Saturday, November 25, 2006

Post #6: Maintaining Me in the Midst of a Meltdown

[Almost done! If you're jumping in in the middle of the series, we started with Post #1 and you can follow the links from there.]

As I said in an earlier post in this series, feeling as bad as I was for those last few days – or, more accurately, feeling as numb as I was for those last few days – felt very strange. It was just so unlike me, so unlike what I was used to experiencing. And when I was actually in the hospital, I had many moments where I had to look at myself and think, “Is this me? Is this what I’ve become?” But every once in a while, I had a moment where I remembered who I used to be when I was “on the outside,” and I thought, “Oh, right, that’s who I am.”

For one thing, my maternal instincts seemed to still be calling out to those around me. Once I decided to actually start speaking to the other patients, I quickly noticed a remarkable proportion of them were coming to me to talk about their problems. Especially my poor roommate, whose mother is just about the MEANEST woman on earth. I had to forcibly hold myself back from going over there, stepping between them, and saying, “Stop yelling at my roommate! She’s a good person and you’re not helping her by blaming her for all of this!” And poor D. was going through horrible uncertainty about her living situation, and she came to me in tears first to lay out her problems, then came to me later to celebrate when it looked like things were going to work out after all. But in those times, when I was taking care of the other patients in some way, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I remember how to be this person.”

There was also my continued attention to the more superficial side of life. We've already discussed the fashionable sleepwear ensemble I put together for myself, which really ought to be evidence enough. But if not, I can also hold up the fact that I made J. bring me new shirts because I didn't have enough shirts to match the pants he'd brought me, and I refused to wear anything that didn't match. And, even worse, as soon as he brought my flip-flops for me to wear around the ward, I realized how badly I needed a pedicure, and I immediately had him bring me everything to do my toes (though, as we've already established, this meant bringing me some contraband). Crazies or not, there was no way I was walking around with such obviously chipped polish on my toes. I know, it's silly and completely trivial, but it's soooo me.

I think, though, that the simultaneously best and worst moment of self-recognition came when I rediscovered my competitive nature. I compete and compare and measure myself up to others fairly regularly (which is probably why I'm such a comment whore - it's blogger rivalry). In occupational therapy one afternoon, we were playing Pictionary, and I was glad to see that everyone quickly acknowledged my vast superiority in the fields of both drawing and guessing. I was just sitting there, looking around at the other inmates - did I say inmates? I meant patients - and thinking, "I’m sooo much better at Pictionary than you." But that’s pretty normal, right? I mean, maybe it was a little mean, but I didn’t say it out loud, and it is a game, so competition makes sense.

Then one day we were in group therapy. We were doing an exercise on the board as a large group, sort of taking turns helping to talk through bits of the exercise and explain why we thought what we thought and etc. I was talking to the doctor about one section of it, relating it actually to some reading I’d done for a class about adolescent egocentrism, and the sorts of myths that arise from that (e.g. the imaginary audience). Then this other guy raised his hand and started talking about something completely unrelated that made no sense and was not helpful at all. And (here’s the awful part), completely without considering how much of an asshole I was being, I scoffed inwardly and thought, “I’m sooo much better at therapy than you.”

And then I shook my head, tsk’d myself, and thought, “That was horrible. I can’t believe I just thought that.”

And then I shrugged and thought, “Well, at least I remember how to be that person, too.”

In the next - and final! - post: What next?


Juka said...

Dude, I heard you OWNED that other guy in therapy the other week. I heard you were so good, it was like Trogdor burninating the peasants. And the THATCHED-ROOF COTTAGES!!!! THATCHED-ROOF COTTAGES!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

And in comes the "nature vs. nurture" debate. Are you competitive because your parents were/are (your mother being a widely acknowledged poor sport in certain arenas)? Or did all those "family game nights" (in addition to the publicly stated purpose of "togetherness") give birth to the habitual thoughts of who is better at what? There is no blame or guilt here. I am merely sitting here smiling at the memories of various evenings and I'm glad for every one.

Anonymous said...

I humbly (not!) ask (compete!) to join your (my) club of constant competers with (occasional) guilt.

Mom101 said...

Reading through these all at once has been an amazing journey. Wow. I'm impressed with how you're able to keep your humor and perspective in all this. It's funny how in just a week, you're suddenly speaking another language, learning new terms, perceiving everything differently. I bet when you go to really write this all out in the months to come when you have more perspective on it (thus, putting yourself en route to that coveted published writer position) it's going to rock.

Meanwhile, we could play a mean game of competitive Pictionary. Oh yeahhhh....

Anonymous said...

I had stopped reading but came by this weekend to find all of this! Sorry you are dealing with this. I am dealing with much of the same although I did not visit the hospital.

While I get the humor in your competitive nature, maybe this is one of the things that is making you crazy (no pun intended). I am VERY competitive and I have recently had to realize that I cannot be the best in everything. It makes me a bitch when I am so competitive.

Just something to think about....

Lara said...

justin - i TOTALLY owned him! you should have seen me and my bad-ass burninating self. :-P

mom - if by "certain arenas" you mean monopoly, then "poor sport" doesn't begin to cover it, miss i-throw-money-at-people-in-a-furious-rage. i say it's a combination of both, but i do miss those family game nights. it's a good thing we still play (and i still dominate and you're still a poor sport). ;)

kevin - oh man, you and tali and i (and anyone else who wants to join) should totally start having game nights. soooo awesome! i mean, we might not be able to be friends anymore, if the competition gets too intense, but it's a risk i'm willing to take. :-P

mom101 - yeah, i wondered at some point what it might be like for someone to go through and read the whole lot in one fell swoop. i'm sure someone else will at some point in the future, too. i appreciate your thoughts, and i agree that with more time and perspective, the story will only become more clear.

oh, and pictionary? you're so on...

momma to LG - welcome back! i haven't seen you around (commenting, anyway) in many months. sorry you had to come back to such a heavy topic, but we'll lighten up again soon. i'm sorry to hear you're experiencing similar problems. i realize i don't know you, but knowing from experience that sometimes talking to those who do know you can be tough, i'll just say that if you want to talk to a total stranger, i'm here, a willing ear.

Anonymous said...

I feel somewhat insensitive writing a comment about a grammatical error; nonetheless, to appease Miss OCD, the strict grammarian in my head:

I'm pretty sure you meant to write "e.g." rather than "i.e." in this post.

i.e. - id est, that is
e.g. - exempli gratis, for example

For more, see

-- A former Latin student (I'm too embarrassed to sign as I usually do)

Lara said...

anon - you don't know me very well if you don't know that i totally appreciate grammatical corrections. there are some areas in which they would probably be insensitive, but this really isn't one of them (and honestly, there are probably very few in my own writing, as i pride myself on having an excellent understanding of grammatical concepts). sometimes i misuse grammar purposefully, for an intended effect. this, however, was not one of those times, so i much appreciate the correction. i never really learned the proper distinction between "i.e." and "e.g." so i'm glad to finally know. so thanks - am making the correction right now! :)