‘That doesn’t sound like a good week. But you go to hospital a lot. You must be used to it by now.’
Yes and no. This post is a continuation of ‘Phrases I Wish People Wouldn’t Say’ in some ways. You get used to set meal times and drugs rounds; ward rounds and reviews; which HCPs can authorise/do different tasks; obs times; what to expect test and X-ray wise; being stabbed with cannula; having to work out how to do things like washing and going to the toilet; waiting for visitors and then feeling sad when they leave; what to expect from hospital TV; working out when to sit in your chair based on when you want to charge your phone so you can keep talking to people because the cable won’t reach the bed; reading between the lines of what doctors say; listening to doctors visiting other patients because you can’t help but overhear; not having much privacy; looking forward to coffee/tea time because it’s someone else to interact with; working out when to wash so as not to miss meds or ward rounds; having to stay up to make sure you get your evening meds but then not being able to sleep because the elderly are sundowning and are distressed; asking for things just before handover or waiting until after- never ask during; washing your hands regularly to avoid infection; lying on your bed but not actually getting in once it’s been made in the morning so you don’t feel as uncomfortable later; having to change or cancel plans because you’re in hospital; being forced to live by the hospital routine; losing your independence.
You don’t get used to being there. It still feels the same as the first time you’re hospitalised. You still feel anxious; worried; poorly; not sure of what’s going on; apprehensive; lonely; concerned. But, because you know what’s coming and you’ve been there before, you also feel resigned; angry; frustrated; like you’ve fallen back down the slippery slope you were climbing; like you’ve ‘messed up’; depressed; demoralised; disappointed; like you’re to blame; resentful; guilty; apprehensive; upset. And, because people assume you’re ‘used to it’, you can feel isolated; pushed to one side; desperate for other people to understand – you learn who your real friends are.
You get used to what to expect, but that makes it worse sometimes because you remember any bad experiences you’ve had in the past and are praying they won’t be repeated. You remember what you felt like last time. You dread when you’re discharged, because that’s when the hard work begins to get back to where you literally just were, knowing it’ll take weeks/months.
But it’s ok, you say I’m ‘used to it’ and brush it off like it’s being stuck in traffic. That because it happens so often, I mustn’t have any feelings about it. Remember this: Whatever you’d feel if you were in hospital is likely what I feel like every time too, but with a lot more complex feelings added in. What would you like to hear if it were you saying you’d been to hospital?
I might ‘get used to it’ and be able to deal with it, but that’s completely different to being ‘OK’ with it.