Sunday, September 03, 2006

Disclosure

One of the few aftereffects of my overdose and week in a coma is a slight muscle tremor upon exertion. This is quite noticeable when I'm lifting weights or doing calisthenics. In an ideal world, I'd never do either, but trying to lose some of that 37.4% body fat has me sweating at the gym. And my trainer has noticed the shakes. Fortunately, she's chalked it up to being out of condition.

I've told her more than I thought I would about my condition. I told her that a depressive episode was to blame for my weight gain, and which medications I'm taking. It turns out that her best friend has bipolar disorder, too, and admitted herself to a hospital some years ago for inpatient treatment that included electroconvulsive therapy -- aka shock treatments.

This trainer is very cool. She emphasized that she doesn't judge me for having this disease, rather she was impressed by how well I'm coping. She also asked how she could help -- what she should watch for in case I start decompensating. I told her that I don't really become manic anymore -- something of a shame, since initial mania is intensely pleasurable. I said that if I become withdrawn and irritable, and start skipping training sessions with her, I'm probably getting depressed and she should call me. But I didn't tell her about the coma. I don't know why.

I am blessed with wonderful friends who watch out for me zealously. But it's nice to add a person to my safety net. And it's nice to have one more person with whom I can really be myself -- I don't have to guard what I say, or how I behave, quite as zealously. Most of the time I'm very conscious of living in the closet, so to speak.

My experience with this illness makes up such a huge part of my life -- especially the period of time after I overdosed, when I was putting my life back together. And I can't really talk about it with most of the people I know. I feel like they can't really know me unless they know about this incident and its aftermath -- but I'm afraid to disclose because I fear how I'll be judged.

And yet I want to talk about it. It sounds strange, but there were so many beautiful elements to my recovery. I was cared for so compassionately, with real love, in the intensive care unit. The doctors and nurses -- especially the nurses -- were so happy when I woke up, and then when I started walking again. I felt like Marilyn Monroe, greeted by delighted faces and applause wherever I went.

My time on the psychiatric ward, inpatient and outpatient, was also marked by excellent medical and nursing care. It was this love and genuine empathy that helped me heal as much as any medical procedure -- including three dialyses of my blood -- or any psychotherapeutic technique.

Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. Because the love I was shown made me feel worthy of living, deserving of happiness. The fact that so many people worked so hard to save my life, and were so ecstatic when I woke up, impressed upon me that my life mattered. And after I woke up I was happy. I knew that I was going to get the help I needed, and hadn't been able to ask for.

I wish I could talk about this with more people. Even though I know that most of my friends wouldn't judge me, I still don't tell most of them about this experience. I haven't told my classmates, and they of all people should be expected to view me with compassion. But I'm just not comfortable doing that. I don't want my diagnosis to be the first thing people know about me. Especially since I'm still single. Maybe my optimism is misplaced, but I still hope to get married, to find someone who will love me and accept me as I am. And I don't want my illness to be the first thing he knows about me.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

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