Recently my therapist has told me
Its my right – and my responsibility – to speak up when im hurting
So that things can get better
But remember that one time when I was sick with a blood infection and parasite in cusco, peru, and nobody I knew was in the country? Maisie had just left and in my week alone I wanted to trek the famous inca trail, see the andes up close and beat that high altitude with solitude and epiphanies. Instead I got my poor bloated vomiting self out of the hostel bed, to the bathroom, off the floor, into a taxi, and to the hospital. I stayed for three days.
I think that’s what survival looks like.
It’s a good story in the way that travel stories are, just daring and dangerous enough to elicit some gasps and gapes and wonder: I had to go to the hospital in peru, by myself! I had a terribly dangerous infection, but I’m fine now! (told three days after leaving the hospital when im in lima, drinking and partying for st patricks day, having checked that my antibiotics are safe to consume with liquor). But when I make the jokes about the view from hospital room being nicer than the one from my hostel and that maybe I picked up my parasite in the Amazon river, nobody sees how
because I can tell you how excruciating the IV felt going into the dehydrated vein when I hadn’t drank water for two days, I can describe how watching the blood curl in and out of my hand in the little tube made me feel insane, how I had to give blood samples and stool samples and urine samples that sat in humiliating cups next to my bed, how they drew blood from my artery and I couldn’t sleep for the pulsating radiating pain, but you don’t know, really, what that was like – you weren’t there –
because nobody was.
one night i tried to hobble out to ask for pain meds from the front desk, my missing-one-wheel IV precariously staggering next to me, just two semi-functioning things doing their best to move thirty feet. When the doctor said they would send someone back – but they never did – I decided for the first time that I wanted to go home. Really home. United States home.
I wanted my mom and my cat and my bed, or at least a friendly acquaintance to say, “hey, it’ll be ok” – and for the first time I was feeling like maybe I couldnt do this all by myself.
See, something about a trip abroad lies in the appeal of ‘finding yourself’ and ‘becoming who youre meant to be’ and I love a good clichéd platitude as much as the next traveler. Well, it turns out you really find out what you’re made of when you’re having all over body chills and nausea and you have to hail a f*cking taxi off the street by yourself as a woman to an address you’ve never been to before and hope to god that it’s a verified one and you won’t get robbed when you are too weak to get yourself out of a bad situation. But i did it, and then – and then! – heres where I find out who I am: when we pull up to the hospital, thankfully safe and sound, the front desk directs me up to the tourist, English-speaking floor, floor 6, and I don’t take the elevator.
Yup, I walk up the six flights of stairs.
So im choking for breath trudging up each flight because my throat is all dry from not drinking water and then I think about that, and the truth is that I haven’t been drinking water because I don’t want to buy water bottles that’ll put more plastic in landfills here, and so once my filter stopped working ive just been…not drinking anything
im really testing the limits of my human capabilities
And ill have you know, too, that the day before the hospital trip, still feeling about this level of terrible, I talked myself into going for a walk to plaza san blas, the hippie free-spirit square, to get some breakfast. I make it there, order an egg scramble (an incredible Americanized indulgence) eat half, feel sick, and throw away the rest. On the walk back to my hostel, I sit down dizzy on a bench trying to get the energy to make it back to the hostel. Once im there, I go to bed at about 6 PM.
But my journal entry from that day reads:
“I go to san blas and write. I try to eat eggs and they disgust me after a point. Theres a quiet calmness that is really what I need and who I am. It’s such a beautiful, healing day”
Luckily, my friends I am texting tell me vehemently
‘go to the goddamn doctor’
When I was laying in that hospital bed thinking maybe, just maybe, I should and could go back to the states, I had to tell myself – that’s not giving up – that’s not being weak or a quitter – I just I could really use someone and some support right now because, like, this hurts.
Do you see it takes a lot – like semi-critical dehydration, a three-day hospital stay, and a double blood infection and parasite – for me to say I need help?
See, ive been trying to explain this to mary anne the helpful therapist
Why its difficult for me to not just say when things are hard
I don’t know if its my ego or my endurance or my bravery or my stubborn-headed-ness
(or a good mix of all those things)
Shes still figuring it out.