When I was in the hospital, I had a panic attack.
I’m not good with hospitals. Plus, my legs were semi-bound with these cuff things that were constantly inflating and deflating (something to do with blood circulation and clot-prevention) – and I’ve got a thing about my legs being bound. Plus, I had a breathing tube stuck up my nose and laying on my throat, without which I couldn’t breathe well. Plus, I had an IV that was making my hand ache. Plus, I was incredibly, awe-inspiringly, ridiculously nauseous from the anesthetic. Plus, I had had major surgery about 6 hours prior and was in gobs of emotional and physical pain.
So, I wasn’t in the best shape, all told.
I’d been asleep, and I jerked awake in panic. I couldn’t move without intense pain everywhere and I was having trouble breathing, and the effort of doing either was making the nausea wash over me hardcore. I tried for a few seconds to calm down, then started begging Pace to help me – but she was at a total loss as to what to do, so she called the nurse.
The nurse came in an eternity later and asked, “Are you having a panic attack?”
I managed to answer in the affirmative, but I was really confused as to why she had to ask. It seemed pretty fucking clear to me that I was having a panic attack.
She proceeded to be really mean to me. Seriously. She threatened to withhold my pain medication if I didn’t calm down. She told me, “You just need to relax. Right now.” She said a bunch of other cruel, unhelpful things that the eventual application of morphine has happily erased from my memory – but I sure remember her attitude.
Seriously? She came into my room while I was in the middle of the worst, most terrifying moment of my life – and was mean? Anything less than utterly gentle and compassionate would have been wrong, but her outright uncompassionate cruelty was insane.
I had to stand up for myself, even then in that moment – in that worst, most terrifying moment of my life, when I couldn’t breathe or move and was sure that, at any second, I was going to die. But I would die before I would let this woman stand there and be cruel to me when I needed her love and compassion.
So I did.
I looked right at her (and managed not to hurl or punch her lights out!). I said, “You are not helping me. Either help me or go away.” I’m not sure how much of that was understandable, given that I was hyperventilating and sobbing, but she responded by dosing me with medication and going away, so I apparently got my point across regardless.
Even with Pace right there, it was up to me to stand up for myself. Pace was so worried about me and was utterly flummoxed by the nurse’s attitude, not to mention that she couldn’t even hear half of what the nurse was saying, that she couldn’t say anything fast enough to make my situation better fast enough – so it fell to me.
At all times, it’s really our responsibility to make our lives the way we want them to be. It’s up to us to protect ourselves if we need protecting. It’s up to us to defend ourselves if we need defending. Society tells us (especially women) that our parents or our spouses or our Knights in Shining Armor will ride in and save the day for us – but that makes us disempowered.
Yes, Pace would have jumped in and stood up for me. And yes, I knew I could depend on her to do so if I couldn’t – but even in that terrifying moment, I found that I could.
And I felt even more powerful and satisfied when I did it myself.