1. Linnie says

    Then they started patting me in the face. And a little harder. They started calling my name. Telling me I should breathe. At first I tried but I couldn’t. After trying a few times I just gave up on it. It was good where I was at that moment.
    They opened my mouth and wanted to push something inside. I didn’t like that. So I started to fight. Suddenly there were people all around me, holding me down, holding my arms down.
    Everything went dark. I had no idea what was happening to me anymore and I was more than ok with that.
    There was a sharp pain when I woke up again. The fresh scars from my operation were torn open again by the tube they slammed down my throat. It hurt and I wanted to take it out. Not breathing had felt so much better. The tube hurt and it made me gag.
    The nurses were still holding my arms down, because I wanted to pull it out.
    When I was back in my bed I cried like a child. I hated them for making me survive.
    Now I’m 37 and sometimes I still feel that way. I had an exit and they made me come back to life.

      • Linnie says

        Thanks. I do have reasons to be happy I’m still here. Many of them. And mostly I am happy to have survived. But sometimes it’s just hard.

    • Ilana says

      Linnie- It is a powerful story. I too, wish you reasons to be grateful you survived. I cannot say I know how you feel because no one can truly know another’s experience. However, I too, had a surgery that saved my life and I spent a lot of time wishing it had not. Now, 11 years later, to the day, actually, I realize what a tragedy it would have been if I had lost all that I have now. As I celebrate this special anniversary I am taking some time out to think of you and wish for you the joy I feel today.

    • Debbie O says

      Linnie – it takes courage to admit that one sometimes questions life. Thanks for being able to share that with us.

  2. Diane says

    It’s hard to talk about depression. I have a hard time confessing to friends that I suffer from clinical depression. I know it is equally uncomfortable to hear about. So I usually don’t tell anyone. But this prompt stimulated me to write about my experience.
    You asked us to talk about a time we came back to life. Simply put: I come back to life every time I’ve fallen off the edge into darkness. It’s like having been ssucked into a dirty, deep, pond; and being held down at the will “other”.
    Eventally, I am let go and I drift upwards. As I reach the surface, I see light though the discolored water and know that life is being restored to me once again.

    • Debbie O says

      Diane – Thanks for your honesty and sharing this post. It resonated with the dark feelings I am having right now and helped me hope that I might find a way to float up the surface again, too.

  3. MaryAnne says

    Thanks to all who have told their stories of coming back to life. Each, touched me in its own way.
    Recently, I read a quote somewhere that went something like this:

    We can’t stop the rain but we can learn to dance in it.

    Here is a little poem:

    A flash in the sky…whoosh. . .
    brightness blazing burning
    disappearing into bits of white ash
    falling like snow in our bedroom
    yours and mine. . . ours.
    Not mine, alone. It’s your story, too.
    This is how it is
    when we lose our loves.

    Whether it’s physical, mental or emotional there is great joy in coming alive when we have experienced a dying place…a deadness.

    Here’s to living life fully!!!

  4. Eugenia says

    Here is my fictional story:

    “Five generations of the Izgurs, lived in this city before the Revolution, and all of them were the world-class watchmakers. Even their women knew a lot about the German and Swiss chronometers. At a glance they could confirm authenticity, origin and the price of a piece brought to their workshop. The Izgurs had an ongoing contract with the Duma (the local government) to maintain the city’s main clock on the top of its Town Hall. Twice a year, for over three hundred years, the Izgurs climbed up to the top of the tower to clean, oil and tune up the old Swiss mechanism, and the hourly toll of that clock over our town never stopped. The praise and the legends of the Izgurs craftsmen, the best watchmakers in the NorthWest, never stopped either.

    My grandfather, Nathan Izgur, the last in the watchmakers dynasty, lived in the High Market Square, in a two-story brick house, not far from the Governer’s mansion. All the distinguished citizens of the city spoke of him with respect — the Governor Girs himself, his giggly young wife Liza, the vice-Governer Chenykaev, a drunk and a bore, and the mustached local military officials stationed in our city. The Governor Girs sent a delicate lace blanket and a Gramophone as a present to my grandfather when my father was born.

    The line of the watchmakers ended with my father. After the abolition of Pale of Settlement in Belarus, he went to the Worker’s School, and then to the Polytechnical Institute to become an electrical engineer, to a great sorrow of my grandfather. Nathan Izgur, though, continued his contract with every government that took over our city between 1917 and 1920 — with the Russians, Germans, Polish, Russians, then Polish again and the Russians again — to maintain its main clock. They all respected his work, and I felt as a special, important citizen of my city, when my grandfather, dressed in his best coat and a hat, wooden box of the oils and instruments in his other hand, with a determined walk headed to the Town Hall for his twice-a-year maintenance of the clock. That clock represented our city, though the Svobody Square no longer remained its center.

    I was five years old when the Town Hall got bombed in front of my eyes on the third day of the WWII. My grandfather has perished in the city’s Ghetto, but my father and I survived. The Town Hall was never rebuilt, but all through my childhood, and even during the three and a half years in Ghetto, I loved to listen to my father’s stories about the skillful watchmen of our family who were a part of the city’s history for so long. It made me feel as if I truly belonged to this place, even though, being Jewish, I was an outsider…

    In 1980 we left.
    When I tell my emigration story to my friends in America, I always say that we decided to emigrate on our own, but in reality, we were driven out. By the antisemitism in every area of our life, by the quota my daughter Lilly had to beat in order to get into a college, and by my University stubbornly failing my dissertation five times without giving me any reason.

    Thirty years have past, and I have made my life here in America. I didn’t want to go back, but Sarah, my granddaughter, was very excited to learn about her roots. Those Americans, I thought, the people of the ‘melting pot’. They always are searching for their ancestors, and building their family trees when it’s best to forget. Sarah insisted, and, hesitantly, I agreed to accompany her on her trip. I had nobody waiting for me there. A few of my remaining relatives emigrated too, or died long ago, and a couple of my friends… well, we lost touch.

    Sarah and I strolled down the familiar streets of my city. The day was hot and rainy. When the sun came out of a few minutes, the air turned especially stale and moist.
    “Look, the City Gates. Still the same. I left the city from this station thirty years ago.” I said to my granddaughter pointing to two eleven-story towers in the Train Station Square marking the entrance to of the city.
    She nodded, and dictated something into her iPhone.
    “This is the main boulevard with the grand Post Office building, and the GUM, our answer to Paris’ Galleries de Lafayette,” I chuckled.
    Sarah snapped some pictures.
    With my granddaughter we marveled at the city’s size, architecture and convenience. By any account, it was not a provincial city anymore. I felt nothing about the city, just a tourist’s curiosity. I survived my nostalgia long ago… Rather, I cut off that former part of me, and it died.

    That’s what I thought until we neared the Svobody Square.
    “Look,” said Sarah. “Isn’t it the Town Hall? Remember you told me about it?”
    Her round face lit up. “And the clock on the top of its tower? Grandma, our clock!”
    I shook my head and looked up. Warm summer rain immediately covered my face, hiding my tears. The white Town Hall and the clock looked exactly as I remembered them. With difficulty, I inhaled.
    And then I heard the bell… “

      • Eugenia says

        HI Debbie,
        Thank you for your note. I see how different my fiction is from all your honest posts. But I hope they talk about the same things, just in a different way.

        • Debbie says

          Eugenia – I felt your influence as I wrote my post this week. I think everyone brings a unique voice to this blog – and I learn from each story I read, each style I am exposed to. I like your unique approach, it helps me to grow.

    • Ilana says

      Eugenia- Thank you so much. I always forget, while I am reading your work, that it is fictional. My family came to the states from Europe fleeing antisemitism. I am fortunate to be third generation American so I did not experience these things myself. However, I have spent my life studying and asking questions about the Holocaust and the lucky ones’ the difficult trips to the united states. I have visited the camps and the Ghettos. These stories and images are in my blood and your work is so very valuable because it tells the story of our people so beautifully. Thank you.

      • Eugenia says

        Dear Ilana,
        Just came back from the mini-vacation, and read your post. Thank you for reading and understanding. Searching for my voice took time, but I knew the topics of my writing — it is the story of my people. Nothing I can do about it.
        Would be very interesting to learn about your family story, and about your travels to camps and Ghettos.
        Warm regards,

  5. Debbie O says

    Here is the dark truth; wondering if it is really worth it – this coming back to life?
    Is it better than being half-alive, but without pain? Or maybe it is just that the old pain is more familiar…
    I don’t know, but still I sometimes wonder.

    This past week I spent in a Florida hospital supporting my brother, supporting his wife as she fought back from unanticipated complications after surgery to remove the cancer from her right lung. She is a lovely person, kind, good mother. She is not concerned with the deeper issues of life, consciousness and spirit. Many times she grows anxious and requires the near constant presence of someone for reassurance. Would she meet my definition of “fully alive”? Probably not. Most of her life decisions are fear based or to avoid an anticipated unpleasantness.

    And yet,
    She has so many people contributing to her care. My brother, stalwart at her side for forty-two years, and two children that love her dearly. Friends and family support her with practical gifts of prepared meals and spiritual prayers. She is not alone. She has many invested in helping her find happiness and peace.

    So I wonder, is it really worth it, to live fully? Are the trade-offs in my life worth the discomfort and pain of coming back to life? Why not sink back into the past, the familiar? Dull my senses and turn a deaf ear to the inner voices urging me to search for more? When it is all said and done, who will have had the most fulfilled and fulfilling life? I don’t know anymore.

    The dark truth is; I don’t know if I am strong enough for this journey. Fears are casting a huge shadow on the future. Where is the sun? Where is the warmth? Who will stand with me offering comfort and chasing away the monsters of the night?

    Is “fully alive” just another illusion, like so many in my past? A façade that once cracked, will disappear into dust leaving me only with handfuls of sand?

    It is evening and I am weary from lack of sleep. In my head, I know this is impacting my perceptions, my outlook. Too many nights with blood draws, IV alarms and hourly vital signs. Yet in my heart there remains so many unanswered questions, this constant dull ache and fingers of fear that I am making a huge mistake.

    • says

      Dear Debbie,

      Thank for sharing your pain and your questions and your exhaustion so honestly. When I feel as wrung out as you are, sometimes I just have to go to bed and tell myself, “Tomorrow is another day.” The hard thing about growth is we can’t go back to who we used to be and somehow, some way, you have to find the faith that the passage into your new life, though narrow and lonely, will bring a more authentic life and a more authentic set of relationships.

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- As always this is beautifully written and you brought me to tears. More striking, though, is the pain you are in. I am so sorry. As I read your piece I was brought back to a time I felt hopeless and exhausted. Once that time was over, support, joy, friends and love came into my life from places I had not known about when I was so sad. That is something that keeps me going. There is beauty still left to experience that we cannot even imagine now. Take care of yourself and don’t forget to count the blessings you bring to this world.

    • Debbie O says

      Came again for a second read but this time of my post – pretty raw stuff – maybe too much. If I had slept on it, most likely would not have posted this writing. Still, it is true and how I felt at that low point. I am in pain over the end of my long term relationship and have so many questions about the assumptions I have made and the future. That being said, I still don’t think I should have “dumped” on the blog quite so intensely. I’m sorry.

      • says

        No need to be sorry, Debbie. It was real. It was true. We all know that feelings and mind states and temporary and won’t hold you to it. Thanks for creating an example of living honesty.

      • Ilana says

        Oh please don’t be sorry. Your writing is a gift as is your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable like that. It makes this a safe place for all of us to write.

      • Debbie O says

        Thanks to each of you for the kind words, supporting thoughts and wisdom. I have reread these posts many times over the past few days as I start to regain my equilibrium. I accept and honor the truth of “you can’t go back” -somewhere deep in my heart I know this is true.

    • Andrea says

      Thank you for sharing so honestly Debbie. It is true that a good night’s sleep will change our perception, but I don’t think that makes our previous day’s perception any less important or valid. Laura is right. We can’t go back. Even if we could, I don’t think our hearts truly want to. Only our fears draw us backward.

      • says

        Andrea, I love what you wrote here and I just wanted to underline it, “We can’t go back. Even if we could, I don’t think our hearts truly want to. Only our fears draw us backward.” Thank you for posting such beautiful, true words.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Debbie, I am so glad I got to read your post. I’m a bit like you in that, at different times, I simply must look at the gritty truths of what my life is and can be. I use laughter, positivism, affirmations, etc. to try to keep up, as I am also someone who suffers from clinical depression. I present that lighter side of me to my online activities. Sometimes I feel like a liar and hate that feeling. At other times, I know I am as sincere in my joy as I am in my fed-upness of everything. I hope you trust your process, though it is hard to do. To me, what you said was ‘just right.’ Thanks for sharing it.

          • Ilana says

            Well said, Terry. I so connect with what you say about feeling like a liar. I feel that way sometimes too and now I feel less alone in that. Thank you!

          • Debbie says

            Terry – thanks for the positive words of support. I have just read your post on coming back to life and that makes your comments even more meaningful. Sometimes it feels like there is so much pressure to present what we think folks want to see – at least for me. It is easy to get lost under all the public layers. I am really enjoying your contributions to this blog.

  6. Eugenia says

    I am glad I found this group. You make me think much beyond the standard cheerful but empty slogans. No, they are not empty, they mean to cheer you up, but life is more complicated. We are more complicated – with our ups, downs, personal experiences, doubts.
    I will you all well, and thank you for being human.

  7. Ilana says

    The first thing I saw was the enormous plastic rose tied to the foot of the bed. I stared at it for a second, completely unaware of everything else around me. It seemed to be eight feet tall. I don’t remember the rest very well but I will try. If I make a mistake you’ll have to forgive me. My hands were tied to the bed, there were tubes coming out of every part of my body and there was something in my mouth that went all the way down my throat. Zander was there, and a nurse. My eyes shot from my new husband’s face to my hands and then back again. Why was I tied up like this? And what was this thing in my mouth?

    “It’s okay, Ilana. You’re just waking up from the surgery. We had to intubate you. That tube helped you breathe while you were in the medically induced coma.”

    I nodded my head to show I understood. I don’t know why the words ‘intubate’ and ‘coma’ did not bother me. Perhaps it was her calm and caring voice. I looked back at Zander. His face was sad and frightened. I felt badly for him and wanted to comfort him.

    “I love you.” I tried to talk around the tube but nothing came out.

    “What?” Zander asked.

    “I love you.”

    “I can’t understand you.” The fear in his face intensified.

    “She’s trying to tell you that she loves you.” The nurse said gently.

    “I love you too.” He squeezed my hand. For that one single moment everything was going to be okay. I wasn’t yet aware that I had lost the ability to move the left side of my face, open my mouth or read anything more than a simple nursery rhyme. I did not know that I was going to spend the next seven days tied to that bed in terrible pain and unable to sleep without violent nightmares unless someone was holding my hand. The next week I would be released from my shackles but I’d stay in the ICU under the cloud of a 30% chance of ‘stroking out’ and becoming a vegetable. I was blissfully unaware of all of it; the anguish at seeing my partially shaven head and realizing that I was different from everyone else, the months of recovery, the suicidal depression and all the things that were going to change in my life. For the moment, I was safe and Zander knew that I loved him.

    I looked back at the rose again. In reality it was only four feet tall but in my mind it will always be twice that height. Even now, 11 years later, as my daughter holds it and her own head is a few inches above it. That enormous rose was the first thing I saw when I came back to life.

    • Debbie O says

      Ilana – I can’t even begin to really appreciate the battle you have fought for “normalcy” in your life, the effort, the courage, the faith that it took. Amazing and impressive – puts everything else in perspective. Thank you for reminding us of that.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Debbie. That is so validating. The fact is I was afraid you were all tired of hearing about my aneurysm and wrote a different response but hated it. It talked about coming out of the daze of grief after my miscarriage. When your own writing bores you, though, that is a good hint it is not something you want to share with others. This felt more right and your response confirmed that. Thank you again for your coments.

        • Andrea says

          “When your own writing bores you…” I like that. Your writing certainly does not bore me. Your and Zander’s love is so evident in your writing that it inspires me. Your pain and challenges are strengths and victories in retrospect.

          • Ilana says

            Thank you Andrea. Your words are so encouraging in a difficult time for me. I also REALLY appreciated what you said about our hearts not really wanting to go back but our fears drawing us backwards. I appreciate your posts, your comments and your wisdom.

  8. Andrea says

    When I fall asleep on my stomach with my arm underneath me, I’ll wake up to the discomfort of my arm being entirely numb. I have to lay there for a minute bracing myself for the tingling and odd pain of actually moving my arm and waiting for it to come back to life.

    If my arm slowly, imperceptibly fell asleep over the span of ten years or so, it would be much less noticeable. I would probably just learn to use my left arm and adjust my life to function around the dead appendage. Occasionally, its absence would probably bother me, but I wouldn’t have to think about it too much if I could still function without it. The problem at this point would be that, after being asleep for 10 years, the pain, work, and discomfort of waking my arm up would be exponentially worse than had I immediately recognized the problem and dealt with it.

    I wish it were just my arm. How much harder it is to wake up my inner voice, my intuition, my awareness of what I need to be happy, after letting myself be numb for many years? I have to figuratively shake myself until the blood flows again and I start to tingle all over. Sometimes the tingling feels amazing and reminds me of what I’m reaching for. Sometimes the tingling hurts and reminds me of how far I have to go.

    • Ilana says

      Wow, Andrea. This is so inspiring and I love the way you give us a concrete example before you move into the more figurative. It flows beautifully and I learned a lot in those three short paragraphs. Thank you!

  9. Debbie O says

    Andrea – I really like how you use the literal example of your arm falling asleep to take an abstract concept and make it understandable for everyone. Thanks for sharing this with us and your unique skill in making the details relevant.

  10. Terry Gibson says

    For the fourth time, I awoke again to searing pain. I kept my eyes closed and felt the warmth of the sun against my eyelids. The apartment was freezing. I tried to cuddle more deeply into the blanket but the burning of my arm made it impossible. It was 10 am. I had to get up. Throwing back the covers, I tried to jump up quickly only to fall back on the bed. Fuck. I felt like I would throw up.

    On the second try, I got up more slowly. I was on my back, with my arm half resting on top of me. I strained those muscles to the max trying to stay in that position. I cursed the size of my boobs at that moment and tried to laugh through the pain. Unable to stay that way any longer, I had to roll over to my other side for leverage to get up off the bed and to my feet.

    I cradled my right arm as if I was holding a new baby; in a way it was. The pink, weepy skin of my wound was about six by five inches in size, opposite my forearm. While resting the arm on my night table, I slowly and gently removed the dressing. After washing and disinfecting it, I grabbed another second skin bandage. Fuck. Opening a bandage one-handed was not easy. Still, I was so glad to be left-handed at that moment. I ‘diapered’ my new baby, a bit in awe at the fresh new skin.

    And I wanted the doctor to do both arms at once, I said aloud. I was sweating as I rummaged through my top dresser drawer for something to fashion a sling out of. Where was my sari? That could work. Crap. This was much harder than I thought it would be.

    Tears stung my eyes and I collapsed sobbing. I was so tired. I couldn’t move. I was hyper-self-conscious in public. I wanted the derm abrasion. The surgeon said one huge scar would ‘fade in’ all the scars from cutting myself over the years–make it look like a huge burn. It was my commitment to Terry. I had just started college again and loved it. I wanted to learn and be around people. I wanted to be healthy, not be a suicide stat. I wanted people to know how much love I had inside me. Even if I could not feel that for me, didn’t loving others give me the right to breathe? The right to coming alive perhaps for the first time ever?

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