Based on my visit to hospital
Photo via unsplash
Moments before you go to hospital, your life flashes before your eyes.
How do I know? Every year I go to hospital, get given an anesthetic, fall asleep, let the doctor look around my insides, and hope I wake up.
What is the doctor searching for in my organs? Tumors. If the doctor finds one while I’m asleep then they immediately cut it out. Every time I have been to be checked, they have found something.
This year I’m determined to fight my insides with a boxing glove. I have switched to a whole food planted-based diet to drain any potential tumors of life, by not giving them the acidic environment they need to survive. Alkalinity is my weapon against myself.
We’ll find out if my back-of-the-envelope medical plan is successful in a few hours.
This annual trip to the hospital started in 2015 when I felt a little off. I saw my doctor and he told me it was nothing and to take vitamin pills. My girlfriend at the time told me to get a second opinion. I refused for six months until, finally, she forced me to see her family doctor.
The new doc’s advice was similar: “it’s probably nothing. But…”
Whenever you see a doctor be careful of the “but.” They always have something else to say and their goal is to keep you calm. The but in my case was that the doctor wanted to send me to hospital for a guided tour around my insides.
Most people wouldn’t care too much. For me, I’m petrified of hospitals and medical procedures. Going to hospital is like standing on the edge of a cliff face with no harness, while a tornado twirls around a few feet away. This means I have to prepare my mind.
Here is a list of things I do to face one of the scariest moments of my life:
No phones or social media
Phones and social media create stress. I can’t deal with my hospital reality and serve my phone master. So, phones go off and social media goes unanswered. At best, social media posts get scheduled.
But content creation stops before hospital out of respect to what might happen if anything goes wrong. You won’t be looking at your twitter account on the last day of your life; you’ll be thinking about those you love.
Christmas movies for joy reminders
The thought of santa and presents under a tree equals joy. It takes me back to childhood. It helps remind me of the pleasure of giving rather than receiving. It’s a pure time of year. Everything makes sense.
You sit with family, be grateful for what you have, and eat a meal. Each year the table of relatives gets smaller as people pass away. One year you have grandma, and next year you don’t. Christmas used to be for religious folks.
Now the universal language of Christmas is joy. You can be an atheist and use Christmas as an excuse to be grateful and feel joy.
It turns out gratitude and joy are excellent right before hospital, too. So, I watch Christmas movies leading up to hospital to put me in state.
Injecting calm into the mind
Hospital equals fear. The opposite of fear is calmness.
The good news is you can manufacture calmness in your life when you need it most. I manufacture calm like this:
- Deep breathing
- Getting sunshine
- Audio in my ears that tells me everything is going to be okay. (I choose Tony Robbins’ voice.)
The superpower of overpreparation
Two days before hospital I go into lockdown. I start to overprepare so that on the day of hospital I don’t have to do anything or stress about a single thing. Overpreparation helps alleviate stress.
I pack my backpack with everything I might need while in the hospital. I take lots of water, comfortable clothes, headphones for calming audio, and tissues.
One thing I don’t take is time. Time in the hospital moves differently. When you’re fearful time either slows down or speeds up. For me, my thoughts speed up, but an hour feels like 12 hours. Looking at the time makes me more nervous.
I start mapping out in my mind what time I get dressed into my scrubs, then what time I meet the nurse to undergo a health check, then the scary moment when the anesthetist comes into the room and tries to explain to me what is going to happen, even though I’d do anything not to know.
You have a lot of time to live. But time in the hospital feels different and it should. Hospital is where you go to repair your body from all the damage you and the world throw at it.
Absolutely no 9–5 work whatsoever
9–5 work stresses me out the most. Already, my work colleagues are trying to schedule meetings right after I get out of hospital. It’s for this reason that I refuse to engage in any traditional work leading up to the hospital.
Thinking about customers while I contemplate the beauty of consciousness destroys my happiness.
The work phone gets left far, far away in a distant galaxy. The work laptop’s battery is run down to empty so that it can’t dare boot up on my hospital day. It sounds drastic. But in a world that is always switched on, it is increasingly hard to switch off — even for a hospital moment.
24 hours before hospital, the countdown begins. Each year I prepare my last meal. Then, for the next 24 hours I am not allowed to eat anything to prepare my insides for what follows.
The last meal has to be light. The medical form suggests a chicken or salad sandwich. This year I’m going to be a badass and make a wrap with salad. As I eat my last meal it’s a strange feeling. I contemplate a rather drastic thought: What happens if I don’t wake up? These questions follow.
Was my life well-lived?
Did my life mean something?
Did I help enough people?
Did I write enough?
Did I treat people fairly?
Could I have done it any better?
Even contemplating never waking up again seems to contain self-improvement hacks.
The bites of my last meal before hospital always seem bittersweet. On the one hand I love what I’m eating. On the other hand, what is about to happen makes me so nervous I find it hard to eat.
It’s a strange sensation. It’s as if the human body knows in advance what is about to happen and can see the hospital before I do, therefore, adjusting itself accordingly.
Writing final goodbyes
After I eat my last meal I get sentimental. I start writing messages to people as if they’re final goodbyes. I don’t tell them it’s a goodbye — and they don’t know the situation because I keep it secret as a way to contain my fear.
The message normally ends with “see you on the other side.”
This phrase has two meanings:
1. See you after hospital.
2. See you in the afterlife.
I want the metaphorical last thing I write to the people I love to be impactful. Something they can look back on if the worst was ever to happen.
Scheduling content for the afterlife
Another ritual I go through is to schedule content for the afterlife.
The idea that if something went wrong and blog posts were still being published, is creepy… yet deeply satisfying. Why not creep people out, and have your human existence and your online existence end at different times?
I want everything I’ve ever written to be released. My publishing schedule is somewhat influenced by this practice. And it’s also why I am obsessed with hitting the publish button, even if the piece isn’t perfect.
Unpublished drafts seem like a waste of one’s life.
Drafts have power for you as you write them and reflect on your life. But drafts have even more power when they are seen by others to help them understand their own lives. Everything we write creates tiny ripple effects in the world to be perhaps felt for centuries to come.
Maybe I publish a lot of content due to the afterlife.
Writing a final message to the world
The last step I go through is to write a message — like this article — to the world, just in case.
It’s a little doomsday prepping, but I find it deeply meaningful. The truth is a final message to the world takes my mind off what is about to occur. I like the message to contain equal parts of something useful and something philosophical (like I hope my life to date has been). The key is not to over pepper the words. Simple. Short. Sharp.
Once I type the final words of my message I switch off the computer to further zone out. It’s just me, my thoughts, a few podcasts from Tim Ferriss, a comfy bed, a gentle walk, and some time with my girlfriend.
My hospital moment is almost here. Yes, I’m afraid. I’m scared shitless too. My final meal has been prepared. I’m about to turn into a water-fasting zombie with an empty stomach. All I can think to myself is “at least my mind isn’t empty.”
Your mortality can be a scary thing. So can not living to your full potential.
The best time of your life is alive time.
This won’t be the last time we meet through words. But in case it is, see you on the other side.