This is a dedication or suggestion to those supporting loved ones who have had a traumatic event in their lives and are staying in the hospital or have stayed there. It might shed some light on their behaviour and help you understand why they have made some of their decisions about visitors or about why they had some of their reactions in past conversations. This is by no means a perspective from every patient that has stayed in the hospital or trying to bash loved ones but just trying to bring you into their world of what happens and the emotional roller coaster that they ride when a traumatic event has happened to them.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say I rode this ride, I was first in line every day of my stay and almost every day since I have been discharged. Hell, I bought I season pass. It was a constant wheel of anger, crying and everything in between. I didn’t know what was going to show up sometimes. When my Nurse Practioner or therapists came in they always told me my job in here was to get better. My NP also told me to limit my visitors because as I was learning by the end of the first week of therapy I got very tired, very quickly. When they told me this, I heard them, but I guess you could say I didn’t listen. I couldn’t wrap my head around it until it was actually happening to me. I wanted to do more and more therapy. I told my Physio Therapist to push me hard. Kyla was the best for this. Every day she would make my sessions a little bit harder. I figured that it would get my body back quicker. But I soon learned that it wasn’t that easy.
When you know someone in the hospital or who has experienced a traumatic event, it is something that will forever change them. When this happened to me I wanted to hide away. I even had a sign on the door that said ‘Please Knock Before Coming In’ and’ ‘Sleeping’. These signs were on my door 24/7. In reality I wasn’t sleeping all of the time, I just couldn’t emotionally handle having people see like that. Seeing their face walk in was alone hard enough. It was easier for me to hide away. Besides looking completely different, I also didn’t want them to have that image of me in their minds. To this day, one of my favourite lines is, “I am just trying to get my head on straight.” Meaning, that this was a big thing that happened for me and I need to work through the process of what happened during and after. I have to work within myself how to find the ‘old Katie’ and integrate the ‘new’ one.
There are things that might happen to your relationships that will change, some for the better and some for maybe not the better. I don’t want to say something like this is a test, but you really find out who your people are. As someone who has experienced a traumatic episode in their life, I have some advice to pass along to those who are supporting someone in their life through a tough event. Take it for what it is, but this is what I found from my experience and what I am still learning from my ever-evolving relationships.
You don’t know how much your flowers, emails, cards, and text messages mean to that person. If we don’t text or call you back right away or if at all please don’t take offense to it. We appreciate your thoughtfulness and kindness more than you know. I used to look at each of my cards, flowers, and messages, focusing on the arrangements and the details that went into making each bouquet more than once a day. It was the first thing that I woke up to and the last thing that I saw, falling asleep each day. I kept them close to me, and I still have each of my cards. Our focus is to complete each day, on each moment and then move to each hour, sometimes it is hard enough to just get up that day. I had and still have developed severe social anxiety that would cause me to not answer phones and be terrified to look at messages. It would take a great amount of courage to reply to messages. Just know that your thought has not gone unnoticed, it has helped to give strength to your loved one and to get through that day and even that moment when they need it the most.
It is not YOUR fault. There is nothing that you have done to not receive a reply back. You know the phrase ‘It’s not you, it’s me’, the classic relationship line that I am sure we all have heard once in our lives or maybe have given. I know this generally applies in the romantic relationship department, but you catch the drift. It isn’t you at all. It is them (to an extent), but try and be a little understanding to what is going on in their lives. It was me in this circumstance. I was that person. I still am that person, but you have to realize what was happening to me at that time. The person that has gone through this event is working through new emotions, is hypersensitive and is just trying to make sense of what is happening to them. In my case, no medical professional could tell me when I was going to get better. They told me it could be days, weeks or months. I felt like I was in a jail. My own personal hell. Half of my body working and the other not, not sure when this was going to start working, if ever. I was supposed to get married in a month and a half at that point and also had a bridal shower during the time I was in the hospital. My dreams of being a blushing bride, experiencing everything that a girl wants and dreams of during their engagement and wedding were quickly being crushed as my priorities were being shifted to learning how to walk again, balance on my own without someone giving me the ultimate wedgie to help me stand and hopefully get rid of my walker. When you are in that bubble you can only see what is in front of you. I was overwhelmed with what was happening to me and just trying to keep my head above water. I could only emotionally handle so much. So I guess I am asking for forgiveness and also an open mind. Please don’t take offense to it if they don’t reply back right away or if at all. There is always a bigger picture and things going on behind the scenes you might not know about when something happens in someone else’s life.
Privacy is a foreign word. Being a patient means constantly being checked up on and having a revolving door. Being alone with your thoughts is like finding a golden ticket in a chocolate bar to go to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. So when someone tells you today is not a good day to visit or they don’t want to see you don’t take it personally. They just need time to themselves to process their day, diagnosis, or procedure. There might have been a new revelation in their medical journey. For the love of God, don’t not listen to your loved one and show up unannounced (you just might walk in on another naked episode – true story. I think I would do well at a nudist camp now j/k). There are good days and bad days and listening to what they need and want is the most important thing. Respect their wishes.
After-care. The post hospital life is an after-thought. The title of ‘patient’ doesn’t leave when you exit the hospital, however, I prefer ‘an adventurer of the healthcare system’, I think it has a nice ring to it. When you are discharged you are still obliged to attend post-therapy sessions, specialists appointments, and more. You never stop being an ‘adventurer of the healthcare system’. Your loved one might appear to look physically better, I know that I do, however, I have speech deficits that have me thinking in my mind I am saying something coherent, however, when it comes out it is complete jibberish, and my hand continuously displays weakness and floppy fish syndrome (I coined this, very medical I know). This person has to deal with the after-effects of what has happened. Going back to work, assimilating back to society and dealing with the aftermath of what has happened to them. Remember, just because someone is out of the hospital doesn’t mean they are cured and immediately back to themselves. It takes months to regain the feeling of who they are again. It is the mental component that you need to deal with including what has happened to you. It is the journey and process to work through.
I guess what I am trying to say is be understanding during this time. It will not happen right away that they will come back to you. They will be shy, hermit-like and quiet. Embrace what has happened. Be there for them. Check in to make sure they are okay. Be understanding if they don’t answer back. Keep asking to do things because often times the courage is there but the anxiety takes over. It is debilitating at times. They will not be the first to ask. Try not to get mad or angry. It will take a while, maybe months, many months after but they will come around. Just don’t give up on them.