“Survivor guilt (also called survivor syndrome or survivor disorder) is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not, often feeling self-guilt.” (Wikipedia)
I never gave much thought to its meaning until my therapist mentioned ‘me’ and ‘survivors quilt’ in the same sentence. I felt relieved to discover there was an explanation for what I was experiencing, but then dismay quickly set in, something else was being added to the long list of things wrong with me (one of the many ‘self-defeating’ habits I picked up over the years).
I ‘almost’ lost my life once again. Was it the steroid injection? Was it stress induced? Was it… Who knows! What I do know is – MY LIFE WAS SPARED AGAIN!
September 13th, 2019, I received the first round of steroid injections in my right hip. After years of coping (from 1998 to be exact) with daily pains from avascular necrosis, (the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply.) The pains were becoming unbearable. I held off as long as I possibly could after being told repeatedly of my only two options. (1) Steroid injections to the hips to hold me over until. (2) The inevitable hip replacements I’ve been trying to avoid like the plaque. (Not because of my not wanting to, but it’s also the recommendations of the orthopedic surgeons I’ve seen over the years. My age and the very illness being a factor.
September 16th, 2019, approximately 3am – I was awakened by pains all over my body (an unexplainable phenomena, why I tend to have a crises early mornings) not wanting to wake mom, I decided to ride it out another 3 hrs. I started experiencing shortness of breath from the intense pains, and after realizing this wasn’t one of those days I could stay home and self-medicate, I alerted mom, then asked my brother to take me to the hospital. My intent was to go, receive some medications and fluids intravenously, and be back home before my babies returned from school. That never happened!
September 17th 2019, my son’s 9th birthday, I was jolted by my body being elevated and the sound of a long zipper being pulled. Was I dead? I thought or did ‘they’ believe I was dead? That’s the sound of a body bag being pulled. I wasn’t dead but was being bagged and transferred. I was alert long enough to lock eyes with my mom who was standing there with a dismal look on her face. I was afraid, I attempted to speak (wanting to ask, what was happening) it was only then I realized, not only couldn’t I say a word, but I also couldn’t move.
I was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) unconscious with a temperature of 107 degree. A pic line was placed in my right arm, I needed a blood aphaeresis stat. I was in critical condition, slipping in and out of consciousness and once again a medical team was scrambling to find answers. The duration of my hospitalization was spent in the ICU with brief moments of consciousness. I begged God, “Please don’t let me die on Jhayden’s birthday, God, please not on his birthday”. We still have no idea what happened, besides the fact I was gravely ill and this time around I was afraid. My fears were confirmed, when mom (a woman of deep faith) for the first ever admitted she saw and smelt death.
I was released to do a surgical procedure. Recovery was hard. I’ve had countless crises over the years, but recouping was a doozy, both physically and mentally. I spent weeks on the couch unable to climb the 3 steps from my bedroom to the main floor of my home.
Death’s Reign of Terror
Two days after my release from the hospital, an acquaintance of mine, beloved friend and family member of friends of mines Lisa Robinson lost her life to cancer, diagnosed only two weeks earlier. Eight days later my close friend from childhood (rumored cousin, not confirmed) Micheal Pennant (Buggy) lost his life after suddenly falling ill just the day before. Another childhood friend Jermaine Powell lost his life abruptly after contracting dengue fever and having the dreadful sickle cell anemia as an underlying condition. My dearest friend and accountability partner (not dead) was admitted to the (ICU) from mid-October and have been there since. Three peers lost their lives, and one not even thirty years old is still fighting for her life.
Why Not Me?
The deaths shook me to my core, I struggled to understand the meaning of life. I wrestled with thoughts of “how and why did I survive and they didn’t?” I felt such remorse. I couldn’t even bring myself to wish, say or offer my condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, (with the exception of Micheal Pennant’s longtime partner of 16 years) who by life’s irony, happens to be my best friend. I was tormented. I felt such grief, I couldn’t get a grip of my emotions, especially knowing Tina N. Foster is still fighting to stay alive. Unable to walk without assistance, my little brother drove me to my therapist office, after he wheeled me in, and excused himself from the room, I fell apart. Make it make sense! I said. And, as I dished all I was experiencing – Survivor’s guilt was the term she used to describe the mental and emotional anguish I was struggling with.
Finding My Way Back
It’s been a ‘crazy’ few months. And, though at times I find myself slipping into old self-defeating habits, I am more aware, alert and equipped with terms, definitions and a clearer understanding of what it means to fight, to fight for my life! I refuse to be pulled under by all of life’s jabs, blows and punches. I am GRATEFUL to be ALIVE! and oh so thankful to God, he continues to spare my life, and as I journey to figure out what it all means, I invite you all on this journey as I/we Journey 2 Free. From my heart to yours, Larissa.