Thursday, June 13, 2013

From Surviving To Thriving

What's happened?

How did we end up here?

Take my hand and walk with me:

I went in the hospital the middle of May for a 104-105·F fever that lasted for about 72 hours. In that time, I went into septic shock.

I heard screeching alarms and rushed, stilted speech. Question, question, all around me questions. Are you talking to me? Where the hell am I? Metallic objects flying and I cannot turn my head. Red and silver and white. White coat. Hospital. I cannot hear you! I cannot understand what you are saying! Two white coats performing the worst pantomime I've ever seen. Where is their facial make up? Why to they have those forceps? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Someone screaming and then I disappear.

***

I survived.

A lot of people speak of sepsis like it's no big deal. "Oh, yeah, I've been septic {number} of times".

Did they experience the same thing as I? Somehow, I don't believe it. The chatter of the teeth. A horrifying premonition that Death is waiting right outside of my door. He pounds at it angrily, uprooting carts and disturbing all the other patients on the ward. He says not a single word.

He returns to my door repeatedly. He makes not a single noise. But I can sense him, motionless, listening for the shuffling of bed sheets, the loudness of a junky cough.

He is there to collect all of my fear, secrets buried deep within years of vile, despicable acts I've shoved so far down I fear the poison has collected a stench that draws him near. The worry. The shame.

Utter hopelessness.

For you see, once he has his fill, all he has to do is collect your very soul. From there he free to take the rest of your Life.

It would have been easier that way. All I remember is my own melting into the bed, becoming one with familiar surroundings. I slipped in and out of delirium, speaking of odd things, frustrated that my words were coming out so tangled and matted. The yarn was twisted too tightly, and in the end I gave up on my words. For that time...they weren't mine.

I felt the raspy hiss of Death incarnate slipping in through the cracks of the door. Shivers rippled to the core, the very Essence of who I am, every talisman of Worth at risk. I couldn't risk even the smallest shred of complacency. If I did not believe in a future, if I resigned to pass on that morning, or overnight, giving into that trance that reverberates of "sweet nothings"...

...nothing, to be nothing, to feel nothing, to want of nothing

Nothing at all.

...I had been put on the ward of the hospital where many come to die. Disturbingly enough, it is down the hall from the psychiatric ward, where others perhaps had tried to take their lives? Or, at least have contemplated it.

That had been a line of thinking that lived within me for years. And letting go of the concept of escaping my Life was NOT an option, as despicable as it sounds, was one of the most difficult methods of control to shed.

Death made its rounds around the hall and tempted me with the prospect of that aching, lonely void could be replaced where my emotions and thoughts were supposed to be...

The revelation: succumbing to this travesty, when there is even a SHRED OF HOPE Aof surviving...

Maybe...just maybe...I could start backpacking up the mountain to a totally different destination...

The promise of Thriving.

I was speaking with my doctor when impulsively asked if we could advance my diet from clears (which I wasn't drinking) to soft and full liquid. There aren't words to describe how overjoyed she was to grant that request. My doctor truly cares about me. If she were able, I am positive she would be turning backflips.

It was then and there I realized just how much our choices affect others. My willingness to go another step farther when I didn't think I could was encouraging.

How far can I go?

In the end, with oral intake, it's been a rocky process and my food choice is very different from what I was originally planning.

How far can I go?

When I came home almost three weeks later I was greeted warmly by my neighbors. There are nine of us. Their joy was infectious.

How far can I go?

I can go from dying to Thriving

***

A week before I came home, trepidation had me holding the hand of my caseworker. I described that I was in a nowhere place. Everything was dark and I was enclosed in a tiny little space. Between tears I had muttered "This is the end. Something inside knows that this is the end of of some part of me". My vision for "what happens next" was totally blank. Uncharted territory. Paralyzing terror. When she left I started hysterically crying.

And yet, it occurred to me...is Death just making his rounds reeeeeally slowly? He didn't show up yesterday. He didn't show up that day, either.

Saturday he still could not be found skulking around my door. I wondered and prayed for guidance.

And then it hit me full force:

THIS WAS THE END OF THE PART OF ME AS AN INVALID!

I looked at my breakfast tray in complete shock. Completely shocked that I knew this time, food was going to be part of my life. The rest of my life, I will be eating.

The rest of my life was going to consist of mountain climbing. Defeating the odds. Doing the impossible. Flipping the bird to doctors who claimed a life expectancy upon my Life....a memoir with a steep drop off into the Nowhere Place.

Upon sharing this with my caseworker on Monday, I saw distress disintegrate. And in its wake left the person who I know and trust. I am sure this also meant that the person she loved and cared about became apparent to her as well.

In that moment I was no longer dying.

It was the prelude to Thriving.

Since then, the adventure has been in full swing. The fullness of Life has replaced the hollow echoes of despair, the cries of torment unimaginable. Of physical and emotional pain unspeakable...only manifesting in the form of panicked screaming.

Taking that sliver of oppurtunity, of the spark of a thought just crazy enough to work, is the fruit of laboring to come out of that enclosed space. Cultivating an attitude of Wellness. Coming back to living in my body. Learning to deal with the breathtaking intensity of what this heart and soul feels while happy, anxious, spritely, or even sad. The artistry that is language and communication. Even just sitting by others where everyone else is, not trapped in the agonizing pit of that signifies sitting out on the stoop where Death lives, waiting for him to collect me.

I eluded him yet again. Even though I was the one who was on his hovering outside his doorway, waiting for him to open his door and welcome me into the end of everything...depriving my loved ones of the joy of watching me find my way back to them.

This time, however, my walk in this life doesn't include traveling to his neighborhood. Or even his eerie little town, with only his house being occupied. All of his other neighbors moved in with him.

Coming back to life has been the most enthralling experience I've ever had. The dreams I'd formally shelved...they are now a possibility. Soon, very soon, they will be a reality.

With hope in my heart and in my soul, vision for my next steps, and many mountains to tackle...I have a full plate (pun totally and 100% intended). I am building a full life with just tue scattered pieces of myself that I can find. Maybe it doesn't look like everyone else's, but where would be the fun in that?

Re-discovering the World and clawing my  way out from 4 out of 6 feet under, I've catapulted into the sunlight. Taken a few deep breaths.

Standing at the top of this first mountain, where I see many peaks to travel and valleys to explore...I leave behind simply Surviving.

Now I enter the next phase in my life full force.

Finally, despite all I've seen and have been through...

I am Thriving

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