If you judge people, you have no time to love them- Mother Teresa
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
19th May 2020 – Another trip to the hospital, it was starting to feel like a second home, once what was a strange new place now had an air of familiarity about it. I strolled around the corridors knowing exactly where I was going and the staff in the clinic all knew me before I even needed to give my name. Today was a more dignified visit, the wounds were starting to close and it was considerably less painful when the bandages were removed, I could bare the nurse swabbing my hand without the usual cry from me, “get me the gas!!”
As I laid on the bed the nurse smiled at me and asked me if I had looked at it, which too be honest I still hadn’t, of course Id seen my hand wrapped in the bandages but actually in the flesh, no! Then she drops the bombshell on me, next week the bandages are coming off completely, so she strongly advised me to take a proper look. I hadn’t prepared for this, I known the day would come eventually but I felt I needed time to prepare. So gingerly I took a look, took a photo and laid back down, hmmmm, it wasn’t as bad as I thought but still to the people that knew me, family and friends alike my hand would be quite shocking. And this is the bit that worried me, I knew in time I would become familiar with my new look but showing it in public was a big hill to climb for me, the more I thought about it, the worse the anxiety became. To the untrained eye, my hand would be strange and attract the judging glances of strangers, I just wasn’t prepared for this yet. Physically I was healing but mentally I still had a mountain to climb.
The journey home was a couple of hours and I was quiet most of the way, my fiancee kept trying to strike up a conversation but she was drowned out by my inner monologue. She decided she wanted to stop at a local town on the way, as we arrived and pulled up outside of a shop, I had to make a quick decision. Under normal circumstances I would of jumped out of the car, ran in and done what I needed to do but today I was wracked with paranoia. I guess this was my first personal challenge, I got out of the car and took a deep breath and walked towards the store. Minutes later we were back, Id noticed the clerk take a glance down at my hand but that was it. I didn’t feel judged, as always I was overthinking the situation!
We decided to visit the supermarket before we left, this time I decided to stay in the car, Id had my excitement for the day and that’s when it happened. As I glanced around the carpark something caught my eye, it was strange, odd looking, I locked onto it and processed what I was seeing. There right in the middle of the car park was a fairly well built guy, shaved head and glasses, that’s not strange your thinking!, but this fella was wearing a rather fetching summer dress and ladies heels! For a few seconds I couldn’t look away and then my brain caught up and I smiled, what the hell was I doing. Twenty minutes earlier was I not worrying about being judged or stared at and here I was doing the exact same thing, what a hypocrite!!!!!!
I leaned back in the seat and smiled to myself, fair play to that guy I thought, he truly did not give one f*ck, that was his thing, he was comfortable with it and he didn’t care what anyone else thought. This was a good lesson for me, that was how I needed to be, just accept my hand as it was and not worry about anyone else’s opinion.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude – Maya Angelou
12th April 2020- As I laid on the stretcher, morphine coursing through my veins waiting to be wheeled into the operating theatre, I stared up at the hospital ceiling tiles paying no attention to the bleeping and hustle and bustle going on around me. Perhaps it was the morphine but my mind was incredibly calm, I had still not yet processed the full ramifications of my accident 6 hours prior, but there was a part of my mind that I think that had realised there was no going back, and so I had accepted in small part this was happening and I was helpless to influence my immediate situation.
I’m not wealthy financially by any means but in the past whenever or wherever I could I would choose to throw money at any problem in the hope it would solve it, but this accident brought home to me how utterly insignificant money was in a situation like this and how important your health is. At that precise moment, I thought to myself it didn’t matter if I had a one pound in my bank or if I was the richest man in the world, no amount of money could turn the clock back and undo the damage I had done to my left hand. I felt a small jolt as the stretcher began moving, I slowly lifted my head and there right next to me I saw the piece of my left hand with my thumb and two fingers still attached sat unceremoniously in a plastic container. It had only been 6 hours but the chunk of flesh and bone looked alien to me, my brain still hadn’t caught up and bizarrely I thought I could still feel all the fingers on my left hand. At this point I knew I wasn’t going to die but my life was sat firmly in the hands of the surgeons and nurses who were starting to swarm around me. This was by far the most humbling point of my life, I couldn’t run away from this, I couldn’t stick it in my top desk drawer and deal with it next week, I couldn’t talk my way out of it, this was happening now. The stretcher stopped moving and my heart rate began to rise, this was it, no going back now, from the side the anaesthetist appeared and they calmly spoke to me explaining what was happening, I slowly began counting down thinking nothing was happening and then within a matter of seconds I was gone.
Seven hours later, as fast as the anaesthetic had worked, I opened my eyes and felt like only a few seconds had passed. My first instinct was my left hand, I was laid down flat, so my brain tried to connect but there was no feeling. I strained to lift my head and I was just able to see my arm and then my heavily bandaged hand, I could just about see my little finger and the finger next to that but nothing else. Had the operation been a success? A nurse appeared and greeted me with a big smile, I was still a little groggy but had enough energy to question her if the operation had been successful. She said they had been able to reattach my fingers but they wouldn’t know if it was successful until tomorrow. Quite remarkably for me I was still incredibly calm, maybe this was just a dream and I would wake up any second , but there was no panic in my mind, no anxiety, it was just a surreal series of events. As I began to regain complete consciousness, I was moved to a ward to begin my recuperation, different faces appeared left and right and I made every effort to be as pleasant and welcoming as they were to me. I was naked other than my hospital gown, tubes and wires all over my body, my right arm had begun to bruise from all cannulas that had been inserted and this now was the most vulnerable I had ever felt since the day I had been born.
At 41 years old, prior to the accident I had spent most of my adult life chasing a dream or specifically money. I thought money would bring me happiness, contentment and fulfillment but in reality I was miserable. For the last 10 years I had been suffering ever increasing feelings of depression,anxiety and despair. I didn’t feel like my life had any direction, in fact I just felt like I had been going round in a circle and life was passing me by faster and faster. I was full of anger and resentment and had been systematically withdrawing from life, ghosting one friend after another, angry that none of them recognised how I was feeling. I always felt I was quite empathic and would reach out to those close to me if I felt they needed help, but when it was my turn I felt like I was on my own. I acknowledge I was part of the problem, people aren’t mind readers but the alpha male in me and my pride stopped me asking for help.
That be said I did seek help, a combination of professional assistance and self-medication but this was far away from the people who knew me and helped my ego to retain its pride and on the surface I was able retain some composure. For 10 years I guess you could say I lead two lives, I had mastered the art of projecting an image of a confident and happy person but in reality just under the skin I was deteriorating, gaining momentum year on year. From the age of 30, I tried acupuncture, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation,religion,life coaching, various forms of pharmaceutical medication and probably the least successful, alcohol. Some worked better than others, I went through a number of therapists and enjoyed small degrees of success which helped from a few days to a couple of weeks but nothing stuck. I think I had a stubborn element to my personality that actually refused to accept there was anything wrong with me at all, I was hell bent on pursuing the dream of being rich and thought this was the answer to all my problems.
I sat up in my hospital bed and began to stare intently at my left hand, I couldn’t see what was going on underneath the bandages but mentally I thought I could feel all my fingers, a small wave of hope washed over me. Despite the last ten years, there had been quite a few occasions where I had been lucky, times where I had almost worried myself to death or took a chance and it had paid off and there had been no need to worry in the first place. A few weeks prior to the accident I had read ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, I thought back to the book and hoped this my time for another piece of luck. In my capacitated state my mind was the only thing really working well for me, so I dug deep and imagined a healed hand, I thought of the feeling I would get as I left hospital in the future relieved that I had ridden my luck one more time. I imagined four fingers and a thumb, covered in scars but nonetheless a hand intact, for 24 hours this was all I thought about. I played out the conversation with the surgeon in my head over and over, everything was going to be ok. As I went to sleep that night, I was feeling hopeful, come the morning I just needed the dream to align with the reality and all this would be behind me and life could return to normal.