One year ago today. 10/23. It’s funny because for years and years whenever I looked at a clock it was, inevitably, 10:23. It always felt lucky. Maybe it was a sign from one of my dead friends. I never saw it as a warning.
I hadn’t stayed in the hospital since I was 19, with pneumonia. I’m sure the nurses hated us; me, weak and defiant in a wheelchair as my friend Beth pushed me out to smoke. Smoke a cigarette. While I was hospitalized. For pneumonia. If that isn’t youthful hubris, I don’t know what the fuck is. This time was different. This time I was totally alone. In the kind of torment that morphine, dilaudid, and liquid roxycodone didn’t cut through. Did you know that all those strong ass drugs people do recreationally don’t even get you fucked up a little bit when they’re contending with that level of pain? I was disappointed. I’d been waiting to try morphine for decades. I adored the band. No guitar player, just sax and bass and horns. How badass is that?
My friend just went through chemo and radiation. We commiserated on the well intentioned, but oft overused, “you’re so strong for getting through that.” What choice did I have, Brad? I know it’s meant well, but I cannot overstate the sheer terror one feels when at the mercy of medical doctors. They have to fix your body..or..what? Or you’re fucked. As someone with a fair bit of I’m fucking invincible running through her veins, this was a hard ass truth to swallow. My surgeon was (is) amazing, thankfully. And some of those nurses singlehandedly saved me from suicide on more than one occasion. I give people in that profession mad, mad love. Sometimes you guys are literally the only thing standing between a patient and the black abyss.
365 days later I can say that I learned a fuckton about myself and my ability to navigate distress. And you have no idea who you can really count on until something dire happens. The mice who scatter will surprise you, as will those who stay. They say that in order to truly be at peace with suffering you must have the ability to see what it gives you, how it teaches you. That it creates a depth previously inaccessible. You have to embrace it in order to avail yourself to the cure.