“Only my happy old life wasn’t happy anymore. I no longer blithely sang the why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along song. Because now I’d seen poverty, I’d seen perseverance. I’d seen the craters gaping in the level playing field of American education, health care, and economic opportunity. And I’d been humbled, inspired, angered, and most important, change by all of this. Who I’d been before was no longer me…/…I’ve spent the past six months trying to figure out who I am all over again.” -Janna Cawrse Esarey, The Motion of the Ocean
For the last year, I have been crossing a bridge between identities.
About a year ago, I found out that my then husband was cheating on me. Without going into all of the long details about that for his sake and mine (although it may be elaborated on at a future date), let’s just say that by late May I found myself to be 27 and a divorcée. Then the doctor told me that I had some abnormal cells in my bladder, and that I might have cancer, and that we should schedule surgery for August. As in 3 months away August. Sit with that. I sat with it for 3 months. I figured there really wasn’t any control I had in my life anymore and so I just was. I was present with my life. Never did the phrase it is what it is make more sense than during those months. I had started practicing radical acceptance. A therapeutic technique of Dialectical Behavior Therapy that is basically a cross between Buddhism and the Serenity Prayer that states “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference between the two.” It’s all about being present with the internal conflict, and then choosing how you respond, because sometimes that’s the only choice or control one has. THEN a week and a half before my biopsy, I was working late in the psych unit completing an intake assessment, and my stomach just ached. I threw up. It continued to hurt into the next day. And the next. I webmdeed (web-em-deed: the act of searching for diagnostic answers on webmd.com) my aches and figured I must either have appendicitis or totally severe gas. Hmm. On top of this, I had been offered a new job that was supposed to start August 30th so my current insurance was going to be ending soon. (During all of this I completed the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale for myself and my score was 533, no joke).
So, I figured I could either have my appendix erupt, causing my blood to become septic and possibly die (before the cancer, or a double whammy, who knew?) or I could just be quite embarrassed by going to the ED for gas. What the hell right? So I drove myself at 11pm to St. V’s (my parents thought I was being melodramatic about my diagnosis of appendicitis i.e. after I left to return home they had gone to bed thinking I would wait it out and take some pepto.) During my intake in the ED I started bawling like a baby, detailing the events of the last year to the empathic grandma-like nurse. “Don’t you just wish you had a gun sometimes?” she asked referring to the events of the affair I had informed her of. This of course caught me off guard, and I thought to myself “wow, until this moment, I’ve either handled myself quite well i.e. not having shot anyone, or this lady is crazier than she looks.” She laughed and so I did as well. I’m pretty sure they slipped me a roofie/Xanax and I started to settle by the time my CT results came back. Yep, appendicitis. Good ol’ webmd. They tried to call my parents to confirm that someone would be able to be there in the morning, but to no avail. I didn’t have a real emergency contact anymore. You know, I was single and living alone. No one was going to notice that I didn’t come back from the hospital. Welp. Surgery happened at 1am to take that sucker out. Through my belly button. Sorry but this was quite an interesting part of this story. I also learned that the appendix is about the size of a small fist. Not the large looming deflated red rubber kickball that I had imagined. My parents finally got the message at 7am. So I spend the next few days in the hospital. It was actually great. Lots of cream of wheat and a gal came in and cleaned my room, and I wore scrubs and those amazing socks, and I just read smutty celebrity magazines and listened to music. Friends and co-workers came and we had a party in my room. By day three, they were trying adamantly to send me home. This just didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t because I was thoroughly enjoying my inpatient stay, my women’s intuition was just kicking in. Well, they kicked me out. A couple friends took me to my place and we started to play some Mario Kart, and an hour later I had a fever of 104. Hmph. Went back to the hospital–because they told me too if I had a fever, and so I did–and they admitted me again. My women’s intuition was 2 for 2. So in total I was inpatient for 7 days. Remember that biopsy? That was scheduled for day 7. So I’m inpatient after surgery trying to reschedule surgery. I tried to get a two for one deal but that was a no go. So I leave on a Friday and then come back for surgery again the next Tuesday. They punch my I’maregularatthishospital card and do the whole shebang once again. This is also a nice/terrible detail/self-disclosure-they sent me home with a catheter for 3 days. 3 days. Apparently my bladder was going to be “angry” and so well, they didn’t want, well you get it. When I went back in to be rid of the darn thing, the nurse nonchalantly said “Did the doctor tell you that the cells were benign?” “No.” “Oh, well they were. That’s nice huh?” That’s nice huh? Yes that’s nice, I don’t have cancer. Just a string of unfortunate events leading up to I’m not quite sure what.
And so I thought about Job (the character in the bible).
And thus I started my journey across the bridge of identities with a bang. No longer a wife, and with a clean bill of health, I have spent the last year trying to once again answer the questions who am I and where do I want to go in life? I still don’t know. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve experienced a lot. All I know is “what is to give light must endure burning,” (Viktor Frankl) so I have to keep my chin up.