I have always been proud of my self reliance, my ability to be responsible, get things done, and act like I think an adult should act. I pay my bills on time, only ever have had good debt, coordinated an international move all on my own, and regularly see the doctor and dentist. Selfishness and ego developed these skills. Once I saw an opportunity to do things on my own, I did them, likely at too young of an age. Because the ways that I did them were preferable to the ways my parents would do them. I was also faster. My parents didn't even have the chance to parent in some cases because I had already finished the task. But how well I did (and do) these things is questionable. I get things done and on time; my functional life cannot be questioned. But I rarely do my tasks with much self care. I can feed myself, but that means oatmeal for dinner. I don't live beyond my means, but I don't save for the future.
I value self reliance over self care because I've never needed the latter. It's superfluous and foreign to my daily needs for the most part. It adds time to getting things done. New shoes or a restaurant meal constitute my self care. I'm over effort dinners for myself or any manner of beauty product that isn't highly practical or proven effective. I don't fuss over myself. But obviously, I like being fussed over (read: cared for). And I've learned I like being fussed over even in the getting-things-done department. #parentalissues
I learned this the hard way with an incident last summer.
"What happened last summer, Rhianna?"
"Oh, well, you could say that I spent most of July in the bathroom."
A clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection was to blame. I went to the Urgent Care knowing I would likely need my poop (stool is too clinical) tested after a few days of the Big D, and the resident who saw me suggested they would have to test for C. diff. My jaw dropped. I know how evil C. diff is. Not because I work in health care, but because there are enough tabloid-like stories about it in the news regarding how it plagues hospitals and can even kill. I met someone once who dealt with an infection for… years. Nooooooo, I couldn't have C. diff. It was surely only salmonella or e. coli or any of the other bugs. Not C. diff. But it was. And I partied with it for 10 days before I was properly diagnosed.
So, let's talk poop. Because I am a poop friend. We're not going to talk about it because I like to chat medical stuff or overshare. We'll do so because I want to scare you into ALWAYS washing your hands after you use the bathroom. Because that is the only blame that can be given. Where/when/who I got the bacteria from is impossible to know. I got it because there are poop particles everywhere, and C. diff particles are difficult to get rid of. When you buy your Clorox wipes and see that they kill 99.9% of germs? C. diff is in the 0.1%. That's why it's the scourge of hospitals. That's why you need to sing "Happy Birthday" while you wash your hands—you have to really fucking scrub it off.
But, here's the thing. Because I'm good at getting things done, all was well and good for about seven of those 10 days. I've had gastroenteritis numerous times. After a few days of it sticking around, you go get your poop tested. You eat fiberless foods and drink Pedialyte. No sweat. But then after these few days, even after I got the test, I noticed that this Big D was not quite the same: I used the toilet between 15 and 20 times a day; the intestinal cramps were so intense that I would start shaking my arms and legs to distract myself from the pain; unknown muscles in my legs started hurting because of all the toilet sitting; and it didn't matter what I ate, everything came out liquid. So, after a few days of shitting myself silly and getting all my nutrients from essentially saltines and bananas (fewer and fewer as time progressed out of fear of the cramps), I was a bit weary. So much so that I had a bit of a breakdown in the gastroenterologist's office because I was too afraid to leave from all the running to the bathroom. I wasn't getting things done very well.
The fact that my diagnosis came probably five days later than it should have also didn't help. Already long story shorter: I spent two days in the hospital. My first time. The C. diff meant I got a private room. The C. diff meant that no one could enter my room without an additional gown and gloves—although I was promised I was not, in fact, Typhoid Mary. The C. diff meant my room got a 45-minute cleaning with bleach while I watched Food Network on the $10/day rental.
While perhaps one of the most traumatizing moments of my life, it was also one of the best (and not because I got a hit of morphine). Being admitted to the hospital meant I was no longer in charge; I no longer had to get things done. The relief at not having to rely on myself was beyond sweet. For the first time in forever, I could just be. My worries were with other people now, other people with expertise to make them not worries and to get the things done. I didn't sleep but was beyond relaxed. I was free of myself for 48 hours. I was being cared for.
The first morning in the hospital room, a porter delivered a standard breakfast because I had been admitted too late to make any choices. Orange juice, a banana, grits, white toast, and scrambled eggs. As I was now being medicated, I had (incorrectly) been given the okay to eat anything. The previous day's sustenance was largely a handful of saltines and a yogurt, so I attacked the eggs with gusto. They might have been the best scrambled eggs I had ever had despite actually being completely rubbery. My hunger and feeling of safety corrected all imperfections when they entered my mouth. The taste of the salt and pepper and then the (by now) cold, buttered toast normalized the strangeness of it all. The day before I cried because I was afraid I would poop on the ambulance gurney, and this morning I was eating eggs. All was okay again.
Hunger being rewarded with unremarkable but satiating food is a typical diner experience, and the Court Square Diner is all that you want in a typical diner in terms of ambiance, service, and food. The satiation and familiarity of diner fare reels you in, but you can easily raise your brows at the impressiveness of a perfectly cooked order. The under-appreciated skill of a line cook, that is. I'm being unfair to call it unremarkable when these eggs filled me with as much joy as the ones from the hospital but were significantly better. They were perfect.
I incorrectly associate self care or being cared for with excess, especially with the extreme of hospitalization. I tell myself it can be easier, but my default mode thinks otherwise. The compromise will have to be nostalgia via scrambled eggs.