I walked into the Emergency Room lobby for the third time in six months, knowing full well they could not help me. But it calmed my racing mind just simply to be in the halls of the hospital. It was an ironic place to seek comfort – surrounded by pain – but oddly it felt cathartic to share my suffering. All I knew at that moment was I could not survive the night alone in bed in my current state of hysteria. There is power in commiseration which can lift our spirits.
As the doctors conducted the familiar diagnostic tests, I felt safe in the hands of these professionals despite the overwhelming sense they could not help me. They admirably went through a checklist of questions, as they did in my previous two visits here, trying to diagnose my symptoms. It would remain a mystery to them, just as it had to the numerous specialists I consulted between ER visits, as to why my upper left arm would flare up with excruciating pain. But I felt if I was near death, or on the verge of collapse, I was right where I needed to be which gave me great comfort. Just being surrounded by medicine and life support machines provided relief. All the pulsing, beeping, dripping activity assured me I was protected from harm. I could feel my panic dissipating and this emotional reaction in my mind soothed me. I was aware of my breathing, which slowed considerably, and felt a sense of calm. My fear was gone and swept away all my anxiety. I was present in the moment, content with where I was in the comfort of the hospital and now simply just had to be. If this army of doctors and high tech equipment could not save me now, then surely my time had come and was now at peace with that realization.
Precisely at that moment is when I became fully aware that my arm pain disappeared. I could no longer feel any pain! The doctors carried on with their probing, oblivious to the miracle generating in my mind, as they continued checking off a list to diagnose my symptoms. I was in some eerie moment of Zen, blissfully free of my suffering. I don’t need to be here, I thought, my arm feels fine. Now I felt like a fraud, embarrassed to be taking their valuable time. But I continued to answer their questions, only now I was responding from memory of how it felt to be writhing in pain. My mind was whirling inside, thrilled to be free of any symptoms but simultaneously conjuring up how I felt just a few short minutes ago in order to accurately report it to the ER Team. As I continued to share my pain -with the severity and drama I felt it deserved when I entered the hospital – my mind refocused and attached to the reasons I was here. My arm flared up again. A rush of contradictions flooded me again, as I was relieved to feel the pain return in order to genuinely articulate it but deeply saddened to return to this state of suffering.
As I waited for the results of the tests, I stared up at the fluorescent lighting of the bare ceiling in my lonely hospital room and wondered….what just happened?