By Stefanie M Smith
As I’m moving forward in my healing journey, I am increasingly grateful for the transformative and explorative nature of words.
One area that I have needed to do a lot of personal work on is the difficult relationship with my mother, we had various ups and downs up until her death in January 2008, thankfully we had made our peace in the months leading up to her passing.
In December 2007 I needed to arrange for her to be admitted to the Medical Admissions ward at the hospital where I worked, and due to the staffing levels I actually ended up completing the admission paperwork myself. As you can probably imagine, this was an incredibly stressful time, and not something I was able to process fully until much later; the following is a piece I wrote which helped with that tremendously:
“Just words written on pieces of paper:
It was a Thursday night, I think two days before Christmas, and I had just left the hospital after a late afternoon shift; my mobile started to ring and because of the state of play I pulled over to take the call. It was my step-dad; my mum had taken a turn for the worse, she was really struggling with her breathing. Instead of finishing my route home, I diverted to their house and went in. She was propped up on the settee, which was a makeshift bed, barely conscious and her breathing was very raspy indeed.
Immediately I switched mode. I took out my phone and rang the hospital, asking to speak to the bed manager; then as soon as connected, ‘June,’ I asked, ‘have we still got any beds?’
‘Two,’ she replied, ‘Why?’
‘It’s mum,’ I said simply, everyone knew she was terminal, ‘she needs to come in for a few days.’
Date of Birth:
With June agreeing to hold a bed for a short while, I set the wheels in motion. It was difficult as we all knew mum didn’t want to die in hospital the way my father had all those years ago, but she needed to be made comfortable if nothing else. I telephoned out of hours and managed to negotiate an admission for mum, then popped home to change while they waited for the ambulance to collect her.
My step-dad gave us three bells when it arrived so I could set off and meet them at the ward. My ward. Medical Emergency Admissions. The ward I had left perhaps two hours ago. Not expecting to be back so soon. We sat either side of the bed, my step-dad and I, watching the nurses, my colleagues, go about their business. It was so busy, I was glad I’d thought to call June to save a bed.
After sitting there twitchily for forty-five minutes or so, with no-one having any time to come and complete the paperwork, I popped up to one of my colleagues, ‘Mary,’ I said quietly, ‘I know it’s not protocol, but you are run off your feet, and mum really needs to be seen. Would it help if I completed the admissions forms?’
‘By all means,’ she agreed, ‘just don’t sign them. I’ll do that.’
So here we were nearly midnight now. Sitting by my mother’s bedside, completing the paperwork as part of her admission. Form and function. Keeping my brain in check and focussed, not wanting to reveal any weakness, the slightest wobble would I know open the floodgates and that must not happen.
Religion – I started to write ‘None’.’Methodist,’ said my step-dad. Really? Since when? I thought. But I wrote it none the less. I was sure that since her diagnosis, less than two months ago, they must have had a lot of discussions around these kind of subjects.
Next of Kin:
The clock keeps ticking. The on-call consultant comes and goes. My step-dad can hardly talk, so I do my best. My mother is moved from admissions to a side-room, put on a drip and made comfortable. Once settled, I give her a kiss, and hug my step-dad.
Medical condition: Hmm, yes the biggie – Cancer. Cancer that had taken my father when I was ten; cancer that will now take my mother. But, it’s alright. Now at this moment, I’m not the daughter, I’m the nurse. It’s nothing personal, it’s just words. Words on paper. Words I know off by heart, I can write them standing on my head.
‘I really need to go home and get some sleep,’ I say emptily, ‘I’m back on in the morning. I’ll pop in and see her before I start, and let you know how she is.’ I know that being in a side-room, they will let him stay as long as he needs. Mum was going nowhere that night, but I knew neither was he.
And then I leave, and I can sit in the car and cry.”
Writing in this way allowed me to take a step away from the situation itself, to write without all of the intrinsic emotions it would have stirred up. Whilst emotions can often be useful in processing difficult situations, they can also get in the way, and I am gradually learning through my writing practice when I need to create a little distance to allow the real healing to come out.
Editor’s note: This is Stefanie’s second blog post in fulfillment of her Transformational Language Certificate.
Stefanie M Smith, is a 47 year old former nurse and qualified hypnotherapist who has lived in Lincolnshire, UK, since childhood. Unfortunately in 2009 her health took a nosedive, and she now deals with fibromyalgia, depression and other chronic health conditions on a daily basis. During this enforced rest period, Stefanie has been able to re-ignite her love of the written word, especially poetry and will shortly having a selection of her poems published in an anthology. Having noticed a marked benefit to her health through her own writing practice, Stefanie is now re-training in the therapeutic and transformational uses of language with the aim of sharing this phenomenal tool with others.