The Out-of-Body Patient Experience
There is something that happens to me often when I am hospitalized for a long time, I have a major surgery, or even if I have to go through a procedure that makes me particularly anxious. It’s like an out-of-body experience; as if I am watching myself from the ceiling.
An out-of-body experience after trauma
This thing that happens to me... it’s going through the motions without feeling emotion. Just robotic, as if my brain were protecting myself from feeling things. This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon in people. It actually happens quite often to people who have experienced trauma, and I would absolutely qualify some of the things I have been through because of my health as traumatic.
I’ve done a lot of things in the hospital while "watching myself from the ceiling," I wrote a longer post on this about a year ago. It’s as if my head detaches itself from my body and I am able to watch myself go through the motions without actually experiencing them myself.
It’s like watching TV only I’m watching myself; my health the story-line, the hospital the scene, and me playing the main character.
Trauma caused by Crohn's disease
Trauma. I’m no stranger to it. I’ve been septic a few times, I’ve had 3 emergency surgeries, I’ve had a line infection from a PICC line, I’ve required multiple blood transfusions, I’ve spent time in the ICU.... and on and on it goes. A person can only handle so much and because of my circumstances I was usually handling these things alone, in the hospital, with no one there with me.
Seeing myself in the hospital
So I become Outer-Body Sara. I watch myself from the ceiling; I see the girl below who is sitting on the stretcher letting the anesthesiologist look into her mouth to see if the tube will fit nicely down her throat. I watch as the nurse dresses my wounds, inserts the NG tube, empties my foley. I watch myself wheeled up and down halls and in and out of elevators. I float up to the ceiling watching my body pushed in and out of machines, talk to nurses, sweat out the fevers, etc.
It’s easier this way sometimes. And though coping mechanisms are not necessarily healthy they do have their way of protecting you.
I watch myself from the ceiling.
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