In what I hope is my last visit to the ER for many, many moons, I finally had a doctor who really paid attention. This time, I was there because my doctor suggested it. I was feeling weak, dizzy, fatigued – too much so to give the blood necessary to test all my levels. So she sent me to the ER where the results would be faster and they would be prepared in case I passed out.
The ER doc ran the blood tests. Everything, as usual, came back “normal.”
So he sat down with me. “As doctors,” he said, “we often get so focused on treating the problems, we forget to treat the whole person.”
“When a person goes through so many tests and sees so many doctors in a short period of time, sometimes it does more harm than good.”
“I’m not saying I’m absolutely right on this, but sometimes when I see patients, I get this feeling. Everything looks normal, but you clearly don’t *feel* normal. And it has to be really hard to live feeling like shit all the time.”
“I’m not telling you this is all in your head, because it’s obviously not. What I’m saying is that your body and your brain are creating a feedback loop. I think what’s going on is that you’ve been through a lot of stressful stuff lately. That stress flooded your system with cortisol and other stress hormones, which are good when they’re short-lived and reacting to a dangerous situation. But chronically, they cause the body to overreact to little things. The more your system is flooded, the more you’re aware of these tiny changes in your body and the worse you feel. It’s chemical. It’s real. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do for it here in the ER, or any medication I can give you.”
He suggested seeing a therapist. (I tried to do this in March, but my insurance contractor only does group therapy. Which, for a social anxiety sufferer, is pretty much a no-go.)
“Even if you can manage to see someone once or twice, it could make all the difference. They can give you tools to cope with everything.”
I wish he could be my regular doctor. He was exactly everything I look for in a doctor and have never been able to find. As sad as I am that he can’t be, I am so immensely grateful for him.
Validating a person’s experience is tremendously important to health and healing.
I went home (after 6 hours in the hospital – they were PACKED). Ate something. Took a shower.
The kind of cathartic, body-racking sobfest that leaves a person feeling emptied out at the end.
Teenage Me sobbed in despair and pain over the realization that’s plagued me since October.
Twenty-Something Me sobbed in grief over the loss of her grandparents, of the stability and safety and strength they represented that hasn’t resurfaced in my life since they died.
Today Me sobbed out fear: fear of the future; fear of the unknown; fear of failure; fear of leaving the house; fear of passing out; fear of never again being well.
And in the middle of it, something beautiful happened. It was like my grandparents were there with me, holding me, telling me I still have their strength and stability and support. (And, despite being naked in the shower, it wasn’t weird at all. Which I thought about at the time, because my analytical brain never shuts up.) Like they were holding me while I cried, like I’m sure they did innumerable times when I was a child. Like they were angry for me. Proud of me. And that my brokenness was just a cause to hold me tighter.
When I was done sobbing, done being overwhelmed by grief and despair, I was overcome with the need for a quick meditation. So I sat in the tub, rested my poor, hugely congested head in the warm shower spray, and meditated.
“It’s time to rest,” she told me. “You’ve done some hard, grueling work, and now it’s time to come back to yourself. To sit and watch the snow fall and the flowers bloom. Time to just Be with your Self.”
“I know that’s hard for you. It’s a skill, like anything else. So just come rest here, in this space, for a couple minutes at a time. Build up your sense of You. Do it out there, and rebuild your calm. Your peace.”
She gave me two symbols to hold close and remember while I do it. Two things that spoke to the heart of little girl me so deeply, they defined a lot of who I was. And a third symbol for me to meditate on, learn about, and come to know.
It’s time to find myself again. To return to who I wanted to be. To grow into the person I’m meant to become.
It’s going to be work, and it’s going to make me uncomfortable. And probably really bored and fidgety, as I have a serious impatience problem. But it’s a new phase, and it’s necessary. It may be the most necessary thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been moving toward it for ten years. Ten years, and it’s finally here.
That’s a big part of why I’m so scared…
But I will sit with my Self. And I will be patient. And I will learn again to watch the snow fall and the flowers bloom.
Because for the first time in ages of dark confusion, I feel my path again. And I have a gorgeous sense that I will know it better this time than ever before.
All because of an ER doctor who took the time to really See me.
❤ ❤ ❤