On sober reminders

A few months ago, I took an overdose of beta blockers, and when I was in the ICU my heart stopped for almost a minute. The doctor showed me the chart where my heart was beating and then it wasn’t, although it was all rather difficult to comprehend at the time and the oxygen mask pushed on my glasses and made seeing clearly somewhat difficult. I remember wanting to ask the doctor if I could keep the chart, but thought that might be inappropriate. I wish I had asked now, because it would have been a sober reminder for moments like these.

I stayed in hospital for a few days and told no one where I was. I was so ashamed. As time went on, I was desperate to get out of that lonely and stale environment. When I got out, I felt so lost and wished I were back in the close quarters of predictable ward life. No one except my therapist knew about the attempt, and for weeks afterwards I wandered around in a surreal reality where my world had changed but the world in general had not, and everyone around me went on about their lives. I wanted to scream.

Soon enough, I returned to work. On the surface I appear to be doing alright. But in some ways, I’m not, and although I’m not exactly suicidal, I’m extremely uncomfortable with myself. I feel quietly desperate and lonely.

I don’t have a question, I just wanted to say that I don’t know how I feel about anything anymore, least of all myself.


Since you don’t have a question, I don’t really have an answer, but if I were you, I would go back to that hospital and request a copy of that chart, specifically whatever data and documentation they have of your heart stopping, and then I would go frame that shit.

You may be lost, but you’re alive. Please stay that way for as long as possible.


8 thoughts on “On sober reminders

  1. Charlie says:

    For what it’s worth, I enjoyed your writing style for what I’ve seen so far. I hope you are able to continue writing, whether it’s only just you or for somebody else. Despite where you are right now, there’s still a part of you that’s able to find beautiful significance in the world.
    After all, a copy of that chart is equally a piece of hard evidence and a abstract symbol of many possible meanings. What meanings, exactly? Its significance answer lies with you, its creator.

    You may not know how you feel about anything, but your act of creation (via writing, your day-to-day choices, etc.) is one way to give your elusive sense of self more chances to experiment and gain greater definition. I hope you continue to find the beauty and deeper meaning in things, and share them with others whenever you can.
    Who knows, you might be able to uplift or inspire somebody into a new way of thinking. Your letter did so for me, at least… *Sheepish smile*

    I hope your give yourself more time to explore more of what you’re capable of.

  2. UltraViolence says:

    “No one except my therapist knew about the attempt, and for weeks afterwards I wandered around in a surreal reality where my world had changed but the world in general had not, and everyone around me went on about their lives.”

    I experienced this in a completely different context recently, and it is really difficult to manage.

    • RocketGrunt says:

      I came to comment on that exact same quote. After my dad died, I didn’t have the words to describe how it felt that the world kept turning while my own world had stopped. I felt that sentence so hard I teared up a little.

    • WhoAmI says:

      Getting so close to death yet coming back and seeing the whole world still running without a care… It’s one of those experiences that can make you derealize real quick, but I feel like you can always turn it into something truly freeing in the long term instead.

  3. Lit says:

    Dear OP,
    Phone in before, bring chocolates, and know the ICU team will be relieved and delighted to hear you are alive and doing OK. You’ll get a copy of your records in no time.
    Please continue to take care of yourself, I hope you’re seeing your cardiologist regularly.
    I am truly grateful you are alive. It’s only been a week interning in ICU and I’m not dealing well with the amount of death. Your story is about the best news I could get about a patient in this context.
    I have sympathy for your bewilderment, and I kind of get the pain and distress. I’m sorry, and I’m rooting for you.
    Lots of love.

    • Lit says:

      I forgot to mention, but this is pretty important: what you describe is evocative of PTSD. It’s more common than I imagined; after a stay in ICU, a lot of people retain traumatic unconscious memories from invasive procedures or just the feeling of helplessness, even if they were appropriately sedated.

      If you have a psychiatrist or a therapist, talk to them. If you don’t, you should find one and go to at least a few sessions. Reading your medical records might also help.

  4. E says:

    I am the OP. Today marks the one year anniversary of my overdose. If anyone reads this, I want to say that I do not regret surviving, and now living. I’m so thankful to the person who sensed something was up and phoned me that night, and I am so glad that I made the difficult decision to answer the call. It has been a long journey since that night, a bumpy one (that continues) but it is absolutely worth it. Life is not magically better or easier for me, but I have worked hard at to develop healthy coping mechanisms. I could not have done it alone, and thankfully I didn’t have to. The hardest part is asking, and sometimes I had to do it repeatedly. But help arrived, and it is out there, for which I am forever grateful to those who rallied around me in my darkest moments.

    To anyone who is reading this, know that you aren’t alone, and you deserve help, and to live your life.

    Thank you CokeTalk, and to these wonderful commenters here, and the medical professionals, social workers, and therapists for supporting me throughout, and most especially to all of the people in my life who cared so much, and continue to love and care without judgement.

    Talk to someone. Reach out. It is not easy, but it is worth it. You are worth it.

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