Every once in a while, I get the urge to go to the hospital.
I’m not sick. I’m not concerned for my health. But there’s something about hospital stays that, when the stars align, can be incredibly restorative.
I recognize this is my privilege talking. For many marginalized folks, hospital stays are a nightmare, between medical gaslighting, financial anxiety, and the trauma that often comes with fighting for your life. My medical history is long and varied, and occasionally less than ideal (see: the time my service dog pulled my G-tube out). But overall, my experiences tend toward the positive. Not everyone can say that.
Sometimes the stars align. Sometimes the system works in our favor, and a week in the hospital becomes a mini retreat. While it’s not sunbathing on a beach with a book in hand, it is being forced — usually by a horde of nurses who regularly cycle through the room — to take it easy.
The only job is to heal. To rest, recuperate, and restore.
I used to feel this way around finals. By the end of the semester, I was maxed out. I’m a chronic overachiever, so I was usually guilty of crimes against my own humanity — studying for hours at a time, ignoring my body and what it needed in the moment, staring at rough drafts of papers until the words blurred together, kicking myself for not completing everything on my to-do list. I had no sense of balance. My boundaries were completely out of whack.
I was, to put it nicely, a mess. I hate the hospital, but sometimes, the thought of being looked after by kind women in nurse’s scrubs trips my trigger.
We’re still in a pandemic, so I’m not actually considering a hospital stay. Other than sinus headaches, I’m perfectly healthy. But the crisp fall air is starting to get to me. I can feel myself slipping into finals mode. I want a week in bed with nothing on my plate but subpar hospital food and copious amounts of HGTV.
My dad and I have been watching “Alias,” one of J.J. Abrams’ lesser-known TV shows. I’ve never seen it before, which means I’m tempted to watch five episodes in one sitting. It’s addictive. It’s the perfect escapism for the preelection bonanza we’re currently living through. But it’s also a time suck. A black hole of orchestrated adrenaline and cheesy snacks.
The other night, I was tempted to watch two episodes in a row. I knew I shouldn’t. I generally limit myself to one per night. But I was stressed as all get out. I needed the short-term equivalent of a week-long hospital stay.
“You’ve been working really hard,” my dad said, like the paternal devil on my shoulder.
I was prepared for this tactic. “I didn’t get everything done today.”
“So?” My dad excels as the devil. “You wrote a book. You just graduated with your M.A., and soon you’ll be pitching an actual literary agent.”
I wasn’t giving up so easily. “Sure, but …”
In that moment, he was so much like the kind women in nurse’s scrubs who check my vitals like clockwork. He wanted me to rest, so that when I was inevitably discharged from the hospital, I wouldn’t end up right back in urgent care.
I huffed in begrudging assent. “I guess it won’t kill me.”
Dad nodded in tandem with every nurse across the world. “Doggone it, you deserve it!”
My boundaries are pretty much nonexistent. I’ve known that for a while. But the pandemic, and my ill-timed graduation, have only made things worse. I work until 9 p.m. Despite my good intentions, I never take the weekend off. If I’m not thinking about revisions, I’m thinking about query letters; if I’m not thinking about query letters, I’m thinking about all the books I should be reading, or the Notion setup I’m still not happy with, or a potential Instagram post, or an upcoming deadline, or this or that, ad infinitum.
I can’t stop. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I don’t remember how to stop. I don’t remember how to be — to exist, just as I am, like I exist in the hospital, with my tray of jello and lukewarm scrambled eggs, HGTV playing in the background, doctors rushing down the hall, and nurses bustling between rooms, and the world spinning ever onward.
Contrary to popular belief, the stars won’t fall out of the sky if I take a week off.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.
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