Yesterday I broke in a way I have never broken before.
I was so dead inside I couldn’t even find it within myself to long for death.
I was so empty and hurt, that when WR Uni Friend showed up, I couldn’t feign interest in conversation, I could barely reply. My words were monotonous, my replies brief and preceded by long pauses in which I fell apart and pulled myself together but never really succeeded in doing so, and tried not to cry so hard that it almost hurt as I just crumbled around myself trying to clutch at enough of a thought to think of how I was supposed to respond. She sat and I couldn’t deal with the sight of her normality, the way she tried to tell me about her day and engage me in normal conversation, the way she could smile and sit there and say she was stressed to breaking point over uni when I was stressed beyond breaking over things none of my friends can comprehend. The way she asked me if something had happened (after I’d explained to her so many times about why hospitals are such a traumatic environment for me, and after she knew about the old man beside me dying – which my friend, a consultant anaesthetist who came to sit with me for a while, found so distressing to hear he wouldn’t let me talk about it), which made me feel so misunderstood, and so disconnected, and therefore melt down even more inside my own head. I couldn’t even explain. I literally couldn’t words. And I couldn’t stand even the thought of letting myself cry, yet holding it in was so much effort I felt I might burst.
It isn’t the being in hospital at this exact moment that is the hardest part to deal with. Yes I have all the usual PTSD stuff, and the distress of being here is leaving me in permanent panic and freak out mode. And yes, that pushed me to near breaking point, but it isn’t what broke me. It’s the knowledge that this isn’t the last time – that I can’t cope, and I can’t do this, and I am going to have to over and over and over again. And each time I’ll nearly die, and probably wish I had, and then regret that wish, and then fear the fact that it may come true, before starting all over again. It’s that I have nothing left to give, and I don’t know how to face another day of this admission, and that this admission won’t even fix things. Realistically, it will not be the last. It’s the fact that I’ve hit this wall, and there’s no reprieve, no rest, no pause. And I’m going to run into it over and over and over again. Except I can’t break any more. There’s nothing left to pick back up and that will not stop this happening over and over and over. Looking forward into the face of that… I can’t even. I cannot. Even. Even.
This admission was horrific. It would have been horrific for anyone, regardless of their mental state, but I was already beginning to reel and freak at the realisation that I had nothing left to give but no choice other than to let my health keep taking things. Emotionally, I couldn’t carry on. Before the pain and the screw ups and the torturous, multiple, over an hour long attempts to get in any sort of central or arterial line into vessels so scarred they would not co-operate. And then on top of that, people don’t understand my condition, even the diabetes. So I ended up pretty much making and then explaining my own treatment plan, correcting staff… Fighting. Having to fight with them so that their treatment would actually keep me alive, instead of messing things up with the sort of treatment they’d use for a not-at-all-complex individual. The fighting has been exhausting. Everybody tells me different things, there has been so much confusion today alone that I am confused. It resulted with me extremely unwell and in mild acidosis again due to the simple fact that nobody seemed to be able to talk and communicate the plan.
And I couldn’t care. I was beyond apathetic about every aspect of my life. I lost the ability to feel anything. I lost the ability to talk, to communicate, to think a coherent thought. I just couldn’t. I could not think forwards. I was lost in this vortex, this chaotic jumble that I could not unscramble. And at the same time, there was nothing in my brain. I was bursting at the seams and collapsing under the vacuum of my emotional emptiness all at the same time.
And then the lady opposite me spoke to me.
Usually when I’m in hospital, I’m either so unwell, so out of it, so distressed and eager to escape, or so vastly different in age from the people around me, that I become isolated and stuck in this bubble and don’t talk to anyone other than the staff. I had forgotten what it’s like to talk to other chronically ill people, other people who live in hospitals and nearly die a lot and understand exactly how you feel. Exactly. I have forgotten what it’s like to not be able to say anything other than yes. As someone just completely understands. I had forgotten because after losing a very close friend from hospital, I vowed never to do that again. But you form this bond, and it’s unlike anything I can describe.
You’re these two people thrown together in this super vulnerable state that none of your out of hospital friends really understand, and you end each other’s isolation, and in doing so send waves of relief across a bay between two hospital beds. You let out what needs to be let out. You say things that you wouldn’t to a healthy person, and you don’t feel stupid or isolated any more because someone understands, and someone agrees, and someone puts words to feelings you couldn’t in ways you never imagined anyone could or would. You find a lighthouse in the storm and you cling to it. You share deepest darkest secrets and deeply personal facts within less than an hour of knowing each other, because the freindships you make in a hospital aren’t normal – they are sped up, accelerated, within hours you reach a level of intimacy that would take years in the outside world. You save each other in a way medicine never could.
We sat Bonding over father issues at 1am. She gave me confidence to ask about a portacath again, and the longest, most helpful pep talk. To my surprise I seemed to help her a lot too, and she said that we were meant to meet, that this was meant to happen, and I think we’re both so glad that it did. She had moments of just holding her hands out in a way that was all THANK YOU OMG ASDFGHJKL YES, and she said nobody had ever hit the nail on the head or put things so correctly as I did. And I ended up feeling the same and being lost for words and just holding my arms up to the sky. And she was beaten, and she had all the guilt and the emotion that my healthy friends cannot understand, and she’s like 14 years older than me but instantly she felt like a sister. And she also felt like giving up, when I said I was beyond the point of being able to cope and just couldn’t even and didn’t know where to start, she got it too. And she said that she’d try if I promised to. And she said we both had to take baby steps. And then she sat for an hour helping me write a letter to my doctors, because she said that getting flustered and missing a lot of points or just discussing emotion behind them wasn’t going to help my case, and that the rational thought was there, so we should map it out so I could follow a clearly written thing when my brain freaked out and forgot.
“Let me be absolutely clear.
This is mine but I’ll let you in,
Gather round take a part of it, of me, of me
A wasted life seems to mean the most
But these seconds are valuable
Their medicine is killing me
Some pieces have gone missing” – Nothing But Thieves, Emergency
She has been where I am now emotionally. She got it. She got the fear and the impact of staff attitudes and the screw ups that nearly kill you (because seriously they nearly killed me with that acidosis last night, and never came back to repeat the blood gas so they’re damn lucky I ignored their instructions not to listen to my specialist nurse and self-medicated in the end… And she got that it wasn’t this time that was the worst bit. She understood that it would make me freak out, but she got that it was the looking forward that was the worst, the fact that this is life now, that it will never, ever stop. And I ended up watching her convulse with pain in the early hours of the morning because of staff negligence leading o delayed and missed pain relief. But stuff like that is less difficult when someone agrees with and justifies your point.
I am not ok.
I can’t cope.
And I am not better.
But I now have the mobile number of someone who reminded me that hospital friends are the truest, best, most instant friends you’ll ever have. Because they aren’t friends. Instantly, they are family, they understand you in ways no healthy human ever could (through no fault of their own).
I have nothing left to lose.
Because I have nothing.
I am nothing.
There is nothing left.
I can’t focus on holding myself together and protecting myself because I’m too busy looking back for the pieces of me I need in order to survive mentally. And I can’t go back for the bits I lost but need in order to survive, because I am too busy trying to hold together the nothingness that is left, housing nothing in my skull but an emptiness, a void. No soul. No mind. No me.
“Daybreak comes with the devil’s hum
A carcass starts to breathe
Wakes one more time to try and find
A place to count its teeth
And scrub the cuts from yesterday’s
Hot scuffle in the street
Show me the door
I need somewhere to go
Woke up hurting
Not for the first time
I woke up hurting
Though I can’t quite say why” – Frightened Rabbit, Woke Up Hurting
Except, I can’t even hurt any more.