The morbid business of recovery

Monday, November 20, 2017 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

I feel like an empty house. No, not empty; looted. Ravaged by thieves, with tables upended; curtains ripped. Misspelled graffiti on the walls.

blood extractionFour tubes of my blood stayed on my bed as the medical technician tinkered with his kit. Blood extraction wasn’t hard; inserting a peripheral line was – my veins had collapsed after I vomited bile several times and went on to have watery stools 20 times a day.

A week ago, I was finally sent home by my doctors after ten days in the hospital – ten days that would become some of the longest in my life. After working on a tentative diagnosis, my doctors finally saw me fit to go home and heal there.

But recovery is slow. Peaceful, if you ignore the occasional text messages reminding you of the work you’ve left behind, but slow. And painful.


Permission to heal

It seems I have regressed to a former self, one that prefers to curl up in a corner. I devour books with an emotional hunger that cannot be sated. (You have any good ones? Send them over; I’m seriously famished.) Words swim in my mind, hoping to find themselves on paper, willing me to find the energy to jot them down. My fingers still tremble as I give in, still weak from a sickness that drained me of vital fluids and salts (and more), but that scrappy little thing in my chest continues to beat steadily, driving me forward, telling me I have much to do before my flame is extinguished from this beautiful, temporary world.

I’m healing, but it will take a long time before I become the me that the world and I have become familiar with. My sickness has taken away a big chunk of me, leaving in its wake a gaping emptiness that, like any vacuum, craves to be filled. Ergo, the books. Why exactly these books are what I need, I can probably blame on my inherent introversion.

I have retreated into my own mind – not too far to be out of touch, but far enough to be mulling things over with a morbid sobriety bereft of any laughter. My usual acerbic sense of humor tickles the edges of my mind, but it’s not welcome yet.

I feel like a house that needs more than just new furniture. I need a major overhaul: new walls, new windows, new paint job. My foundation stands firm, but so much of me has been taken away that what remains is a promising DIY project at best.

At worst, it’s a potential haunted house. Then again, I’m a Stephen King fan, so why worry?

The wheels in my mind creak as they struggle to turn in their rusted axles, not having found enough momentum to move in their usual rhythm. And their usual rhythm is at breakneck speed. Everything is agonizingly slow and hazy, like a chilly December night with expected heavy fog.

My mind suffers the most, and it knows this.

At least I’m writing again. And I share this with you, painstakingly, with heavy eyelids that tell me I’ll be snoring in my sleep from the effort it took to write this, because I know I’m healing and I want to show you the ugly, private things that happen to me and to my mind during my convalescence. I do not want to be positive if it means I have to be fake.

More importantly, I want to show you how after illness steals from you like looters helping themselves to the best your cushy home has to offer, you always, always have the option to “renovate”.

I’m not yet back, but I will be. This scrappy, steady, beating thing in my chest tells me this with certainty.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!