Hospital Visits & Dissociation

Yesterday, my husband had a minor surgery, so we spent most of the day at the hospital.

It wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it might be. My husband was stressed and worried, of course, but he came through very well, and I give thanks to the Father for allowing him to come through!

As for me, thankfully, I was perfectly calm and cool and collected, and was even able to help my husband to not be so worried and stressed, if you can imagine that!

For those who know my past, it may seem surprising that I’d be able to stay calm and unstressed under those circumstances. It was surprising to me, too, in a way, but I did. I can’t always predict how I’m going to react in stressful situations like that, and I would probably be likely to fall apart, except different parts of me — parts that can handle the stress — take over, and it turns out okay, after all.

It’s almost like playing a game of pretend or make-believe, except it’s not pretending. It just becomes who I am. I become someone — a collection of someones, really — who isn’t bothered by the lab coats, who isn’t bothered by the instruments on rolling tables, who isn’t bothered by the look of the tiles and walls, and who isn’t bothered by strangers in funny caps and green scrubs or white lab coats making notations on their clipboards who have the power to take me places I do not want to go.

It doesn’t bother me at all. Those things bother someone else — a someone else that I am not at that moment. The anxiety I feel over having to be in a hospital, or around doctors or nurses, is either expressed earlier (in this case, on Monday, when I had a horrible anxiety attack and argued with my husband), or sometime later.

Is my anxiety in hospital settings or around doctors unnecessary? Am I simply being paranoid?

Some people might think so (especially ex-family members and past friends who think they know me, but actually know absolutely nothing about me), but for me, it’s not paranoia. It’s been my reality.

I remember things that happened to me in hospitals and in hospital-type settings when I was a child, and they weren’t nice things. They weren’t normal not-nice-things that often happen in hospitals, but they were things that happened in certain rooms down the halls of the hospital that only a select few walked. Those “not-nice things” that I was forced into against my will by people in scrubs and lab coats who scribbled on clipboards and asked me questions and gave me orders and took me places and did things to me against my will; things that I sometimes, even now, have a hard time believing happened to me and why they happened, and I hardly expect other people to believe it, too, which is why I haven’t talked a lot about it.

(And that sad statement pretty much sums up the totality of my life’s experiences: I hardly expect people to believe it, so I haven’t talked a lot about it. Boy… there’s a whole other blog post waiting to be written from that one sentence. Maybe even a whole book that could be written…!)

Anyway…

Even as an adult, events have taken place that have given me even more reason to believe that my fear over doctors, hospitals, and hospital-type settings is very rational indeed, even if no one understands it. These are things that have simply reinforced my fear of hospitals and hospital settings and doctors and nurses and the like.

For example…

The last time I had an anxiety attack related to a hospital setting was several years ago when we brought one of our sons to the hospital. The entire situation was already stressful to the extreme for all of us, but I had dared to ask for more information concerning the medication they had said my son needed. I wanted to know what the expected result was and what any side effects were, including temporary and long-term effects. Given the nature of our visit, I thought it was a very reasonable request, but the nurses said they didn’t know the answer to those questions. The doctor wasn’t available that afternoon to talk to me (so they said), so I asked if he could call me the next morning. The nurses seemed perfectly fine with my request and seemed happy to accommodate, and I had no indication that there was any problem. (And I’m usually very good at picking up on negative energy from people that indicates there is some type of problem. As a survivor of child abuse, that ability was perfected early on.)

But the next morning, I had a very angry doctor on the telephone who, in spite of evidence to the contrary, kept insisting that I was refusing to allow my son to have the medication that he needed. He was furious at me, and kept talking over me, and I started having a panic attack. He then started berating and taunting me, saying that I was a horrible mother, and that he’d see me in the hospital, too, within a year, because I was crazy (his exact words). Then he told me he was going before the judge, getting my rights as a parent waived, and having my son involuntarily admitted to the hospital.

And that’s just what the sorry bastard did.

Of course, when I went before the judge myself a few days later, I did that interesting little thing that “crazy” folks like me can do: I became someone who wasn’t bothered by the nurses and the doctors and the lawyers and the judge who had the power to take my son away from me, and me away from my son, and lock us both away against our will. I became someone who was calm and spoke rationally and succinctly; someone who smiled at the right time, but not too often; a person who offered casual, politely disinterested laughs at the attorneys’ stupid inside jokes before the procedure started; someone who knew just what to say and how to say it; how to walk and stand and sit; how to hold her shoulders and her hands and her head and her mouth; how to look serious but not scared, how to look relaxed but not flippant, how to appear demure but not a doormat, how to exude confidence but not cockiness. And the person that I became made the doctor look like the jackass that he was, and the judge, frustrated that his time was being wasted with such a ridiculous case (his words, not mine, because to me, it was terrifying, not ridiculous!), ruled in the favor of my son and myself, and I walked out the way I walked in: calm, rational, confident.

But I can’t describe the terror that was simmering just below the surface as I sat there before the judge, calm and cool and collected, looking like just another privileged white woman in heels and a stylish dress

(the only dress I had at the time that fit me)

and tastefully manicured hands

(I had bitten all my nails off the night before so I had slopped on some old nail polish that morning to hide the ragged edges)

making casual conversation with old family friends, playing the part of a privileged insider, as if the very life of her son didn’t depend upon saying the right thing and doing the right thing and looking the right way.

Just writing about that entire ordeal gives me anxiety now, even after all these years, and so, until my husband’s hospital visit yesterday, that was the last time I remember being in a hospital. 

But it’s good to know that I can still change into the person I need to be in order to deal with situations like that.

To some people, changing into a different person is crazy.

For me, it’s survival.


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2 comments

  1. Loren. If you say bad things happned to you at hospitals, I believe you. I also know that you aren’t crazy. It is absolutely acceptable to want to know exactly what meds your child is to take. That doctor was straight up NUTS. I love that you are able to take on a persona to cope with situations. I have never been abused ritually or otherwise and I do this. I am work me, home me, wife me, funny me, cope with anything me and then the real me.. etc. Like I am acting a part. Whatever gets it done is just fine with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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