December 22nd. It’s one of those dates. We all have them, dates that we remember. Anniversaries, birthdays, deaths…
I remember a lot of dates that relate to my health. I’m sure you do as well. December 22nd was the date that I was finally released from the hospital after six months. SIX MONTHS. I remember it very well, this time I could tell something was different. This time I was going home and it was going to be for good. Before that I did get discharged a handful of times but came back within a day or two, or a few days tops. This time I knew that I wasn’t coming back, but that didn’t mean things got immediately better. I didn’t come back, well at least not for almost a year.
I believe I shared this photo before. I don’t have many from around that time because I avoided cameras so I end up having to share the same photos over and over. This is probably one of the worst pictures taken of me. My hair had been falling out for months in the hospital that it got so thin that all I could do with it was stick it in a pony tail. My skin was pale and though you can’t tell, I was very underweight.
You know how certain memories just stand out more vividly than others? This one is one of those. I can recall scents, clothes I was wearing, even thoughts that I had. I can put myself right back in “her” body. By her, I mean me, but I am no longer the person that I was then. I for some reason don’t even feel connected to her because that whole time was so traumatic for me that I think I have somehow tried to block it or escape…the mind is a tricky thing in the way that it protects itself.
Anyway, I was so weak. Packing up my hospital room was almost too much. Just typing that amazes me. That standing up and gathering the things in my room was such a hard task. But I remember it, and it was. Plus, I was gathering six months of stuffed animals, coloring books, magazines, games, etc. that people had brought me as gifts that I hardly even touched while I was there. I felt scared to step out into the real world without the hospital…I actually felt safe (or something) there. So there I was all of 80-something pounds trying to pack my things and thinking about life. What would it be like now? I was still so sick. I was still in so much pain. I had just come off intravenous feedings after months of being fed through my PICC line and would have to actually eat real food. Scary. After my surgeries I didn’t have it so easy with my j-pouch (obvs. six months in the hospital tells you that! haha) and I was experiencing incontinence at night almost every night. I was skinny and in pain and worst of all, having to tell my mom what kind of adult diapers I want her to buy me. If this doesn’t take you to low of all lows, I don’t know what will. If that doesn’t make you feel ugly and attractive, congratulations to you, but it sure made me feel that way.
It was Christmas time and I had decorations all over my hospital room. I had gifts that hospital staff had given to me. I had become used to my routine of walking down to the gift store where I would buy a few mini reeses peanut butter cups and that was all I would eat for the day (well except the nutrition I was getting through my line). Now it was time to leave. I remember the walk to the front where I was being picked up and how it was the first time I had felt cold air that whole year. It was snowing, there were people out there, this was life. It was going on all this time while I had been in that building. That felt strange. It felt strange that I had entered the hospital in early July when it was summer and I was leaving when it was snowing. How did this happen? How was this my life? How did six months go by and all I did was suffer the entire time?
What do I do with all this medical debt? Will I go back to school and become a teacher? What if my body never starts working right? What if I am always in this pain? The pain! I am so tired of the pain.
December 22nd I got out. I lost more weight because I didn’t have my IV nutrition keeping me hanging on and I was throwing up a lot of what I ate. I slept hours upon hours because my body was so weak and tired from all it had been through and really needed the rest to recover. My hair was thin and hardly there and I had no color to my skin. I tried so hard to go out with friends but would be in so much pain that I would have to leave or I would get sick and throw up.
Somehow though after about another month I started being able to eat more and I grew strength back steadily. I learned how to use the muscles in my body again to climb stairs and have the strength to take showers and get ready. Within 3 months I found a part time job where I work now. Those people never knew where I just came from. I didn’t have this blog and I had never been to camp oasis. I started a new life and I moved on. In a way December 22nd is like a birthday. It’s like a new beginning. It’s to me, the day my life began.