Okay, so that was a shameless play on words, but really, what are they thinking when they paint a hospital room gray? Gray is said to promote a staid mood, which according to Webster means, “marked by settled sedateness and often prim self-restraint : sober, grave.” Who in their right mind believes the terms sober and grave have any place in recovery?
Redecorating my hospital room was one way I expressed the “M” and the “S” in M-Y-S-E-L-F while undergoing radical surgery to remove thyroid cancer. The thought of lying in a scratchy, uncomfortable hospital bed for several days, looking at lifeless walls just didn’t inspire me to heal. The only thing that made me more anxious was the idea of being awakened from a sound sleep by overhead floodlights as the nurse did her nightly checks.
As a transitional life coach who truly believes what she teaches, I looked at the stumbling blocks in my own upcoming surgery and strategized ways that would honor me during this life threatening operation.
There was a chance I would not survive since the tumors were wrapped around my carotid artery, trachea and jugular, sitting on top my clavicle near my lungs. The doctors prepared me for all possible medical outcomes. I understood the physical risks.
I made preparations for those (updated my will, power of attorney and living will…wrote my goodbye letters to family and friends…). But, what if I did survive and had to endure the psychological pain of recovery – in a dark, gray room? That would be like my soul trapped in prison. I wasn’t prepared for solitary!
Once I was able to understand how much the grayness of the room increased my anxiety, I devised a plan. I turned stumbling blocks into stepping stones. My real preparation began.
I bought a beautiful lightweight painting of a beach along with some Command hooks to temporarily hang in my hospital room. I found framed inspirational sayings to strategically place along the ledge near the window. Since I had to lie on my side, the window would be the first thing I would see each morning when I woke up and the sayings would be there to encourage me and wash the gray away!
My best friend Patti gave me an extra soft acrylic blanket with the most cheerful sunflowers plastered all over to soften my bed. (Frankly it didn’t hurt that sunflowers are my one of my favorite plants!) No bed sores for me!
We stuffed LED-lit evergreen branches in a tiger print ceramic vase to provide enough white light for the nurses to use and still be muted enough to allow me to sleep undisturbed. I even purchased the battery operated remote control plugins. No being woken up every hour only to hear, “Go back to sleep!”
We loaded my iPod with all my favorite songs (Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten…Olivia Newton John’s Grace and Gratitude…) and a few meditations (Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life…) along with Bose headphones to shut out hospital sounds.
I brought my own flameless vanilla scented candles complete with remote control to fill my heart with the warm scent of home.
Oh, last but not least, I sported a magic wand – the pink, princess scepter that makes magical sounds when I wave it – an anchor to remind me that miracles do happen. I encouraged visitors to wave it to announce their arrival. It made me laugh daily.
When we first checked into the hospital with all my stuff, it took 4 family members to carry everything. While I was in surgery each had specific tasks to perform so the makeover would be complete when I was wheeled back to my room. It gave each person something to focus on other than the severity of the procedure, gave them a sense of purpose that day and allowed them to know they were there supporting and loving me, each in their own way.
(The innate coach in me kicked in. There I went thinking outside the box again! The admitting attendant didn’t know what to make of it. She asked in a half-joking manner if I was moving in. My response,” Not if I can help it so I brought my own healing arsenal!” Then I I laughed. Would you believe the room I stayed in was newly remodeled? Eew!)
When I look back now I admit these were pretty unconventional ways to find support and practice self-care during a scary operation! In other words, taking care of myself in a way that felt right to me, on my own terms, no matter what others thought. Honestly, it presented some challenges for the hospital staff. By the time they were deciding if it was okay, the remodel was done! And guess what…no one died, including me!
Think about your own journey. Stop surviving and start thriving! How can you “put a bit of M-Y-S-E-L-F into your own recovery?” What is it that you really want to do to support yourself or a loved one? Feel free to share your ideas. I would love to hear from you!