As I type this, I am sitting in the ICU waiting room at [the best] hospital in Dallas. This is day 14 of being in this situation. Usually I don’t mind waiting, patience is something our “instant gratification” based society is no longer trained to appreciate. But when the thing you are waiting for is a prognosis on someone who means the world to you, waiting becomes hard to endure. So what do you do? Is it OK to start watching videos on-line? Can I check on and post on Facebook? Can I leave and go see a movie? What does my presence in the waiting room do for my loved one who is being poked, prodded, and observed? Why did I go to law school instead of medical school? The answer to that last question is Chemistry; Stoichiometry is the devil’s math.
The thing about hospital waiting rooms, and especially ICU waiting rooms, the mood is somber. One minute there is a family in the corner crying, the next, my family walks in with enough food to feed an army and we get loud talking about anything and everything but the reason why we are all gathered there. Because apparently the best way to combat forced waiting is putting off (waiting) thinking about it. Irony, at its best. One day, when this (possibly the worst period of my adult life) is over, I will write more in-depth about this topic (again…waiting, but I need distance from it to give it a proper examination); but for now, I want to give you some tips to help you if you find yourself in this position. These may or may not be generally applicable to everyday life. If they are, be on the look-out for a self-help book and speaking tour. If they aren’t, leave your coping mechanisms in the comments or on our Facebook Page.
Tip #1: Do not get bogged down in negative thinking
This is the hardest thing to do, so you should try mastering it first. Do not think about things like preparing for a funeral, where relatives will sleep when they come in, visit the funeral home. All of which are things I did last week. All of which I regret doing. Concentrate on the here and now and take things one step at a time. You will go crazy otherwise.
Tip #2: Call the Posse
Sanity often hangs by a thread in these situations. In my case, my thread is made of titanium and coated in diamond dust, even so, it was in danger of snapping. So I texted my friends; and they texted back words of encouragement, prayed, sent videos, brought food and allowed me to lean on them. I will forever be grateful for this support because it kept me strong enough so my family could lean on me. I have said this time and time again on this very blog, but having a tight circle of friends should be part of your self-care routine. I honestly, don’t know where I would be mentally or emotionally without these people. So if you are reading this and you have been shoulder to shoulder with me and my family during this time, I do not even know where to begin to thank you. I hope you NEVER experience this, but know if you do, I will be there. Whether you want me to or not.
Tip #3: Count to Ten
Hey in case you couldn’t have guessed it, sometimes people in a waiting room are like crabs in a barrel…or if you’re my family, crabs in a pressure cooker. Hey, we are passionate and stubborn people! Is your sister repeating that story again? Is your mother not taking care of herself? Is your brother visibly anxious? Well welcome to the hellish side of waiting. There was one day last week where things exploded (as pressure cookers do when the steam isn’t released regularly). If you have the ability to see the blow-up coming, do everything to calm yourself down. Tensions are high and positive energy is needed, just let it go…for now. I’m not saying let that one nosy aunt run roughshod over everyone unchecked. I’m saying, pick your battles. And remember, you aren’t the only one who is going through something or in mourning, so don’t try and claim the pain as yours alone.
Tip #4: It is OK to Indulge in distractions
You have permission to check Facebook, to text your crush, to write your blog entries, go to a barbecue, and workout (among other things). If it is part of what you need to feel refreshed, keep the sanity, and gain perspective, do it in moderation. Do not read WebMd, do not talk to negative people, do not leave without giving other people the opportunity to do the same. And if you are the type who does not like to leave or the guilt is overwhelming to you, do not judge others who are not like that. Just communicate what you need and why you need it, your loved ones will understand. Guilt on top of negativity on top of worry smells like the recipe for a heart attack to me. Mmmm…angina in the morning.
Tip #5: Take Care of Yourself
People will bring you food. Lots of food. You will be sedentary. Your body will be under stress. Take your meds, go to work if you have to, maintain your fitness levels, sleep when you can (in your own bed if you can), and don’t forget to HYDRATE. If you aren’t paying attention, you could come out 10 lbs heavier than when this ordeal started. And who wants to deal with pants you have to jump into and hold your breath to button on top of this stress?
Tip #6: Express Gratitude
Thank the people who call you, thank the people who cook for you, thank the people who are praying for you, thank the people who check on you, thank the people who visit, thank the people who are supporting you. These are the people who share your vested interest: the wellness of your loved one. If you didn’t know who was in your corner prior to having to spend time in a waiting room, you know now. And these are the people who do for you because you would do the same for them. So express gratitude, don’t get tired of saying thank you (even if they may get tired of hearing it).
Things Keeping Me Sane This Week: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. There is a Korean rap group I love (don’t you dare judge me) called MFBTY – it stands for My Friends are Better Than Yours. How do I tell this group, that I claim that distinction? I love you guys. Seriously. Thanks for all you do. Thanks for putting up with my roller-coaster texts and putting aside your own issues to help me with mine. I will repay your kindness.
PS – Yes, I did paint that image in the photo
PPS – Yes, I know how to write my name in Korean (Hangul)