After I was off the morphine drip and moved into a normal hospital room, we started working on recovery. I had spent quite a bit of time in intensive care and at least a week with my own nurse assigned to me. I remember the clicking my night nurse used to make on his keyboard. Since I couldn’t see much, I paid particular attention to the sounds around me. For a time there was an elderly man down the hall who had suffered burns but also suffered from dementia. All night long he would cry for a nurse. He would plead at the top of his lungs for someone to help him, to not leave him alone. But the moment a nurse would enter his room, he would start screaming and throwing things. He used the worst strings of curses, insults, and derogatory names and generally made life hell for anyone who entered his room. The second they would leave, though, he’d be back to the pleading.
I remember praying constantly that he would stop. It was torture to listen to him rant and rave. I just wanted to get some sleep! He was only there a few days, but his departure left the entire ward feeling lighter. It’s hard to imagine that he lives somewhere where someone has to hear that all the time. It’s even worse to imagine what must be going on within his own mind to make him act in such a strange manner.
Growing up, I loved the X-Men comics. My tastes changed as I grew up, and I went back and forth between liking Rogue and Storm the best, but Jean Grey always had a place in my heart, too. Storm and Rogue were both bold, strong characters, but Jean Grey had the most interesting power. I spent many afternoons wishing I could read minds, and that wish has never really gone away. If I could choose a mutant power, telepathy would definitely be it. I know that it is not a power I would wish anyone else to have, but having it myself would be a very nifty tool. On the other hand, it might be even more painful to know another person’s thoughts because I would still lack the power to change them.
I suppose a better mutant power coming out of the hospital would have been Wolverine’s ability to heal quickly. Damage can be done in a matter of seconds, but real healing takes time. The first time they had me sit up on my own and try to stand probably took a good half hour. The next day, I had to sit up on my own again and move to a chair. Each day we extended the amount of times I had to do this as well as the length of time I had to sit upright in a chair. I was actually able to begin walking rather quickly, and the nurses all marveled when they saw me travel all the way down the hall to the elevators.
Bed ulcers had started on my heels, so special shoes were made to keep my feet off the bed and another set was made to help me walk. All the skin had come off the bottoms of my feet, so the calluses had to redevelop. I remember the first time I tried to wear a pair of heels… ouch! But each step was worth it. I moaned and complained, but if I hadn’t pushed myself then, I wouldn’t be so functional now. In the darkest of times, it’s difficult to remember how much growth can come out of such an experience. I think of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, children born into sexual slavery, people who have suffered at the hands of neighbors during genocide. I think about angry words thrown at a loved one, promises made and never kept, about love left unexpressed. We all have our own wounds in life that we must learn from and grow from, and none of us have the mutant powers to make this thing called living any easier. I complained about the man who shouted at the nurses, but I never had to take a walk in his shoes (without calluses, even!), and I never had to watch a loved one experience his confusion and distress.
Time and again, people have told me I have inspired them. Time and again I have been told how strong I am and how brave I’ve been. I thank them for their kind words but truly believe the strong ones to be those who watched it all. I simply kept living. I got out of bed every day and ate. I kept dreaming and kept moving forward. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. We all do this on a daily basis. Whatever cards life throws at us, for the most part we just keep going. However, when I think about having to watch someone whom I love go through the same pain I went through, I cringe. In my eyes, there is no worse pain than having to watch someone you love endure it. Enter more defense mechanisms like those I talked about in the last post. Especially if we believe ourselves to be the ones to have caused that pain, we will do anything either to make it stop or to make it not our fault.
What strange creatures we humans are. We push away those we care for most. We hurt ourselves physically when we can’t take the emotional pain. We leave when we’re needed most. Pain is a tricky thing and a tricky subject to talk about. But healing doesn’t occur until you face that pain, even when it’s not your own. Three years later, I am still discovering scars. I am still fighting pain that probably should have been dealt with then. I am still fighting pain that I have hid from myself for much longer than that. But I am healing. I am moving forward. Every day, we all are.