I woke up feeling poorly the last Sunday of July and ended up in the local InstaCare. What resulted from that visit became a month-long adventure learning lessons from a kidney stone I named Gladys.
The Reign of Gladys
To be fair, I left the first visit to the InstaCare with a prescription for antibiotics and a UTI diagnosis — even though I was more than certain I didn’t have a UTI. I’ve been around the UTI block several times and nothing I felt resembled anything close to one, but I try to trust health care providers on the most part even when they look at me dubiously when I tell them “I don’t feel UTI-ish. I know there is something else wrong with me.” My primary care provider is amazing in trusting my instincts when it comes to my body and he listens to me when I tell him I know there is something wrong, so I recognize I probably sound like a lunatic to other doctors when I say the same. Even though I shouldn’t. All doctors should trust their patients. Two days later I returned to the InstaCare in severe pain and thankfully the doctor on call agreed it didn’t sound like a UTI at all but actually a kidney stone which was confirmed by a x-ray.
I don’t intend on giving the itinerary of my kidney stone, I promise. Nobody needs to experience that sort of narrative, least of all me. I lived it.
Gladys lived with me for a month and I didn’t grow to love her. She caused me so much intense pain that my second trip to the emergency room landed me in surgery to remove her and overnight observation. I am still recovering from all the damage she has caused to my body, not to mention all the blood I lost from her long stay. Because of Gladys I am now part of the 9% of other adults in this country who have lived through the horrific pain of a kidney stone, and I’m not entirely thrilled about the membership.
I have been lucky in terms of my physical health. Sure, I have had a few quirky things here and there, but on the most part I can say that I am blessed with good health. I can say though that there were some lessons I learned during my kidney stone’s Reign of Terror:
I recognize that my pain is not worse or better than any other person and I would not have the audacity to attempt ranking my pain as worse than childbirth or easier than amputation. My pain is merely what it is, the pain I happen to be experiencing at that moment. It might not even be the same pain as another person’s kidney stone. This is why whenever I posted about it on Facebook I tried to have a good sense of humor about it. Yet, when people would message or call me only to compare their own pain to mine, or to dismiss my pain by saying “at least…” I don’t know how to respond to that other than a genuine “I’m sorry.” And I am sorry — nobody should have to experience physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. At the same time, though, it is okay to leave comparisons out of the equation entirely when calling someone who is in pain and simply say, “I am so sorry you are suffering right now” and then talk about other things.
I know people have wonderful intentions. They truly do. But I can assure you that when I was living with Gladys I already knew that I should be drinking lots of water, cranberry juice, and even beet juice. Helpful Hannahs are wonderful people! Because of them I know where to buy cranberry extract supplements in a 25 mile radius. I appreciate all of these reminders. I promise you I received all of these instructions from my primary care doctor and my mother. In fact, I heard them from my mother every single day! I hope I do not sound ungrateful to these gracious individuals who truly wanted to be helpful to me because I am not. It is so hard to see a friend or loved one suffering and not really know what to do or how to help. I’ve learned from this experience that it is not only great to give these reminders and helpful pieces of advice, but to also go a bit further and drop off a bottle of cranberry juice or extract supplements. My husband had so much on his hands this last month taking care of our 4-year-old and getting our 14-year-old ready for school, plus getting himself ready to go back to work for the school year. Running to the store for cranberry juice was last on his priority list. As it should have been.
Now that Gladys is gone and I’m expected to recover in the next couple weeks, I know have to pick up the wreckage. Physical pain is tangible and something that people readily understand. They see physical pain and it easily translates into something that can be “fixed”. But what happens after the physical pain is fixed and the depression sets in? Because of being sick with Gladys I haven’t been out of the house too much and I find myself slipping into comfortable agoraphobic habits. Recovery is slower than I want it to be and I grow impatient with myself, which feeds my depression. My home is disaster zone because the mama was down for a month and it shows — I’m overwhelmed. When a person — me — is mentally ill and is recovering from being physically ill, the results can be disastrous. I can be a disaster. I don’t want to be a willing disaster.
So now? Now all I can do is finish recovering from Gladys which involves having a stent in place until the beginning of September. I must first be patient and kind with myself, and then — as always — continue getting out of bed in the morning. After that, we’ll see.