Stage One: This is Great, I’m Too Young to Wear a Bra—What Do I Know About Life?
The first time I was admitted to the hospital, I was seven-years-old. I had pneumonia, my lung had nearly collapsed, and I was on cocktail of antibiotics that had me projectile vomiting all over myself. It was pretty miserable. But at the same time—being in the hospital was kind of cool. When you’re seven and sick, and people bring you teddy bears and candy, your parent’s stay on the twin bed beside you in the hospital and nurses treat you nicely and bring you everything you need—the hospital isn’t so bad.
Stage Two: You Have to Be Here and It’s Not Actually a Party
But then you grow up and the whole thing kind of implodes. I realized this by about age thirteen. Suddenly people stop bringing you stuffed animals and toys, and nurses get to you when they get to you—and you realize: damn the hospital is a pretty crap place to be when you already feel awful.
Of course, it didn’t really matter whether or not the hospital was a comfortable place to be at that point. I was in the hospital all the time for one thing or another: usually one thing being that I couldn’t breathe and another thing being that I couldn’t eat.
And once those hospitalizations became such a frequent occurrence—the whole concept of the hospital stopped being a place of comfort and healing—and started being a scarier world. One where your parents weren’t allowed to stay with you overnight, and you imagine what parties your friends are at without you, and what shows you’re missing because you really only have basic cable there.
Stage Three: Isolation and the Joy of Private Bathrooms (or the Horror of Shared Ones)
And visitors? Well, at first you miss them. You think: wait—doesn’t anyone care that I’m stuck here? What am I, chopped liver?
But the longer you’re there—the more grateful you are that your friends aren’t there. With every long hospital stay comes a slew of consequences. Mostly digestive ones. Long bed rest? Going to mess with your stomach. Heavy painkillers? Going to mess with your stomach. Antibiotics? Going to mess with your stomach—and yeah, you kind of don’t feel like entertaining in between your 946th trip to the bathroom.
Stage Four: Sorry You’re Offended by my Life.
Some of your friends/family have worse reactions to you being in the hospital. Mostly disbelief that you genuinely need to be there and total boredom of your drama. Sometimes they call—and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re just openly hostile about you being in there again. And then you’re just like—fuck it. I’m bored with your judgment. I’d rather watch PBS than hear about how offended you are by my hospitalization. Goodbye.
Stage Five: Life is Going on Without Me, I’m Missing Breaking Bad
And when you get even a little bit older? Shit, you fall behind on EVERYTHING. School work? Real work? You just want to spend your days getting better, getting work done and doing everything you can to get back to your real life.
And besides missing out on your favorite shows you’re still alone, still getting flak from the people who think you shouldn’t be there and just when you got comfortable? Time to take you downstairs for an MRI.
Stage 6: I’m Here. I’m Sick. I’ve Still Got to Pay my Rent
At some point, my hospitalizations were so frequent, there was barely a week in between them. So it was like:
So I just decided to go with it. Have to be here for three days? Okay. Pull out the laptop and get to work. Can’t wash my hair for a week? Bought some dry shampoo. Nurses shoving IV’s into all the wrong veins? Deep breathing, meditation. Before I knew it, I was conducting interviews while getting an IV drip of killer antibiotics, timing my questions in between takes of the thermometer.
When it came to the judgy jerks who had a lot to say about my chronic condition: blocked them on Facebook and didn’t take their phone calls. It doesn’t mean you can’t check-in from the ER. It just means you don’t communicate with people who are going to be rude. And if they still choose to follow your public social network updates—well, that just makes them stalkers, doesn’t it?
And that sounds like a personal problem to me.