Earlier this year, I peed in a bedpan, one floral hospital curtain away from my boyfriend. He turned the water on the sink for me, in case it helped. Mortified, I thought it might be better if I just actually died.
An hour before that, I had lost all hearing, lost vision in one eye, became weak on one side of my body and couldn’t stand up. My mind went back to its most simple constructions– good, bad, hot, cold, sit, safe, follow.
But in that moment, I was a clear-minded witness to the embarrassment. I had already explained to people that they didn’t need a urine sample.
I am infertile, and thus, absolutely sure that pregnancy did not cause my issues. I told the first nurse, and another popped up beside him. I told him, too.
Their faces were long, embarrassed for me, sad– we’re sorry, they said. No one had said yet that they were sorry I was here at all, sorry for the scare that must have led to me going to the hospital, sorry for the disruption such an event must have had on my life.
They were only sorry that I am a body flawed, only sorry they had to bear witness to the acknowledgement of that.
In a science fiction movie, I — the main character, wilted but not given up– would have spit on the ground at their feet.
I did not do this.
Instead, I let them mandate that I pee in a cup anyway, without removing myself from all the various IVs and monitoring wires. Just in case.
I wouldn’t have gone to the hospital if the boyfriend hadn’t insisted, and in retrospect, I am glad. The next two strokes could have killed me, but they happened in a hospital because I had already started getting help.
I have careful notes because a medical journey requires being your own advocate. You must always be prepared.
But without those notes, I don’t remember anything well. I had two strokes at the hospital itself, and the second one, I only remember falling towards the ground. I remember looking at the carpet of the lobby, noticing how just one of my hands could feel anything.
I was in and out of the hospital for months, barely ever home. It’s been better for awhile, but better is based on a wide bell curve. If I expand that curve to include the last decade, well– none of the strokes were even that bad. Even combined, they don’t even make my Top Three personal tragedies list, which is a shame because some were very dramatic.
Somewhere in the middle of this journey, my little sister called to tell me she thought I was making everything up. That I had lost my mind, maybe. We haven’t talked since, even though she sent me a Christmas text. I don’t say this here to villainize her, but to just– say it. There’s so much that I don’t write about anymore because I feel like I shouldn’t, or can’t, and that stifles my desire to write anything ever. This is a real thing that is happening in my life, even though my family has always been close.
My sister isn’t the villain in the story because she was hearing everything third-hand. Information doesn’t travel well, and she does not know how to re-heat it. To hold it up to faith and warm it by the fire that is other people.
People like my people. My people who left work early to pick me up from the hospital. My people who read out every word of a menu, under their breath, so that I would know what to order without having anyone else know I was struggling. My people who paid for medicine and answered Instagram DMs in the dead of night just to keep me company. My people who let me lean on them, over and over again.
I am lucky to have a world of my people, and I understand how it sounds fairy tale to some. Most of my life does. Fairy tale, mythology, curse, something beyond a storybook or reckoning.
That bed pan was six months ago.
This week, I had a Christmas dinner with family-made. I made a lentil soup just for my boyfriend, and a clam chowder for everyone else. I baked soup bowls from scratch. We put together a puzzle and watched old Christmas movies.
Puzzles are still hard for me. So many things are.
This meal was not.
This meal was easy, warm, filling. The company was easy, warm, filling. At several points in this year, I didn’t know if I would survive. If I’d ever see any of them again, if I’d even recognize them if I did. Christmas was a celebration, like every day– I made it to this.
As I write this now, I have a floaty in my eye. Well, I have several, but I have one particularly that never goes away and barely shifts. It’s fine if I close one eye, and honestly, after the number of times this eye went blank this year– well, a couple of floaties feels like a small price to pay for its revival.
The pain from all things– my hip, my brain, the stuff I do remember from this decade– well– it knocks me out. I don’t mention it much– like the floaty, like the bed pan memory, like my sister’s inability to hold space for me, like the ministrokes, like everything else that lands too heavy for a conversation over tea.
But I’m putting it here. Unmatched boulders, piled haphazardly on each other. A totem of grief and acknowledgement. A sculpture set at the mouth of an ocean.
May I be granted the time to see it wash away.