Getting that call that you weren’t expecting. Palms sweating, hands shaking. Uneven breath and unsteady feet move before you can even think. One call and you are speeding down the highway to the hospital without even letting your mind process what has just happened. Sitting in the surgery waiting room with family, holding hands, holding on. Waiting. Sitting and waiting. Finally some news, given in a small and stuffy room. Good news? No, but news that there will be more news. News is news.
It can be the scariest time in your life, waiting and praying and having no control over the situation when someone you love is taken into the hospital. It’s terrifying, and hospitals are far from comforting. The smell of formaldehyde and disinfectant don’t put you at ease, they make it worse. It’s hard to process and settle into this new routine of unpredictability when this whole shard of anxiety has stabbed itself into your life. There is just a feeling of overwhelming helplessness and confusion. Navigating this whole other world is so unsettling and terrifying and it’s hard to think about anything, but trying to keep a few things in your mind can help the situation outside of yourself.
The worst part of it all is telling everyone what is going on. Recounting the story over and over again can be exhausting to your already exhausted mind. Lean on your family, the ones that are going through this with you. Draft a text together, something inclusive but concise and to the point. Choose those that are closest to you to share this all with. Telling those few friends the situation can bring comfort and relief. They know the news, now trust them with it and let them carry it forward to the others that need to know. You also need to remember that there is nothing anyone can say that can make it any better. Don’t look for that piece of wisdom in your best friend because there isn’t one. Every little comforting thing they try to tell you won’t be the thing you want to hear, but it comes from love. If you don’t know what you want to hear at a time like this, that means there isn’t anything. Listen to the ones who love you, who want you to be okay. What they say to you is more important that you will give it credit.
Sitting in a hospital room with a loved one comatose in front of you will keep your mind in one endless cycle of “is she breathing” to “is she okay” to “is she going to live” and back to “is she breathing” over and over and over again. Having something to occupy your mind a little bit helps. Concentration is already out the window, but a distraction will help to keep you sane. Headphones to drown out the “beep, beep, beep” of the hundreds of monitors in the room can keep your mind out of some anxiety. Writing helps. Even if you can’t focus for long enough to write a lot, just writing down what has happened can help. Describing the room, the linoleum floors, the impossible number of tubes coming out of the walls and covering that person in the uncomfortable machine bed. How any of this is making you feel.
The doctors and nurses are there to do what they do best: save lives. It can be frustrating when you don’t know what is going on and that one machine won’t stop beeping loudly and no one is around, but you need to put your trust in the hands of these wonderful people. They save lives for their job, they went to school for years and years to ensure that this person that you are so overwhelmingly worry about will be okay. They know what they are doing.
Waiting is waiting. There will be a lot of waiting. Healing takes time. It will feel like the slowest process in the world. It will feel like each minute that passes has been an hour already. “Passing the time” doesn’t exist when you can’t sit still because anxiety is pushing itself through your muscles and out every pore of your body. Taking in what is happening can be beneficial. Even though letting your mind wander to those places can be scary, letting your mind process all that it is going through without pushing away thoughts can be cleansing and relieving.
The most important thing to take from all of this is to take care of yourself. You can’t be there for your loved one if you haven’t taken care of yourself first. Sleep when you can, or when your mind will allow you to sleep. Shower, brush your teeth when you can because you don’t know when you’ll have that chance again. Try to keep those few friends updated on what is going on. Do your best to check in with your classes, even if that means emailing your professors and letting them know what has happened and asking for an extension or even just a meeting for office hours to catch up on what you have missed. Doing well in school when all of this is going on is a very slim possibility, but putting in a little bit of effort from the outside can relieve some anxiety of the future when things are stable enough to go back to being a full-time student. And, it may sound cliché, but from someone that is going through all of this right now, I will tell you to keep hope in your heart. It can be easy to lose all of it, even on days when the outcome looks grim. Hope does miracles. Trust me.