Hospital memories part 7 – Moving on

When I was approaching the end of my hospital stay I was given some advice by a nurse.
A wise nurse who I respect very much.

She told me that I should carefully consider my expectations of what life is going to be like.
She said emotional recovery doesn’t start until I try to build a new life away from hospital.
That I may find adapting to ‘normality’ more difficult than I would expect, maybe even depressing.

I see the wisdom in that now but I didn’t pay much attention at the time.
I was convinced that going home would make life normal again. Get away from hospital and all will be well.

My discharge had been in planning for the last 4 months. I had regular meetings to organise a care package that covered my health needs, to develop contingency plans for emergencies, to ensure my housing was suitable and to decide how all of my care would be paid for. The latter seemingly the most important to those in charge.

I had been in hospital for 16 months and my day of release was within touching distance. The 16th of September 2008, I remember it well.

As the day approached I was high, nothing could bring me down. I bought presents for all the nurses and care assistants who had been looking after me, I spent time saying goodbye to the other patients and I organised some well overdue parties. I remember hatching grand plans, life was going to be great again. Free from the shackles of hospital I was going to enjoy every day.

I wish I had listened to that nurse but instead I believed I knew better. I thought getting out of hospital would be the end of my problems. It didn’t take long to realise I was wrong.

I had forgotten what it was like to live outside of hospital. Over the 16 months I had lost touch with reality and convinced myself that everything would be fine, back to normal. That seems ridiculous now. Of course my life would be completely different but after 16 months I wasn’t thinking straight. Spending so long living in hospital is like a drug addiction that has severe withdrawal symptoms when taken away.

I was not ready for the depression that ‘freedom’ would bring, the depression I was warned about. The hospital was a cocoon of safety. I was surrounded by expert medical help. I felt ‘normal’ socialising amongst others in wheelchairs. I didn’t feel judged by my appearance.

When that safety net was removed I realised how much my life had changed. I was back amongst the same old people in the same old places but everything was different. I began to feel alienated from society. Everyone was looking at me, or so I thought. The places I used to enjoy spending time felt wrong, I wanted normal again. The way it used it to be.

If I heeded the advice given to me my expectations would have been different, more realistic. Convincing myself that leaving hospital equalled going back to my old life brought about a massive fall from grace.

Antidepressants didn’t work. I protected myself by building emotional barriers, I wasn’t going to let anyone in. I found some comfort in eating, constantly. My diet was so bad that I piled on weight but I didn’t care. My confidence was so low that for the first time in my life, personal appearance was irrelevant. I rarely shaved, washed my hair or brushed my teeth. I’m not embarrassed by that, it is now part of who I am.

This lasted for a couple of years by which time I was unrecognisable, both physically and emotionally.

If only I wasn’t so stubborn. If only I had listened to that experienced nurse and accepted she knew better than me but no, I was always right. I was in control and someone like me would never end up depressed. What a pigheaded fool I was.

I want others to avoid going down the same path as I did. If I can share what happened to me, pay it forward, then maybe I will help someone to prepare themselves for life outside of hospital. To be ready for the challenges and cushion the blows.

It is a tough battle that many face. A battle they will lose if they tackle it with the same dismissive ignorance that I did.
I have moved on now but it’s been some journey. From the protective bubble of hospital to the depths of depression and back to enjoying life again. The shackles are finally gone.

@Stevenceltic81

The rest of my Hospital Memories can be found here.

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22 Comments

  1. What a great read…. as a Physiotherapist who deals with disability every day it can be just so “normal” for us to try to counsel our clients/patients and promote every little gain or achievement they complete. Some of the time it is not as important as the real life you are to face. An amazing read from a patients perspective and please keep sharing and we can learn from our side a lot about you, your journey and recovery and now real life…..

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I agree, the real life issues can be more important but don’t doubt how much the little achievements mean. All that encouragement and counselling you give can be the difference between a good day and a bad day for many people. Sometimes all we can do is take life one day at a time so if you have the power to influence your clients day then please do all you can to help.

      Thanks again

  2. Denial is an unfortunate part of the journey to healing. You’re not alone with that, Steven. I have no doubt sharing your story will help someone climb out of their own denial a bit sooner. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. You are amazing. Hug.

    • *blushes

      Gratefully received Linda, thank you very much X

  4. Honestly Steven, it sounds like your journey “makes sense” to me. That you went through the process you went through, maybe her warning you wasn’t enough to prevent it from happening, but more of a ‘this will happen’. And you can sure relate to how right she was. It sounds like it was more of a prediction. Have you ever talked to her since your discharge? To let her know that what she said stuck with you.
    I can only say that your writing is so full of lessons, values and appreciations. And I value these things from you. Thank you.

    • I still talk to her regularly Colleen, she has been through it all with me.

      She knows that she was right but has also learnt that she needs to slam the message home when she sees the signs. I also look out for others going down the same path and I don’t sugar coat the message when I see them.

      I could have been saved years of unnecessarily severe suffering if I had been willing to listen. I don’t let others get away with being as stubborn as I was. The message needs to be drilled in for their own good.

      I always appreciate your kind words Colleen, thank you very much.

      • Steven you are so welcome.

        I wonder, did you have to travel those years of suffering to be able to have the full impact on others that you now have? Would you be able to be as convincing, if you didn’t know the depth and breadth of what you went through?

        I dislike the idea of you, or anyone, suffering like that. But I get the feeling you may very well be persuasive with what you know because when you speak to others, they can feel your truth.

      • I think you are right Colleen. I’m not glad I was there but I’m glad I can now use it in a positive way. My posts should have a credibility that they would lack if I wasn’t talking from experience.

      • They are certainly credible Steven. And of great value.

  5. I hear what you’re saying about letting things ‘slip’ after you came out of hospital but what was it you did that got you back on the road ? I assume you got to a point where you said to yourself something like ‘things have to change’ but what did you do next to actually make the change happen ?

    • I was looking at some photographs and it hit me, simple as that. Was like a lightbulb being switched on and I could see what I was doing to myself.
      The main thing I changed was stopping taking all morphine medication. Cold turkey, probably not advisable. It had been clouding my judgement for too long. Maybe a subject for another post.

      Thanks for asking, a subject well worth discussing further.

      I hope you are well mate.

      • I’m well thanks.

        It’s a deep irony that one of the first things you did involved stopping/reducing medication, something that was there to ‘help’ you. Funny you should mention a new post because after I typed my comment I wondered if that’s what you had in mind next. That would be interesting.

      • Being overmedicated is very common but in fairness to the doctors, I had been in so much pain I left them with no choice but to pump me full of morphine. I didn’t know the pain had eased until I tried going without.

        I certainly think that medication can be more debilitating than the condition it is prescribed for.

  6. prayingforoneday

    I think what you felt mate was natural, even if you had taken in what he nice nurse had said, you were always going to get home and feel this way perhaps? What you think…

    And what happened changed not just you but many peoples lives, you are living testament to bravery and overcoming a tragic event. You are a hero to me mate. I think you already know this.
    I am DELIGHTED you are being open and honest and sharing, so I will be honest here. I get guilt mate. Bad guilt. I did this blog tonight, it was about how sore I am, I call it 24/7 all over toothache type pain. And I hate it, it took soo much from me, football, and more. Going to the bathroom for any reason is now a planned event..

    Now the guilt. I can do all that. in agony, but I can. And you can’t, so this is where I have a lot of guilt in my life. I remember when we 1st met on Twitter when I was on new medication, had just left football because my knee snapped and I remember way back then reading your blog, I had spoken to you for a while and never knew your story. When I read your story, I thought it was shit for you, but never spoke to you any different, I knew that would offend you. I know this when people find out I am house bound and get all “Aww shame” I hate that shit.

    Good share mate, and I thought I would share back.
    Keep your spirits high where they are, and keep on keeping on, and bring on pre-season!!
    The Tour games are on Celtic TV…I am delighted 🙂

    Speak soon matey

    HH

    • I think that’s a difficult question, I can only guess. I think I would have felt that way had I listened to the advice or not. The difference would have been my expectations. If I had been prepared for life being so difficult I don’t think it would have hit me so hard. It was the contrast between what I had planned and what was realistic that knocked the stuffing out of me.

      You shouldn’t feel any guilt mate. It’s not a competition for who has the toughest life? Or who is in the most pain? We are all entitled to feel hard done by whether you have a cold or suffering from chronic pain like yourself. I certainly don’t hold a monopoly on hardship.

      The games are all live on Premier Sports. A one-month trial is only 99p, thank you very much! Yesterday was difficult to watch, not the most attractive football but it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. I thought the two new boys at the back put in good performances.

      Hopefully get the chance to chat you at Celtic Park this season.

      Take care buddy

      • prayingforoneday

        Thanks for the reply.
        And the guilt thing, no way is it a competition thing, but I know what you mean. Sometimes the medication takes our brains as you know, and it is that we speak to and listen to. I understand what you mean tho mate..
        And yeah pre-season is, pre-season…I am sure someone will moan, lol

        And maybe mate, I know where you sit, I see you in TV every time there is a game.. lol

        You also mate.
        Cheers

  7. You are amazing to me and every time I read something you write I am humbled by the lack of courage I myself have. If ever anyone was an inspiration to me it is you. Life is never the same in someone else’s skin. I can’t imagine going cold turkey from morphine.

    • That comment is lovely, thank you very much.

      Withdrawal symptoms from the morphine were horrendous, didn’t get one second of sleep for over 20 days. I was an emotional and physical wreck. Certainly wouldn’t recommend it but I would have lost my will power if I tried doing it gradually, it would have been too easy for me to stop the process.

      Thank you again for those kind words
      X

  8. Morphine really is a double edged sword, had a friend who had a serious accident as a teenager and quickly became hooked on the stuff and also went through withdrawel – hellishly difficult. As to adapting to the real world, whew, no book for that! You’re lucky in one respect, your spirit is willing to learn and re-learn. Inflexibility is the undoing of most of us.

    • I like that, “inflexibility is the undoing of most of us”. I might steal it sometime, very wise words. As for morphine, I detest it. The major problem is that you don’t recognise it eating away at your life until you’re left with next to nothing. I understand it has great value for pain relief in emergencies but long-term use should be avoided at all costs.
      Hope you are well

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