When You Wake Up Disappointed to Be Alive

Antanika Holton

I wake up feeling foggy, like I need to gasp for air, startling myself as I gasp. I look around to see the pale bleakness of what seems to be a white room with a young woman standing at my side. She watches me closely, assuring me I’m just waking up from the anesthetic and I’ll be OK in a few minutes.

She walks off leaving me to groggily sway my head back and forth, slowly trying to figure out where I am. I have been under anesthesia twice before and I have never woken up feeling like this. The anxiety and the confusion. I wasn’t supposed to still be here. Where am I again? Hospital ward? … Recovery… Nurses station to my right… Nurses. Thats right, I had day surgery today. I fall back to sleep. I wake again moments later with a new nurse asking me to sit up and have some water. She’s checking my blood pressure while asking me my name and date of birth. I give her all my details and she asks me if I am in any pain. It is then that reality sets in. I didn’t die. I had decided that if something rare happened and I was to die, I would be OK with that. I would be relieved. I had decided the night before, even the days before. I had hoped that something did go wrong and that I wouldn’t even have to know I was dead.

I knew I wouldn’t know if something had gone wrong and no one would hate me because it wasn’t my fault I died. Nothingness, for eternity, had never sounded so good. And now that I wasn’t dead, my heart raced, my chest heaving with panic, my anxiety crept in. I’m crying, and hide my tears from the friendly professional nurse who must assume I am off in my own little world. I wait for it to pass, the feeling of dread. It doesn’t pass.

I consider that I will have to continue with life as I knew it before, that the pain would still race through my body. The memories I still held would still visit me with fierce power, the kind you can’t control on your own. It only makes my tears fall faster, meaning I have to turn my head away from the nurse to hide them. The shattered shell of a person I feel I am, remains. I am heartbroken. My own voice repeats in my head, “But I wanted to be dead. But I wanted to be dead. But I wanted to be dead.” Waiting for my tears to stop, I look over to where the other patients are still sleeping from their own surgeries. A man and two women. I sip the water from the small plastic cup and watch them one by one wake up like newborn babies; groggy, stretching and a little bit confused.

But what I wasn’t seeing on their faces was the dread I felt on the inside or the dread I was struggling to hide on the outside. I was disappointed, but not surprised by it. I guess I hoped everyone felt this way after they wake up from surgery. Regardless of any prior death plans made with themselves the night before.

A young woman, younger than me with a short brown bob, sees me watching her and glances over at me. She smiles and I meekly smile back at her. My nurse leaves me to tend to her. When the nurse returns, smiling and chirpy, I wipe my tears on my hand as she pops me into a wheelchair.

Oblivious to the turmoil going on my head she chatters away, “It’s time to take you to the recovery room with the recliners, they’ll call someone so you can be picked up in a few hours. It’s weird that they use recliners” she says.

I manage a nod. Sitting in my brown leather recliner a friendly Russian male nurse comes and checks me over. He’s somehow overly burley with his thick accent and yet so sweet at the same time. He brings me sandwiches and a cup of tea.“So,” he says,“Who are we calling to pick you up today?”

“Shaun, my husband” I reply politely. And suddenly he’s all I want, all that I needed right then.

My dread for my remaining life is stifled by my need to just be with Shaun. The realization that he would have been destroyed if my wishes had come true humbled me in the strangest way. The one person I know who will understand the pain I felt when I first woke up from my surgery that day. The one person I know who gets me completely, who doesn’t care if I cry because I want bad thing, good things, weird things.

A few days later I had a bad day, and later that night I confessed through heavy tears to Shaun how I felt that day, the devastation I felt when my surgery didn’t go haywire, about my disappointment at not dying. He watched me from our pillows on our bed where we were talking and he cried.

“I’m not crying because of you” he says “I’m crying with you.” I didn’t tell him my awful thoughts that day and days before were forgotten because of him. That even though I wanted to die that day and many days before it, that he made me forget it all even when I was at my weakest.

Because he is consistently my strength. I am not suicidal in the way people think depression makes people feel, there isn’t just any one way when dealing with depression and the thoughts that come with it. Sometimes I just want a release from the pain I feel on a regular basis. I wanted someone else to take the life from me, so I don’t have to.

And that is still something that needs to be addressed. If you or anyone you know has depression, or is suicidal/hurts themselves, be there for them. As hard as it is, be there. Without you, without the support, it’s easy to succumb to mental illness and to take away the pain.

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