Things That Are Different

I kept meaning to write some kind of anniversary post last month, since mid-November was the time I came home from the hospital a year ago, but for whatever reason I never got around to it. In some ways last year seems ages ago, but there are other times when it feels like last week. I think part of my problem was that I was trying a little too hard to make a post like that Feel Significant. Instead, here are a few things that are different in my life since being hospitalized.

I get blood drawn a lot. I don’t think there are many people in the world who think “Oh boy! I get to get blood drawn!” when they know they need to have labs done, but I’m certainly not in the camp that is needle-neutral. I can’t watch the needle going in, I can’t watch the blood being drawn, and my mental/emotional state when I have blood drawn is reflected in the bruise that develops later. (The first time I had blood drawn in the hospital was when I was still waiting in acute psychiatric services, and extremely freaked out. The guy who took my blood was actually the most soothing of the revolving cast of characters who saw me that night, but my arm still reacted with an angry bruise the size of a golf ball.)

But now I have blood drawn about once a month, sometimes more often (twice this month), and I just have to deal with it. Luckily the place I go is staffed by wonderful people who are great at what they do.

Moderation. Before I was diagnosed, especially in the several months leading up to my hospitalization, I was essentially self-medicating with alcohol and caffeine. In some ways I guess I was doing a pretty good job–none of my friends or co-workers suspected anything at all was wrong with me until probably the day I was hospitalized–but I was also, well, self-medicating, which is pretty dangerous (especially if I’d decided to start using any harder substances, which a lot of people do). I cut both substances out of my life entirely for a while, and now I’m on Weight Watchers so I couldn’t drink a ton even if I wanted to, but now my relationship with alcohol (forget caffeine–that shit is just bad for me) is one defined by want rather than need. I find I’m drinking much less and enjoying the drinks I do have much more, as now they’re explicitly paired with food and often part of special occasions rather than a standard part of my evening routine.

Sweet, sweet sleep. Anyone who has experience with insomnia will tell you it’s awful. You learn to function on a sliding scale of exhaustion, being “productive” in the wee hours of the morning once you’ve given in to not sleeping, lying there in bed trying to will your brain to shut off for hours on end. I think my insomnia was particularly hellish because what little sleep I did get was so often punctuated by nightmares.

I’ve always dreamed vividly, and I’ve experienced all five senses in particularly lucid dreams. Which is awesome if you’re having dreams about, say, running through a field of marshmallows and puppies, but not at all awesome if it’s a confusing, graphic sex dream or a dream where you’re running away from someone with a knife and trying desperately to wake yourself up.

Now I’m on a combination of medications that knocks me out cold at night pretty predictably once I’ve taken them, and I don’t (usually) have to worry about my subconscious setting out a minefield for me.

In short: life now is different, although not earth-shatteringly so, and I’m eternally grateful for the people who stuck by me to make it happen. Last year at this time I was clinging to my partner for emotional support as I went home to a pretty strained family Christmas, and this year we’ll visit both families and I couldn’t be happier. No dread, no strain.


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