and into my survival mode, trying to forget about what was going to happen in the coming hours and the pain I was simply waiting around for.
I cried, wiped at my face aimlessly, held on to my teddy bear, said good-bye to my family, and felt the push of the anesthetic as the ceiling began to spin and white noise build up in my ears. Then a second, a solid moment in time gone, and I was rolling around in my bed crying out for pain medication. I opened my eyes, saw the clock, and knew nothing good had come of it.
Only an hour or so had passed. If the surgery had gone as planned, it would have been a couple of hours. But I couldn’t attend to my broken heart and broken body at the same time, and tried to force myself to sleep. It was only my second surgery, but somehow the uneventfulness in the immediate aftermath frightened me. I wasn’t fixed, I was still a mystery.
In the time that’s passed in the last week, more helpful information has emerged and I fight to see the silver lining in my rain cloud of a holiday break. I still have to deal with the scars, the tiny x carved into my belly where a new stoma could have landed, the pain and my overwhelming inability to sleep.
Then there’s the people that call on the phone to see how I am. And as much as I am truly grateful and appreciative of their concern and time, I feel as though I’ve become this crazy caricature of myself. I’m all for awareness and enlightenment, but when I become the local gossip of the ‘girl who’s always sick’, I’d rather crawl under my covers and not come out. I’m tired to reciting the same thing to each person that calls, tired of hearing my grandparents relay the same practiced script to their friends, tired of my medical life being as public as a celebrity’s twitter feed. Yes, I may be chronically ill, but that isn’t who I am and for once I’d prefer to talk about something other than my enigmatic bowels.
I have no great lesson to share or offer up, no polished moral to deliver. Only the bruises on my body tell the story I am sick of hearing, the purple splotches that will likely alarm the public and serve as reminders to the two weeks I lost to a hospital bed.
Surgery hurts. IBD sucks. Bruises are tender - but they do heal. A bruised heart may take some more time than my sore arms and belly, but maybe if I hold it just gentle enough, I can hold the broken pieces together until I am strong enough to run forward with my life.
Bruised or not, broken or fixed, I am myself, and even if others forget that sometimes - I promise myself I never will.