“Have you gone to the bathroom??”
It was a typical teenaged day. I got up, took a shower and got dressed for school. My side was hurting but it was a dull pain, although I couldn’t stand up straight. It was bad enough that I told my mom about it.
She asked me if I had gone to the bathroom.
Side note: this was my mom’s typical response to health-type questions. Almost nothing stopped us from going to school. The only time I can remember stay home from school, I was a junior or senior in high school. I pretended to throw up in the bathroom and mom said “you don’t sound good, why don’t you stay home.” Ironically, I was staying home over a girl.
I said I had been to the bathroom in that voice teenagers use when they are mortified that their parents are asking questions that treat upon any subject that is considered intimate. I packed up and went to school.
I don’t remember much about that day except that I struggled through it. I do remember that when I got to health class, I was feeling really bad. I was sitting at my desk and pools of sweat were forming on my desk from my forehead.
The teacher finally noticed and told me to go to the nurse which was only one floor down.
She took one look at me and said “Oh no, you’re going home.”
Mom came and picked me up but I was surprised when we didn’t go home. I just wanted to rest! We headed to the emergency room.
It didn’t take long for them to diagnose me with appendicitis. This was my also my first experience with the invasive tests of a proctologist. Fun all around.
At some point, it was just my mom and I sitting there, waiting. She said, to herself:
“Where are we going to come up with a surgeon so quickly?”
I thought, “A surgeon? For what? Does someone need surgery?”
Finally, the thoughts connected and I realized it was more serious than I thought. I was scared.
I don’t remember much more except waking up with a huge bandage over my abdomen and learning that my appendix had burst in school. My guess is health class. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.
I still have the scar.
I usually tell this story to gently rib mom about going into nursing or about the challenges we had communicating when I was a teenager.
But I’ve recently been looking into the creation and evolution of my inner critical voice. The one that drives me to go further and faster and stronger. By the time this event happened, I think the voice was already there, telling me that I just needed to push through despite the fact that I physically couldn’t stand up. That voice still lives me my head. I’d like to say that it’s gotten more gentle over the years but I’m not sure that’s true. It’s been responsible for my success at work, completing two marathons and the house I own. But it also has prevented me from feeling joy at some of those accomplishments, continuously pushing to the next goal.
Awareness is the beginning of change so I have a chance to change it. I can choose to look at what drives me and set reasonable goals that I can celebrate when I reach them, not just push wearily on to the next thing.
If life is in the little spaces then, squeeze me in.
The root of all of this is my mind. It can be friend or foe.
I’m ready to make peace.