The previous entry covered the sequence of events over the last week, but mostly glossed over many of the thoughts that wandered through my mind during those days. I have had the experience of not eating or drinking for significant periods of time before. They have al occurred in the aftermath of a surgical procedure. Last week’s endurance test was not severe enough to require constant IV fluids as the others have, but the experience of racing thoughts when there little else to do but think was every bit as powerful.
I have never fasted before prayer. I have no doctrinal objections to the practice. I respect those who have the self-discipline to prepare themselves for prayer in such a manner. I have just never done it before myself. But in experiencing the times post-surgery and now between medical procedures, I have gained an understanding of exactly how the physical deprivation prepares the mind of careful self-discovery. There comes a point, arriving sooner than you might believe, in which your thoughts turn from food to the deepest subjects.
The first time this happened was in May 2004 after my colon had ruptured. I had never had an operation on my digestive system before. The whole experience of not eating or drinking for days on end was brand new. I did not know things were going to turn out so badly. As far as I was concerned, my eye would heal before my colostomy could be taken down, but I could take the bar exam with a poop bag. It would make for a great story later in my distinguished legal career. I felt cheated after I had worked so hard to reach law school graduation to have it snatched out from under me. Fate could be terribly mean. Speaking of being terribly mean, my sister told me I was wallowing in self-pity with these thoughts. Always a comforting lass, Denise is.
The second time I had one of these fasting periods was more significant. It happened in August 2006. I had hernia surgery a few days before being hospitalized yet again with the first of several serious bowel onstructions which would occur over the next six years. Obstructions are a common complication after ambominal surgeries. Why I was unfortunate enough to suffer others sans surgery is anyone’s guess. At least I got the most severe one out of the way first.
I was weak from hernia surgery. I had yet to eat much anyway and was dry as a bone. That is what you call starting the race a lap behind. Because I was so weak, no one wanted to do anything too intrusive, much less perform surgery. I thought it was incredibly strange to lay there getting weaker waiting for someone to do something when my weakness was the main obstacle to solving the problem, but I am not a doctor, so what do I know?
I had toyed with suicide by this point. It was well after I had embraced Victor Frankl’s theory connecting loss of the will to live with the onset of ill health. Frankl seemed to be right. Here I was wasting away after surgically repairing a hernia caused solely by soft tissue ripping and a bowel obstruction no one could figure out how to fix. So there was my mindset as I drifted off into that fasting delirium. I had already been beaten down by chronic ill health for two years. This stretch of time was laying a searing hot iron to a raw nerve.
My thoughts centered on two subjects. One was my law school days. It was during this time period I largely stopped feeling angry about my health preventing me from practicing law. I had made many sacrifices, some of which had a detrimental effect on my health, which were now pointless. Not only had I ruined my potential career by making them, but I had ruined my life. I did not want to hear any platitudes about much of life being a matter of chance, success is never guaranteed, , or strong people stand up after every fall, so I kept these thoughts to myself. It was easy to do. No one cared, anyway. Not wallowing pity with that. It is just the older you get, the more everyone around you just expects you to deal with the storms of life. Even if said storm is actually a group of Category 5 hurricanes in a conga line.
Compounding the problem was the second flood of thoughts. I thought longingly for my life a decade prior. I was in college. The future looked bright. The relationship with my mother had rough edges, but at least she was alive. I lived in a place I actually felt like calling home. I was in an emotional quandary. I had no future, so there was no point in thinking about tomorrow. But the past was completely dead. There was no point in torturing myself by longing for it, either. Besides, I was essentially longing for my youth. Everyone has to quit that at some point.
So what do you do when your past, present, and future are unbearable? I never came up with any solution other than my health really needed to hurry up and finish me off.
Move ahead nearly eight years to last week. I wound up in the same mental state mostly on Tuesday night. It was in the middle of the night. I had not eaten anything but clear liquids for two days and had not ingested anything at all for about 28. Add to that being doped up on nausea medication combined with lingering anesthetic. I did not chase a white rabbit, but probably only because one did not show up. What I did chase was thoughts of a pointless life? What was I suffering through all this for? It had to be for some reason. Why was I doing it all alone? Are things going to change in the future? Do I have it in me to change them? Do I even care? If not, then what? To make matters worse, I had to continue on clear liquids through Friday, so I had another spell of these miserable thoughts all day Thursday.
As with the past, I came up with no solutions. The more physical strength I gain as I recover, the less the emotions sting. But they cannot be ignored. When I am broken down into my most basic self, they are front, center, and riotous. I suppose this is why I keep on writing. Maybe I will enjoy an epiphany eventually.