“How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
It was business as usual in the world while I lay there, dormant, being fed through tubes, hydrated through IV’s, a breathing tube keeping my lungs functional, multiple closed suction drain tubes pouring accumulated plasma and waste out of my body.
There was no sound, no smell, no touch, no sight, but most importantly of all, or so I erroneously thought later, no world to come back to.
I had finally gotten what I wished for.
For three days there was nothing. No light at the end of the tunnel, no choir of angels singing, no hellfire and brimstone searing my flesh; nothingness, that’s all there was.
And then three days later I woke up and realized how selfish and full of shit I was.
The first sensation I felt when I woke up was gagging; I now know that for three days I was an unwilling participant in the BDSM community*
*No offense, I’m sure you are all a lovely group of people, but having my mouth stuffed with a ball gag and deep-throated all the way down to my lungs is not exactly my idea of a good time; it’s funny how most people love to yearn and pine for the fantasy, craving the taboo, then spook the hell out when someone introduces them to the virtues of submission and domination, realizing they have no self-confidence or sense of trust. Just a thought.
Machines blooped and beeped rhythmically; the smells of obsessive cleanliness and sterility permeated my nostrils. I’ve walked into meat lockers with more warmth and inviting ambiance than the ICU where I was situated.
I couldn’t speak nor move; I would later learn that I had been restrained for my own well-being, strapped to the bed so tightly that my hands looked like Barney’s, and I was hooked to an artificial respirator due to the collapse of my lungs.
The shift nurse was checking my vitals and noticed my open eyes, blank, confused, scared. She greeted me back to the land of the living.
“That was quite the scare you gave everyone. We’re just glad you pulled through.”
My family was immediately notified of my woken state; they had never left the hospital.
Three days of seeing their child and nephew unconsciously trying to stay alive.
I put them through Hell.
That used to be the standard Seba modus operandi; sometimes, sadly enough, it still is. Old habits die hard, especially for mental illness patients; we are set in our ways, our routines define us, and most times we believe those routines are our best friends, except when we don’t realize that those rituals, those actions you think are helping you survive are making those around you suffer, because they care, they love, they feel, and feel helpless seeing someone they love suffering and not being able to do anything about it.
It was supposed to be a simple procedure. Three days.
I convalesced in that hospital for a month.
The pneumologist arrived to remove the oxygen tube from my lungs; my blood oxygenation levels were stable, so the decision was made to remove the intubation, that my body was strong enough to breathe on its own, lest the accumulation of bacteria surrounding the tube would cause further damage, a possible infection, or worse. There was a catch, though; if after removing the tube I were unable to breath on my own, I would have to be re-intubated. While fully awake. No anesthesia.
I leaned my head back as staff cut the tape from my mouth; the tension was thick, I trembled, and tears began to stream down my cheeks.
My father held my hand tightly.
The doctor yanked that sucker right out; objects always seem so innocuously small until they come within sight. There was a freakin’ proverbial Go’auld-albino-mandingo-phallic torture device shoved down my throat, now being thrust out of my body by spastic heaving and violent coughing. I felt violated.
Suddenly, someone smacked my back. It was a thunder-clap to my lungs. For a few seconds, I struggled to breath; I thrashed around for a bit, desperately clutching whatever I could get my hands on, my body anxiously battling to take in the smallest bit of air.
A few seconds later, I heard the sound of gasping, felt the comfort of a simple breath, the burning sensation in my lungs as blood rushed with oxygen and life.
I was reborn.
I endured poking, prodding, constant vigilance; I wallowed in waste when my bowels were trying to adjust to my new physiological changes, so sometimes I would lie on my own filth for hours, until staff would come along and clean up the mess. Bath time was always a treat; I would lay still on the bed while the medical staff would fit me unto a padded sling, like transporting a whale into captivity.* My bloated living carcass would be hoisted up, and spray washed like a caged animal, wiped down, and sterilized; my wounds ached horribly, my tubes would tangle and pull, causing massive amounts of pain.
*Actual picture from the ICU. At least the whale gets some swimming space. Silver linings.
It was a horribly humiliating, yet necessary; naked, exposed, blob-esque.
Most importantly of all, humbling.
I was allowed a second chance to make things right; my role in this world, no matter how minute and insignificant it may seem to me at times, was not over – it had just begun.
(Taken one month after being released from the hospital, 2005)
It took me a year to recover physically from that experience, but every day I wake is a blessing, a constant reminder that things could always be worse.
Dying has a way of putting things into perspective. I remember all the times I attempted to end my life because I could no longer cope with the war raging inside my mind and body. After I literally lost my life, I realized that it was my ILLNESS that fantasized with death, it was the impulse, that never-ending push of the mind betraying itself, taunting, laughing, crying, screaming. The child, the king, the emperor, the pawn, the wise man, the warrior, the outcast, the hedonist, the harlequin, the monsters, demons and beasts, they all keep clashing for control, wanting to be the head honcho of SebaLand.
I died, I slept, and I woke up so I could learn to live again.
I died, I slept, and I woke up so I could live, so I could share my tales with all of you.