When My 'No Hospital Visit' Streak Ended
“I can’t handle this, please do something mom!” I begged while trying to find a comfortable position with a debilitating migraine.
I’ve had infrequent migraines for years, along with the ups and downs that tag along with Lyme disease. Though having pretty painful days, I’d usually talk myself into believing, “You can handle this! Rest, take some pain medication, and it’ll settle on its own… no ER today.”
It had been just over two years since my last hospital visit and admission, and that was an accomplishment I was thrilled about. I’ve taken my lack of hospital visits as a marker of how well I’m doing and how far I’ve come since my battle with chronic illness first began. I was proud of it, and it became similar to a badge that Girl Scouts receive, except it would read, “Kept Self Out of Emergency Room.”
As the months passed, I found myself thinking, “No ER? No problem.” Honestly, it was a lie to myself, but it was comforting. Even if not making ground at times, I was standing firmly where I was and as long as that wasn’t in grippy socks in some unit in the hospital, I was happy. Believe it or not, I even went out and had a “me day” for the one year mark of avoiding the hospital. It’s silly to some, but it meant something to me. Of course, I’m not endorsing not going to the hospital when you need help, because you most definitely should. I’m young and still figuring things out, bare with me.
Just a few years ago, I was being rushed off to the ER often frequently enough that the nurses and doctors knew me on a first name basis, and exactly what to do for me. Chronic pain knows no bounds and controlled my life, so when my body said, “hospital,” it meant “Hospital!” I needed to go to get relief by being given stronger medication that we didn’t have at home, and that was exactly what was done.
Two years ago in August of 2015 I was once again admitted for pain management. After being in the ER for hours on end with no sign of relief, I was brought up to the floor where I would stay for a few days to get things under control. I was physically exhausted, and my body had used up any reserve energy I had left to fight. After a struggle, things calmed down and I was freed to go home and recoup. Walking out into the fresh summer air upon release from the hospital was, though I didn’t realize it at the time, the last time I’d have to see that building for some time. I wouldn’t miss those cold uninviting walls, 3 a.m. blood draws, and having a roommate. Home was exactly where I wanted to be to take on this battle, and I got my wish.
Truthfully, I didn’t quite expect my “no hospital” run to last this long. I’m a kid and even separated from my chronic illness, I’m not always the most careful person. What teen, now 20 year old, is?
My glorious two years of freedom from constantly beeping monitors, screaming children, and the unsettling sterile smell of a hospital came to an end. I didn’t begin to think about what this meant for me until the next day when I was more with it and in much less pain. Waking up with the cut hospital band sitting on my desk across from my bed, the annoying itchy spot from where the IV Tegaderm was, and my very confused and angry body, was a bit of a realization. I quickly found my mind wandering, trying to reason and make sense of this shift in my recent reality.
Did this mean that I was weak and just couldn’t handle things anymore? No, I don’t think so. Did this mean that somehow I wasn’t doing quite as well as I had hoped? Maybe in some ways, I guess. Did this mean defeat? That the past two years meant nothing? Absolutely not. Though frustrated that I needed to go once again, I’ve realized that it means that try as I might, I’m not invincible and unfortunately no Wonder Woman. There is absolutely no shame in admitting that you need stronger intervention to get yourself back on track, or acknowledging that you just can’t manage things on your own anymore. I believe that goes for a visit to the emergency room or otherwise. Your body is doing everything it can to try and keep things in balance, so taking care of it, no matter what that may mean, is of utmost priority.
All and all, it’s a stark and harsh reminder when you end up right back where you were years ago at the beginning of your journey. Some of the same doctors and nurses treating you, commenting on how they remembered you right away. One of the same rooms that you spent hours hoping for relief in. The same environment that so much time was spent in, rapidly trying to wrap your mind around what was going on and trying to fix it.
All the feelings of “I’m losing control” and “please no, not this again” come flooding back. All the while trying to remind yourself that you aren’t where you used to be, and that things are going to be OK. You are safe, you are alright, and things are different now. I’ve come so far over these past years, and one tougher day, out of over 730, does not diminish just how far I have come. I’ll start the clock again, look ahead, and maybe this time, I’ll make it even longer.
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