Monsters

What’s your name? Katharine. How old are you? 36. Where are you? Riverside Methodist Hospital. Phew, that one wasn’t as nosy as yesterday’s. I don’t have to tell her about what’s standing in the corner.

I had wanted to do an entire entry on my crazy texts to Karla, but after emailing her, it seems that I sent only one coherent text the entire time I was in the Neuro-ICU. All of the rest were just random finger mashings. She said she would always call me back whenever she got a text from me and that I called more than I texted. You know, because I needed a ride home from Europe or wherever I was. Then, she would call Matt and fill him in on whatever I was saying, so that he would have a head’s up. Thank you again, Karla, for watching out for me, for taking care of me from your cell phone. I can see now why you were in my contacts seven times. You were my lifeline.

I have a vague memory of writing the one coherent text. I’m not sure exactly what I was seeing when I typed it, but I know it felt important to tell someone about it. I know I was scared. I was scared a lot of the time in the Neuro-ICU. I was scared a lot in Rehab, too, but for different reasons. In Rehab, I was scared about not getting better, of being a burden to my family, of never being able to function again. In the ICU, it was something darker, something more malevolent. The one clear text to Karla says it all: Monsters. Monsters. Monsters. Capital M’s and punctuation included.

I don’t remember the monsters. I don’t remember what they looked like in May of 2012, but I know they are still there lurking in the back corners of my mind. On days like today (in 2014), when I feel like I’ve been asked to do too much, to be too functional, to pretend like everything is fine. “But look at how much you did yesterday,” the well meaning person in my life will say. Yes, and that’s why I can’t today. That’s why just breathing is hard today.

I’ve been reaching out for the first time in two years, finding support groups online and trading stories with other stroke survivors. For the most part, it’s been a remarkable thing except that it acknowledges the monsters still standing in the corner of my room. If you don’t look at them, you can fake it with the nurses, fake it with the family and just look in the other direction, hoping they’ll have disappeared by the time you look back. You can claim to be back (almost) “a thousand percent.” If you acknowledge them, then you have to face them. You have to face that some days you still are holding on by a thin, rapidly fraying thread. “I’m not sure you should be reading that stuff. You were doing fine before.” No, I wasn’t fine. I haven’t been fine in two years. I just wasn’t looking at the monsters.

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