“The Woman in the Ward.”
By Stacy Pederson, Funny Motivational Speaker
I woke up to the familiar sounds of an IV and vitals machine, but the walls were different. It was my fourth time in the hospital. The infection came out of nowhere-once again.
I could tell I was on the ground floor because of the trees outside my window. I didn’t know it at the time, but those trees would be burned into my memory so clearly. On days when it snows here in Colorado, I often have flashbacks of the snow falling on those trees.
They told me the hospital was full on the regular floors. I was the sickest outside of ICU, so they had moved me to the cancer ward.
The room was bigger than I was used to with tasteful wallpaper and paint. It had a serene feel. Serene for a hospital cancer ward, anyway.
The nurses were different there. They were less scurried and more present. Present enough for one of them to hold my hand when I fell apart and cried. It felt like the illness was a constant roadblock that kept me from moving forward with my life.
I was wrong. The illness would be THE thing that would give me an actual life.
The first night fell and I was alone. It was 11:20 pm when I heard it for the first time. It started as a muffled cry, then suddenly a shout. Then a wave of uncontrollable sobbing. It was from a woman down the ward.
A male nurse came rushing in and apologized. “She does this every night,“ he explained. “We gave her some medicine. She’ll be asleep within twenty minutes.” Then he was gone.
I began to presently listen. It wasn’t a controlled cry or even sob. It was a wail. Long and loud and full of raw despair.
As I laid and listened, a growing sense of discomfort rose in me. I knew that cry. All the loss, confusion, hurt, fear…it was all in there. I knew that cry because I felt the same way. Only she gave had given it a voice.
I knew her because she was me. She was all of us. You. Me. The neighbor down the street. The person in the subway. She, you and I, are all the same inside.Click to tweet
The days stretched. My pain subsided slowly. My kids came to visit for a bit. They sat small and awkward in two chairs on the far side of the hospital bed. It started snowing. I watched the bands of flakes get heavier and thicker on the trees. I began to worry about them getting home safely. I told them they should go. I stared at the trees once they left. They needed a Mom and I was here. I felt lonely and worthless.
Every night around the same time, the cry down the hall would come. Small at first, swelling with sorrow, and then fading to rest as she fell asleep. It was haunting. It was uncomfortable. It was truthful. It was a mirror to all of us lying in our beds to afraid to acknowledge we felt the same way.
I left the hospital with a walker. I remember peering down the hall looking for a glimpse of the women in the ward.
I never saw her face or knew her name. I don’t know what room she lay in. I don’t know if she lived or died. I didn’t know her, but I knew her.
I carry her with me. It’s usually on the plane headed to a motivational speaking event, that I can hear her cry in my head. That loud long wail, knowing wherever I am going there will be someone sitting in the audience who feels that same way. A new diagnosis, a divorce, a death, something that knocked the wind out of that person who is sitting there silently suffering.
I’m unsure why our culture has tabooed negative emotions. It’s in the pain where wisdom lies.
Despite the focus on mental wellness and currently bringing light to mental health issues, negative emotions are still a silent shame most of us carry.Click to tweet
We tout positive thinking, or having faith, or believing in the best. These traits are important. However, so is acknowledging life isn’t always rosy. In fact, life can be downright devastating sometimes. With that comes feelings.
At night, most of us have had moments where waves of fear, insecurity, anger, or loneliness, have swept through us. It is in this place we are faced with our own shortcomings and unmet expectations of what we were told life would be about.
We medicate those feelings with food, alcohol, exercise, businesses, “success”, binge watching shows, relationships, and so much more. We run and hide rather than feel. We push to prove were all those things that deep down we’re afraid we’re not.
Many of us have been conditioned since we were young by people like the male nurse. Should a negative emotion of anger, fear, hurt arise, we’re taught to immediately apologize and do what it takes to snuff our feelings out so as not to “bother” anyone else.Click to tweet
Rather than run, there is power in recognizing we are not robots. There’s not just power but freedom in acknowledging we feel badly sometimes.
When we give a voice to what we’re feeling, we’re not stuffing it. We’re having to face it. It is often in the sorrow where our true strength lies.
If I was to ask you where the greatest lessons you have learned, there’s an ample chance you’ll tell me a story about something difficult you’ve been through.
Why? There is a universal truth that with pain comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes pain.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a mass amount of uncertainty you’ve had to deal with. Too much change with too little time to process.
If you’ve struggled than congratulations! You are a confirmed human. It’s normal and ok to not be ok.
It’s the beginning of 2022. Many of us are waking up to another year. Only we’re not excited. The idea of hitting goals, losing weight, making a gajillion dollars, is too much for our weary minds.
Rather than focus on making goals that will push you forward, I challenge you to, instead, go backwards and reflect.
-Who were you before 2020?
-Did you like that person?
-What did you lose about yourself through the pandemic?
-What did you gain?
It’s healthy to grieve what you’ve lost. We’ve all been in our own ward for a time. Rather than hospital rooms, it was our homes where we looked out and sometimes felt helpless. We felt a lot of negative things about our circumstances and ourselves.
It may be for you, like it did for me, with the woman in the ward. You simply need to hear you haven’t been alone. We’re all going through our own things. We may have needed a lifeline. Unable to get out of bed without a helping hand. Needed someone to hold our hand when we cried, and simply be told everything was going to be ok.
In 2022, the idea of leaving a hospital room and running a marathon immediately seems ridiculous. You may be limping out of your home with a walker. AND THAT IS OK.
2022 may be a year of healing for you if you allow it. That, alone, is more than enough of a goal. To be kind to yourself. To get help if you need it. To allow your mind, your body, your life the space to breathe.
You will find through time your strength emotionally, mentally, whatever it may be that is hurting, gets stronger as it heals. So will your wisdom.Click to tweet
The body’s ability to sustain trauma and heal is a marvelous thing. Rather than push, reflect and marvel at how well you’ve done just getting through what you’ve been through.
Healing is not about hitting life full force; it all starts by taking one tiny step. Sometimes that step is simply getting out of bed.
When I carry the sound of the woman in the ward with me to events, I am bringing empathy. You, too, will have this gift.
I don’t want her pain to be forgotten or to have had no purpose. Neither do I want yours.
- It’s ok to not be ok.
- Get help if you need it. Nobody leaves a hospital ward by healing all on their own.
- Heal by taking tiny steps for yourself. A little at a time. A little more each day.
- Take what you’ve learned and use it for good. There is purpose and power in pain. It is a jewel in a crown of wisdom. It was crafted through fire. It is strong. It is a light that sparkles. It cost you something. It has the capacity to become a priceless possession if you allow it.
I hope that I somehow been honorable to the women in the ward’s sorrow. That I have given breath and life and something positive to the pain she felt.
One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is not advice, or especially condemnation for struggling, but instead to be there for one another in times of need. During grief, loss, heartache, but also during times of abundance.Click to tweet
To be empathetic, accepting, loving, grace filled and kind. To “carry each other’s burdens”, as they say.
Take the time to let your sorrow heal to strength. Your hurt to hope. Your loss to love. Let the end become something new and different.
It’s ok to need help from others still. And when you’re ready, it’s ok to make the choice to move forward one small step at a time. May your voice of sorrow somehow become a sweet source of strength. Just like the woman’s in the ward.
Stacy Pederson is a Funny Motivational Speaker who has almost died a bunch.