Getting the right kind of attention.

I have a couple seemingly random topics that may not be as disparate as I first thought. These are both part of how I’m processing my recent health crisis. And I don’t know if this is normal, but now my physical issues are somewhat resolved, I am grappling with the emotional side of recovery. My propensity to be teary drove me back to work for a couple days this week, just to keep my mind busy. I don’t  like being on the verge of tears. Expressing emotion goes against my upbringing.

The two thoughts are the shame of bringing attention to myself and the power of friendship. The first is an unspoken rule I learned early on — let others take the limelight. Be content with seats in the back row. Life is about staying quiet,  blending in and not drawing undue attention to yourself. Well, this is something I’ve struggled with. At first, I literally took centre stage in theatre productions, singing and dancing with no training whatsoever. But I did okay during those teenage years in the spotlight. My parents nodded their approval. Nothing more. That was just their way.

Later in life, I worked at the very newspaper that they’d subscribed to for many years. It was my name on those front-page stories. But still, the stories were about other people, so my involvement as a facilitator was deemed to be okay. I even wrote a few columns about life on my hobby farm, but that too was allowed since I was writing about my animals. I’m not sure how my folks would react to my blogging. Many people hold off on writing about their lives until their parents are gone. It’s only then that a clear reflection can occur, one untainted by shame and criticism.

So back to last weekend, when I got suddenly ill with ketoacidosis, a debilitating complication from diabetes. I thought of calling an ambulance, but didn’t want to draw attention in the close-knit seniors development where I live. I struggled with calling for help from others. I ended up texting Kim to come join me as I waited for treatment. She got there as I was called to the triage nurses. She waited with me for the next few hours, comforting me with pats on the back. We did Wordle. We watched others. My mouth was parched so she got me a pop. Then I ran to the bathroom to throw up in the toilet. I threw up again (into a barf bag) as they got me to an ER bed. Kim kept money in the meter so my parking time never ran out, then she moved my car off site. Later, she and her husband returned my car to my driveway. Kim got in touch with my neighbour Marg and the two of them coordinated care of my dogs. All the while, Kim texted me to check in on my status. I felt guilty about needing so much help until I realized that this is what friends do. I would certainly drop everything to help a friend in need — why can’t I accept help from others?

Sometimes life thrusts you into the spotlight. I was so ill, I just had to let the medical people do what they are trained to do. I felt the frustration of the guy using ultrasound to search out veins, and finding none. I tried not to wince at the repeating poking of needles. I lay still as I could while they stitched IV tubes into the femoral vein in my neck.

When the doctor came to see me I felt he understood why I’d managed my diabetes the way I had. He made sure I understood it was new medication that made me ill and it was not my fault. Still, he made it clear that I need to take long-acting insulin. “Everything else is secondary,” he said.

His manner was so comforting, I yearned for him to come back. The next day, he did. He talked a language I understood. He said, “In the 24 hours I’ve known you, I have to say that for someone diagnosed with diabetes for 20 years, you’re doing remarkably well. But you need insulin to stay alive.”

I was transferred to the main hospital for my third night. But the same doctor from intensive care had blood tests drawn so he could check my progress. I felt comfort in his continuing care. The hospitalist would have kept me for another night but I was determined to come home. I needed a break from the hospital. I wanted to come home to my dogs. I knew Kim needed to get back to her own life. More than anything, I just wanted to go back to a life where I don’t draw attention from anyone. Being in the spotlight for days is draining.

So those two thoughts are connected. Friends do follow you into the spotlight when that’s where you have to be. They don’t want you to feel guilty for needing attention. They worry about you when you’re sick. They care. And they know that I would do exactly the same thing for them, if they ever needed it. I’d hang out at the hospital and walk their dogs. I’d be there.

Learning to accept the spotlight and the support of others is a big deal.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: