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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Encountering Bears

After discovering that I had cerebral palsy, it was time to decide what to do. After all, my limp was already apparent to those around me and doctors assured my parents (and we would later see examples) that if something wasn't done, not only would my limp become more pronounced, but because I was still growing, it would affect my spine and all sorts of organs and such because of the spine deformity.

My achille's tendon in my left leg was too short and not growing properly, which was the cause of my uneven gait. Therefore, the doctors decided that the best way to correct the problem and prevent further complications in the future would be to perform surgery on my achille's tendon on my left leg to lengthen it, allowing me to walk normally.

At the time, my family was living in Bowling Green, KY and the surgery was to take place in Louisville, KY. We had neither the money nor the vehicle to take the trip and my parents borrowed a vehicle from a friend to make the drive. We slept in the hospital chapel once we arrived in Louisville and awaited my surgery.

I was about 5 years old at the time and there are snatches of things I remember: I remember thinking my doctor was hilarious, but I am naturally a shy person and do not remember talking to him at all, just smiling ear to ear every time he came to talk to him and every time he would comment on my smile and how happy I was. I remember how he and the nurses explained everything they were doing either before they did it or as they were doing it so that I wasn't scared at all. I remember watching the nurse put the needle into my arm after she told me what it was for and getting cold as the IV fluids entered my veins. I remember being wheeled into surgery and the anesthesiologist telling me to count backwards from 100. I remember 98.

I remember waking up and being told I was in the recovery room, my mom there with me and the nurses asking me if I wanted anything to drink or snack on. I remember eating the best cookies I've ever had (to this day, I have no idea what kind they were, just that they were delicious) until they ran out. (Upon reflection, I suspect my mom told the nurse not to let me have any more.) I remember that I had a cast on my left leg and could not walk, but I don't remember it hurting, though I think it must have...the cookies must have been a very effective pain reliever. I remember being told (by someone...who it was was irrelevant compared to what they were offering) that I could either go to the Louisville Zoo or some other place since I had been such a brave girl for the surgery. I don't know what the other option was because even at age five, I was an animal lover to the core and jumped (figuratively as it was not a physical option) at the chance to go to the zoo. And yet, as much fun as I know I had at the zoo, the experience is hazy except for being pushed around in the wheelchair by my parents, and stopping in front of the polar bear tank, where a polar bear was swimming around and I pointed to show my parents, spilling my red ICEE all over my lap, making me sticky for the rest of the visit. 

In ways, cerebral palsy seems so much easier in comparison to depression. I often feel cheated by depression. Cheated by the fact that it so often feels like a guessing game for the doctors and counselors I work with. We try this drug or that treatment that has worked for x number of patients, and x number have had no problems with side effects...but then I am the one person who throws the stats, has that horrible side effect and the search is on again for the next drug, the next experiment. Mental illness cannot be treated the way my cerebral palsy could. Though medicine has come a long way in figuring out information about seretonin and other brain chemicals, it is still unable to say, "this surgery (pill, treatment, etc.) will prevent any further symptom development."

I have mixed feelings about how depression effects my memories. Sometimes I feel like it probably saves me from memories that are too hard to remember...but other times, I feel robbed--like when a hospital visit that I know saved my life is just a fog in my mind, and when I know that what saved me was not necessarily the medicine and constant medical care (though that was certainly necessary) but what someone said to me while I was there that gave me hope again (something I so often lose) but no amount of searching through the fog brings the courage I found there-- the will to live-- back to my mind again.

And as for often feels that they are few and far between. Upon release from a hospital stay because of depression, it's like friends and family breathe this sigh of relief, thinking that if the hospital has released you, surely you are now "ok" and there's no need to worry anymore. It is not that I want the kind of worry that makes loved ones hover over me and watch my every move, but the hospital's goal is merely to reduce the level of care needed. Once you tell them in one of the many mood inventories, "No, I am not suicidal." it's goodbye hospital support and hello world that made me feel this way to begin with. Don't get me wrong here; I have very much appreciated the hospital care I've received when admitted after a suicide attempt and for the most part have been moved quite well through the levels of care: hospital stay, Adult Partial Hospitalization, then work with counselor. I just know that when you leave that hospital room it is not usually with the excitement of seeing a polar bear in a tank at the zoo, but the bear of life waiting on the other side of that hospital door.

However, bear in mind: When I left the hospital after my surgery that day for the zoo, I was equipped with a lengthened achille's tendon and a cast to protect my leg while the wounds healed. Though memories of assistance for hospital stays due to depression may be hazy, the support I've found there leaves me better equipped to handle whatever bears are waiting for me on the other side and the security of the hospital is still available to me should I need it again.


  1. I refuse to open an account to comment on your blog!!! BUT I am so happy to read your writings again. I've missed you lady!!! Keep on writing, I am reading!

    : D

  2. yes this is very good stuff issa