(continued from "All the King's Horses")
When I was in high school one of my biggest heroes was Charlie Chaplin. Although he was a man of questionable morals, what I loved about him was that he was a "jack-of-all-trades" in the entertainment industry. He wrote, directed, and even composed music for most of the movies he starred in. One song that he is credited for composing is the famous song "Smile" from the movie Modern Times.
Long after the hospital experience I have been sharing with you was over, I found myself on an orange couch in front of a nice therapist named Paula. I started visiting her my junior year of high school and in one of our sessions I brought up some of these stories. I brought them up how I always bring them up - in an oddly casual fashion. I can see now that I had and still have a great disconnect in regards to this time period - a defense mechanism I am sure. I told her that for some reason I had a real desire to share these stories with people, but that no one seemed to want to listen for very long. I could tell it made them uncomfortable and I don't like people to feel uncomfortable. So I'd tell a little bit and then stop.
Now anyone who knows me well knows that the way I process through my emotions is by talking. So now that I think about it, it's really not surprising that I have unresolved feelings about my medical experiences if I have not, until now, really shared them with anyone. Once again I am crying. I am just so thankful for you, my faithful readers. Thank you so much for caring about me and my story. Many people have told me that they've learned a lot about me through my blog. But the truth is I've learned a lot about me through this blog. And I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for helping me through this healing experience.
So I told Paula that I had some videos of me in the hospital that no one else had the desire to watch with me. I was so happy when she said she wanted to watch them. I brought them on my next visit and between sessions she watched them both. As we discussed what she had seen, she offered me her biggest observation: I was always smiling.
The pictures above are of the various devices that were used in the attempt to reinflate my lungs. The first being a tube up my nose. The second an oxygen misting device. The third is a bi-pap, providing positive pressure to my lungs. And last, the iron lung - something straight out of a sci-fi story. But no matter what I was dealing with; no matter if I was uncomfortable, hurting, scared; if a nurse, respiratory therapist, physical therapist, family member or anyone with a camera said, "Smile, Alicia!" I did. I would turn off all other feelings and smile. I remember one RT who would always say "Where's that beautiful smile?" and I'd deliver every time.
They tried to keep me happy all the time. And why wouldn't they? Who wants to see a little girl sad or in pain? But never once do I remember anyone asking me how I was feeling. How I was dealing with everything that was happening. During my most recent hospital stay I had a chaplain visit me almost every day to help me sort through things. Where was my chaplain then? Where was Paula then? Instead I had stuffed animals, a TV with VCR, a few cable channels, a couple cassette tapes - pacifiers for a big baby.
Anything to avoid the pain and anxiety.
But, heck, if someone had bothered to ask me how I was doing I probably would have said I was okay. I probably would have shut down and told them what I knew they wanted to hear.
And then I would have smiled.
SMILE by Charlie Chaplain
tho'your heart is aching,
Even though it's breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky- You'll get by,
Smile through your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through- For you.
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide ev'ry trace of sadness,
Altho' a tear may be ever so near,
That's the time you must keep on trying,
Smile- What's the use of crying,
You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.
(to be continued)