When you know you should feel grateful… but you don't
“What beautiful flowers, Anne.” Her voice was calm and kind, her face familiar. Just two days ago she'd come all the way from downtown to the local hospital I’d been admitted to. Her purpose for the visit was to assess my situation and see whether I was a good fit for their program. But as she sat at the foot of my hospital bed, kindly smiling, it seemed her only real purpose was to give reassurance and hope.
“You're just the person Dr. Speed can help,” she assured us. “Now it's just a matter of a bed opening up fast enough for your insurance to not send you somewhere else.” The ER hadn’t been busy that Sunday morning. In fact, less than an hour after arriving I was being given an in depth evaluation by a neurologist. Something that we’d tried tirelessly to make happen in the weeks leading up to this whole thing, pulling all the strings we could think of and my doctors pulling even more. But what can I say, neurologists are hard people to get in touch with.
“I don’t have much experience with your condition. We need to get you into Dr. Speed’s program,” the neurologist in the ER after giving me the diagnosis of conversion disorder. And so I’d been moved into a room to wait until plans for me were in place. (Thankfully they decided someone who had, in a matter of weeks, lost the ability to stand and walk on her own probably shouldn’t be sent back home.)
The hospital's physical therapists were in my room when we heard the news. I was in the middle of my daily session, sweaty and tired, when the case manager came in and excitedly announced that a bed had opened up in the Rehabilitation Unit and I’d been accepted. The moment felt bitter sweet. We celebrated the opportunity to get help at the best place possible for me, but I didn’t like the idea of leaving behind the gentle, kind hospital staff and these therapists who in just a few days’ time I’d shared my heart and tears with. I cried when we said good bye.
It often gets harder before it ever gets easier
The ride to the University of Utah Hospital was rough. We'd had to get special permission for Matt to transport me, rather than a hospital vehicle. The goal was to keep my anxiety levels as low as possible so they'd agreed. It was all but a miracle that a bed had opened up just in time for me. Otherwise, I’d have been sent to an Assisted Nursing Facility. The insurance wouldn’t pay for me to stay at the hospital forever just waiting when I could be getting help somewhere else.
I knew all this but I still spent the entire car ride so sick with anxiety I couldn’t even talk. What was my new hospital room going to be like? How long was I going to have to stay? Are they really going to be able to help me walk again? I tried to not think about all the unknowns. I laid my head back and held on tight to the blue throw up bag we’d brought with us from my hospital room (just in case). In my other hand were the flowers that had been my companions since I’d first been admitted - a gift from my mom and sister.
The woman was waiting for us with a wheelchair when we pulled up. I couldn’t remember her name - apparently my leg and arm weren’t the only things refusing to work. I was happy she noticed the flowers. In my exhausted mind I’d shut out almost everything. But these flowers were important. It was the first time I’d been outside since I’d been admitted to the other hospital. You’d think I would have been relishing the fresh air and the September breeze. But all I wanted to do was lay down.
The next two hours were a whirlwind of people, questions, voices, more questions. I laid in the bed with my eyes closed, shutting everything out as best I could. They’d finally given up trying to talk to me and had started directing questions and instructions to my husband. This whole ordeal had brought more stress than my poor shaky body and fragile mind were up for. Even the people-pleaser inside me had gone to hide. I spent the rest of the evening that way - opening my eyes and getting up only to use the bathroom or dry heave into the blue bag.
Finding gratitude in the storm
After another urgent rush to the bathroom, all the disappointment and frustration exploded in one big unavoidable burst. I had finally reached the end of my rope. In fact, the rope end was dangling ten feet above me as I looked up at it, helplessly free falling. I had been pushed past my limits on so many levels. “Take me back to the other hospital. Please. Please, take me back,” I begged Matt.
It was illogical and ungrateful, but it’s what I wanted more than anything. My case manager, among others, had fought so hard for this room. We’d prayed for this room. Yet how could I be grateful for this room that felt old and freezing? How could I be grateful for this room that was so small and awkward it could hardly accommodate the wheelchair I was now dependent on? How could I be grateful for this room that kept filling up with loud doctors and nurses? I tried to remember they were there to help, but they were crowding me, barking at me - clueless to what their approach was doing to me and my poor body.
I cried until Matt wouldn’t let me cry anymore. With the sweetness and patience I’d seen countless times before, my husband got me settled back into bed and kissed my forehead. “Just close your eyes. Everything’s going to be okay.” What do you do when you’re at your limit? When there doesn’t seem to be any goodness to acknowledge? I held onto Matt’s hand and did what he said. I already knew sleep wasn’t going to be hard to find. And with this giant of a person sitting next to me, I felt grateful.
This strong man who's carried me through some seriously hard times, both figuratively and literally. This compassionate warrior who sticks with me for this crazy journey, even if it means enduring some extra bumps and bruises along the way. When you can’t be grateful for everything, be grateful for something. That I can manage.
Updated note from my heart to yours: I wrote this article over a year and a half ago after unexpectedly losing the ability to walk due to a medical disorder that I continue to battle to this day. I spent almost a month learning how to walk again, and I think I've spent every month since trying to learn how to live with hope and happiness... despite limitations, setbacks, overwhelm, self-doubt and the curve balls that just come with living life. I don't know that the answer is straightforward or easy and I still have a lot to learn, but if life is hard right now or your heart just feels heavy, I wrote these letters for you, and they're 100% free. The message I share in these Hope Letters is the same one that I try to live each day as I put one foot in front of the other (usually holding tight to my walker) - there's always room for hope, joy, and yes... gratitude too. :) If this sounds like something you'd like, you can learn more about it and sign up (free) here.