After a week of painful gastro-intesinal issues, a major spinal surgery, and a failed discharge attempt, I found myself listlessly lying in my hospital bed. A new nurse walked in wanting to start yet another IV, only necessary because I was staying an extra day than expected. As a lukewarm fan of needles, I tend to channel my energy into a song on repeat whenever I am going to be poked and prodded, and I needed my Airpods which were just out of reach. And so like always, when something has been out of reach, I ask the nearest person to help me, so I don’t strain my newly fragile, healing body. The woman saw me straining, almost grazing the AirPods and asked, you can’t reach them? “I think I can, I replied.” But I don’t want to bend to get them and hurt myself.” She paused, evaluating the truth in my answer, and slowly moved around the table to get the AirPods. She coldly placed them in my hand and nonchalantly noted, “you should seek to be independent after surgery.”
My vision went black as hot, angry tears streamed down my face. This woman (I’ll spare using another word) had no idea who I was, had no idea where I had come from, had no idea the series of events that led me to that hospital bed and yet she was telling me to be more independent. She hadn’t seen how quickly I had started walking and the balance I had regained after having four rods and sets of screws fused into my back to stop it from collapsing as it had been doing for the past two weeks. She had no idea how my independence had been weaponized against me by someone incredibly close to me for the past year and painfully whittled down during that time. Then, just as I was refinding myself, relearning what healthy independence and sense of self looked like, I fell off a mountain and fell into a state of severe dependency, unable to shower or go to the bathroom myself. And the agonizing irony of it enveloped every inch of my body and every movement I struggled to perform. Her piercing words, which I’m sure were well-meaning, kept drifting back to me, you should always seek to be independent.
I’m choosing to reject them. This path of healing quite literally requires hand-held assistance. Although my lack of independence at the current moment sucks, it is helping me heal in a way that feels safe and provides me with the physical and emotional support that I need. It is allowing me to take my time as I reach for the life I once knew. An independent healing journey would leave me deep within the throes of depression, straining my body and mind just to achieve daily tasks. And that doesn’t seem worth it, when I know the privilege I have to be able to have such support. In my rejection of independence, I’m leaning more into understanding myself in relation to others, into taking my time to get to where I want to be, and allowing others to help me on that journey. The journey alone may be fast, but the journey together is far.