20 May 2007

Another Hospitalization

Well, as some of my friends inferred from my absence, I was in hospital again for my chronic major depression. This time, against my better judgment, I went to St. Vincent's Hospital Westchester. The last time I was an inpatient there, I had a therapist basically tell me to go ahead and kill myself, when I told her that I was suicidal. Additionally, their partial hospital program (outpatient services) violated my privacy rights by divulging information about my treatment to family members, without my permission (and the disclosure did not fall within a permissible exception to HIPAA's privacy rights guarantees).

This hospitalization, however, was actually one of my better hospitalizations, and was productive. I think I have a better handle on my depression now, and for whatever reasons the universe has come up with, I've managed to make some progress in dealing with some of the issues that have been weighing me down over the past few years. And, I'm not thinking about suicide anymore as an option.

As you'll recall, I was involved in a horrendous automobile accident in January 2002. I'm re-posting the picture here, because it's something that I've been looking at from time to time:

The worst injury to my body happened to my lower right leg (I sustained a broken sternum, lacerations, sprains, some other broken bones, and the usual bumps and bruises associated with a head-on collision). My ankle, in essence, was destroyed and had to be re-constructed, using bone from both of my knees:

One of the things about this accident is that I basically stopped living. I kind of became suspended in time, and lived on January 31, 2002. During this most recent hospitalization, I had some periods of enlightenment, moments of clarity that came to me. There's been a disconnect between how I've felt about things, and what I've known about things. That disconnect is closing, and allowing me to move on from the fateful day of my accident. I'm now picking life back up again, and living it.

I know that there are forces in the universe that, at our current level of technology, we cannot begin even to understand or know about. I believe that some of these forces may have helped me to move on by directing me in certain directions over the past few years -- years that have been immensely difficult for me on many different levels: personal, professional, social, psychological, financial, and political. As I've been blogging about on many occasions, one of the things that has been therapeutic for me is reading. Over the past two years or so, when I began reading for pleasure again, I've found a number of books that have spoken to me, and that have helped me put into words certain feelings and thoughts that I've had floating around in the back of my mind, in most cases in more clarity than I could have provided had I not come across these works.

Before I went into the hospital, I picked up a book in the small library of a friend's reading room. It was The Summer I Dared, by Barbara Delinsky. In short form, the book is about how the survivor of an accident pieces her life back together. This book was extremely therapeutic for me, and I drew a number of parallels from it to my own life:
Sandi could never understand that. She could never understand that concept of communicative silence. She could never understand that when you were with the right people, you didn't need words in order to know what they felt.
This is something that I feel quite often. I know that, with the average person, words are necessary, but there are certain people for whom words do no justice, and certain feelings that cannot be described by words; they can only be felt.
As she moved slowly forward over the grass bordering the granite headstones, she thought about the quiet words that had been words that had been said about Hutch. A loyal man, one friend said. An independent man, another said. An able man, said a third.

She found herself wondering what would have been said about her, had she been the one who died. Loyal wife, surely. Loving mother. Able homemaker. Obedient woman.

Obedient woman. She didn't know whether being called "obedient" was a compliment, but it was true. Obedient she was. She had been an obedient daughter to her parents and an obedient sister to her brothers. She had been an obedient student -- always obedient in school -- and an obedient bride. Oh yes, she was that. Ten years her senior, Monte wanted babies, and Julia accommodated him. Miscarriages followed their initial success, though, and by the time it became clear that there would be no other children, he was successful enough in the world of high finance that he needed Julia as his hostess. Which she was. Obediently.

It could be said, she realized as she neared the front of the line, that taking this two-week trip to Big Sawyer without Monte was the most independent thing she had done in her life. Not that he appeared to mind. As promised, he had sent a package containing everything she would need to prolong her stay -- money, credit cards, a set of car keys, and a new cell phone.

Loyal. Loving. Able. Obedient. Running through the list, she stopped short at the end.

Loyal. Loving. Able. Obedient. And . . . what else? She felt there ought to be something. But she couldn't come up with a word.
This passage led me to ask myself, "Who am I now?" and "What would be said about me at my funeral?" In response, I wrote down that I don't know who I am now. Some of the basics from my prior life (which is what I've begun calling the period of my life prior to my auto accident) remain with me: intelligent, educated, technologically-inclined. Beyond that, I don't know what else. I wouldn't know how people would describe me. As to the second question, I wrote down that I didn't care, that I would be free again. While this is true, I think my answer to this question has changed; I do care, to a certain extent, as to what some people would say about me after I leave this corporeal existence.
"I'm saying that the accident was about as traumatic an experience as I've ever had in my life. I don't know why you and Mom are having so much trouble understanding that. I could easily have been one of the ones who died."

Molly cried, "Don't
say that!"

"Don't say that," her grandfather said with the greater gravity of his age. "You didn't die. That's all that counts."

"No. You see, it isn't," Julia went on, struggling now to express herself. "I didn't die. But I could have. So why didn't I? There has to be a reason."

"No reason. Just sheer luck."

"There's a reason," she said with conviction. "I just haven't figured out what it is. And anyway, even aside from that, I'm looking at things differently now."
It's interesting to read my notes as I wrote them, and examine how I feel now. Mind you, we're talking about a period of only about five weeks, if that. I was in hospital for just under that amount of time. It took me slightly longer than one week to get through this book; the depression really took a toll on my ability to concentrate this go-around. I wrote "The first part exactly. The second part, it's just about the opposite." in response to the above passage. But now, I would tend to agree with Julia. I am looking at things differently now, and yet I still question why I was spared.

The conversation continues,
"Differently how?"

"Differently . . . like, who I am and what I am doing with my life and what people will say when I die."

"Mom!" Molly squealed.

Julia angled the phone away from her mouth. "Someday, Molly, I'm not planning on doing it any time soon. That's the whole point."

"What's the whole point?" George asked when she returned to the phone.

"I'm forty," she said, holding Molly's gaze. "God willing, I'll have another forty years. I need to make the most of them."

"Are you doubting the first forty?" George said over more background murmuring and aimed an impatient "Shhh" away from the phone.

"No," Julia said, but caught herself. If the point was to be honest -- saying what she felt, rather than saying what the listener wanted to hear -- she had to change that. "Make that yes. Some parts. I wouldn't change a thing about others."

Y'know, this is the kind of thing that people discuss with their therapists. But here I am, reading it in a book while I'm in the friggin nut house, for crying out loud. For some reason -- I can't explain it -- as I was browsing through the books in my friend's reading room, I came across this one and was drawn to it. It took me quite a while to get through it, because there were so many more passages, such as this, that made me stop and think. Really think. About my life, where I've been, what direction I've taken, and what direction it's going in. And yes, things do need to change. Because evidently, it looks like I'm going to be sticking around. So I've go to do something with my life, even thought I don't feel as though I can't. I have to take action now; I can't continue living as I am.

Something has to change.

Well, as you can see from what I've posted so far, the book was very intense for me. But at the same time, I believe it served as a catalyst in allowing me to move beyond living in one day. I think I've finally come to terms with what happened to me on January 31, 2002, and am ready now to move on and get on with life. I have a lot of catching up to do, as I've literally missed out on almost five and one-half years of life. But as one of the workers at the hospital (who, if she's reading this, should know how much I appreciated her time and compassion for me) asked me, "Do you know how to eat an elephant, Peter?"

I responded in the negative.

Her response: "One bite at a time."

This is something that I have to keep in mind. For me, I tend to do want to do everything all at once, all at the same time. I would eat the elephant in one bite, which isn't humanly possible. I need to break things down into smaller pieces, and accomplish the smaller goals and, by doing so, will eventually reach the larger goals in life.

And for the first time in a very long time -- probably since my accident -- I can say (with some trepidation, of course), that I'm looking forward to it.