Now that I’ve been out of the hospital for a bit of time, I’ve started reflecting on on my long stay in the hospital. There were parts of my personality that were challenged and things I learned about myself throughout the process. I thought I would share some of my thoughts over the coming weeks interspersed with recovery information:
Meditation – I’ve never had any formal training in meditation – Logan has done some visualization for theater before and we used to have discussions about trying to see color when you close your eyes, or a white sheet hanging, or various other images. My focus would wander, I would start to see swirls of non-colors, shapes coming in and out of view. I could never count sheep – they never behaved normally. Some would jump over the fence, others would come in packs too fast to count, and some would just start running away. Even when I tried to assign them numbers on their fur, they were never in order. For the longest time, I thought I was the worst person to get to relax. What I’ve learned throughout this sickness journey is that almost the exact opposite is true – When I get stuck with needles, or there’s some pain, I can go elsewhere in my mind – whether it’s trying to train the untrainable sheep, predict the next swirl pattern, or focusing on a previous experience that was pleasurable. It’s not 100% effective, but I will tell you, very rarely did my blood pressure increase no matter what they were doing to my physical body. Logan and I have talked about what we focused on in times of pain, and they were very similar and very similar to what my grandfather had done when he had a heart bypass operation 15 years ago. Pleasurable, mundane experiences in nature. For example:
- Riding a charlift in the winter. There’s a relaxing feeling when you’re on the chairlift between two exciting ski runs. You have the memories of the skiing or snowboarding, but there’s the slow and methodical anticipation of getting to the top of the mountain for the next run. You’re surrounded by snow, trees, and the constant motor sounds of the chairlift.
- Canoeing across a lake. Again, a repeated movement of rowing, with the sounds of the water lapping against the canoe. There’s the complex interaction of the waves interacting with the canoe that jostle you around a little, but not enough to cause any pain. The point of completion is far enough away, that it’s tough to judge that progress is being made, but you know you’re gaining ground.
- Sitting next to a lake in the sun. There’s a quiet spot, where most of the summer you have a decent view across the lake, and there’s a constant light breeze. The sun is never too hot, and there’s always a hammock and umbrella in case the sun is in your eyes. My grandfather was stuck in Florida one summer, and used to think of this specific spot as he recovered from his surgery. To this day, he still thinks of it often, and gets to enjoy it virtually every day during the summer months.
- Imagining you’re flying over treetops. I found myself looking across from a medium sized mountain, and seeing a large bird perched atop a distant tree. I could imagine flying over to where he was sitting and then seeing what his point of view held. I don’t have any vivid memories of what was happening, but there was always a theme of some nature scene, and becoming one with a non-domesticated animal, and imagining their viewpoint – an eagle soaring from a tree, a bear sliding down a mountain side, billy goats on the sides of cliffs, anything really to distance my brain the physical aspects of being human and the associated pain at the time.
- Spots on walls. Sometimes, pain came on too fast, or the doctors needed to perform an immediate procedure that would cause discomfort – nasal feed tubes, IV lines, and the like. There’s really not enough time to start up the brain sequence and enter these virtual arenas. I would pick some spot on the wall, ceiling, floor, or elsewhere, and imagine being that spot, a fly on that spot, or something about that existence. My mind has a good way of just filling blank space with other useless information as long as there’s a focal point. Maybe I was seeing the swirls, maybe it was a math problem, or maybe my brain was rolodex-ing the color match. I don’t know, but it was effective to keep me sane enough that most people were imperceptible to the physical toll that was going on inside of me.