Monday, December 28, 2009

Participation in Suffering

It's hard to believe that a little over a month ago I actually wanted to go to the hospital.

Most people didn't know, but I was so sick: in the middle of a really bad 2 month flare-up from my seemingly-until-now nonexistent crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition that can present like a stubborn intestinal virus w/ cramps --or worse. For me, it had been absent for 2 and half years, until early October 09. Things had been worsening and after two trips to the ER in one week where I was given morphine iv's and tests were run, I felt like I just needed around the clock, immediate professional care.

Little did I know.

Hospitals are so necessary, but so horrible. First there was the IV fiasco --it took 3 nurses and six tries to stick me with an IV successfully without the vein blowing or just being able to SEE a vein. I was so dehydrated and I tend to be a hard stick to begin with so that didn't help. After all that, I spent the remainder of my 4 day stay being paranoid about my IV not getting messed up so as not to have to be re-stuck and go through that again. Which it did and which I did, but that's another story.

Then came the revelation that being in a hospital is like doing Extra work on a film: it's a lot of hurry up and wait. Waiting for the MRI people to come get you, waiting for test results, waiting to find out when your surgery will happen. And perhaps worst of all (actually, this might be tied with the IV thing), was not being allowed to eat or drink virtually anything for almost 3 days. Now of course I was on IV fluids so I was well hydrated, but as they say, "ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby." YA HARAM!

On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009, I was released to go home. I said a warm farewell to my funny roommate Flora, and had a peaceful car ride back with my mom as I took in the last of the fall colors on the trees. The sky was a clear blue that day and the air outside was not yet frigid.

Today, a little over a month later, I am about 90% back to normal. It took me awhile to get my strength back and though I've mostly been fine and symptom free, some of my symptoms have crept back again over the past few days which has honestly been frustrating and a little scary. I am so scared of going through that pain that I experienced again. And I might. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. But we do know that we are guarranteed to have pain and suffering in this life and it comes in different forms for different people. For me, this was an entirely new experience. I was so helpless and listless at times; I needed my mom to be right by me in the hospital the whole time, helping me do things that she hasn't had to help me with since I was a little kid. It was crazy humbling.

About a week and a half after getting out of the hospital I started my new and first job out of grad school as an outpatient marriage and family therapist at a clinic in Burlington County, NJ. I was so worried I wouldn't recover in time but I did. As I finish up my training and prepare to start seeing clients in the coming weeks, I'm thinking about my last few months and I realize something good that will come out of the pain. I know I will be able to empathize and understand in a much deeper and genuine way when I have clients who are dealing with the burden of physical pain and illness. Before this experience, I didn't really get it. I didn't realize the way your physical troubles can be so hindering and paralyzing when it comes to daily functioning and well-being. Now I get it because I've been there.

This brings a newer and deeper meaning of the word 'compassion' for me, a word that I've always held very near and dear --quick to retrieve as an adjective when asked to think of ones that describe myself. It's been said that Compassion actually means "suffering together with another; participation in suffering" as the original meaning of the word 'Passion' is "suffering", referring to Christ's suffering on the cross. The Latin roots of the word 'Compassion' being 'pati', (again: meaning 'to suffer') and 'comp' meaning 'with', which leads us to the "suffering with another".

This kind of compassion may be the best-equipped though it is not the kind you want to wish for necessarily. But it's what I've been given. It's another way that I'm looking for the burdens to become blessings, for the Beauty from ashes.


george said...

true good stuff about compassion. you've just become more powerful.

Mary said...

Mere, I had no idea you were going through that. I wish I could have been there. I'm glad you're doing better and happy about your job. I'm actually looking into grad school right now for theatre education. I took the GRE two weeks ago. My NYU application is due Jan 6th and Emerson March 1st. I'm comin' to the East coast, baby...hopefully! PRAY!