Thursday, November 04, 2010

As I sat in the hospital, early on in my admission two weeks ago, I was talking to one of my friends, who referenced something, as we discussed my situation.
She said that she “got it,” as she was one of the rare breed known as a “CSHN diva.” I have met a few, and perhaps I will start a sorority. Wouldn’t that be fun? Just call me Elle Woods (Legally Blonde 2 is my inspiration for life…)
They are people who are consumers of “the system,” know the drill and still maintain their proper level of fabulosity. Granted, it is not easy to do.
Here are some tips…
Perhaps this should just grow into a book…. It is a bit lengthy. Being fabulous is not easy remember.

(Of course, let me offer a disclaimer that this is not actually sage health advice, just a witty blog- please listen to your doctors before me)

CSHN Diva’s guide to being in the hospital:

1. Be polite.

First and foremost. As my fellow diva, and good friend Kristin Chenoweth explains, part of being a diva is being nice. This can be difficult when you feel terrible, and would like to be anywhere but inpatient, but believe it or not, people do have your best interests at heart, and are just doing their jobs. As miserable as I can be, I always try to make light of the obnoxious questions that get asked hundreds of times. Keeping your sense of humor surprises people and let’s them know you’re on board with what they’re trying to do, which is ultimately get you better. I also believe in thanking everybody, from the people who clean your room to the people who draw your blood (even if it takes them 6 tries after you ask them “are you good at what you do”) Little things make a big difference, and I even learned this stay that people were arguing over who got to be my night nurse (and here I was worried about being the high maintenance bitch people avoided)

2. It’s ok to speak up:
I have been doing this whole “hospital patient” thing longer than most of my doctors have been practicing. I know my body, and I know my symptoms. Basically when I go into the ER, I know what I need, and I know what needs to be done. I know what tests are a waste of time and money, and what could possibly mean something else. Trust your gut. Don’t be afraid to mention something that you think might be up, or refuse something that you know is irrelevant (again… if your doctor really insists, it might be worth it… I’m not giving medical advice here) you can make your ER process, or hospital stay a lot more productive if you are able to guide people through what has or has not worked for you, and reminding them that you have things to do and people to see can actually have an impact versus laying around waiting for them to make the next move. Things in the ER tend to move about as fast as a granny marathon...

3. Wardrobe:
This comes directly from a texting conversation early on, between divas.
A:“Tell me you are wearing adorable pj’s and not one of those horrible hospital gowns”
M: “Clearly.”

Not only does this prevent a major fashion faux pas, but it is a crucial step in maintaining one’s dignity and showing people who is in charge of your body. Nothing says “I don’t care” like a not properly sized sheet with sleeves and no back. Please. Nobody wants to see that, and I guarantee it is not going to help if you get chilly. Conveniently for me (or not so) I had been dressed for flying, so was already equipped with velour sweats and a t-shirt, and in my blind rage of packing, brought more sweats, and t-shirts from various conferences and musicals. It may not be a fashion show, but at least an opportunity to show people that you are still you. Fuzzy socks and sweatshirts are a must as well, you never know when they might be out of "footie slippers" or warm blankets... and hospital temperatures and fevers can be very unpredictable (much like airplanes)

4. Hygiene:
Be the girl that smells good. Trust me, it surprises people, and again shows you respect yourself. I am a huge believer in feeling good has a lot to do with looking good (or at least smelling good).
Although it can be a huge ordeal, do not go more than 3 day with at least some sort of sponge bath (or shower if possible). It might seem like a huge process, but I guarantee it will make you feel better, if only for a little while. Being sick is no excuse to get dread locks either. If you are seriously in a bad way, might I suggest braids as an elegant easy style that is perfect for miserable writhing in bed without too much damage and tangling.

Another rule I stand by all the time, whether it be on an airplane or just in winter weather. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Hospital air is just as atrocious as airplane air, and thus is torture for most skin. Bring your own lotion and apply frequently. Those little hospital slipper socks are fabulous to slip on after liberally moisturizing your feet (bonus if you talk someone into giving you an inpatient pedicure too) and letting it soak in while you lie about.

5. Room service it is not.
Oh the food. Granted, let me preface this with just how disenchanting it is to go from truffle mac and cheese and Marriott breakfast menus to a hospital menu that now says “room service.”

I just about cried when I saw the universe was mocking me so (and the fact that I knew my colleagues were going to be having sushi and receptions all week while I had orange sherbet and grilled cheese….)
One thing I have realized when I’m sick, is that my appetite is as up and down as my temperature. I either want nothing at all, or get one craving for something that won’t go away until I have it (usually something that is not on the “room service” menu). On one horrible hospital experience, my fellow diva and I actually ordered Chinese takeout and had it delivered directly to my room.
Other than that, I know the people that will visit that understand what I’m dealing with and offer to bring me lattes, or Thai food when I’m absolutely craving it. Don’t be afraid to ask what for you want. People will want you to “eat and get your strength back.” If you don’t have someone to go fetch your dietary requests, don’t be afraid to special order from the “room service” menu. For example… hospital scrambled eggs are far better with cheese though it’s not listed there. Always ask. The worst thing that can happen is they say no, you don’t eat and end up losing a couple pounds. Could be worse, right?

6. Connectivity is a right not a privilege
One of my trademarks is that I can be having blood drawn, or an IV in one arm, and the other will always have my blackberry.
Within the first five minutes of being admitted (and stabilized, obviously if I’m not feeling well I don’t care…) I know what the wifi availability is, or where I have to go to get it (I used to have to go to a crowded library with a username and password on public computer…tragic).
True divas cannot just go off the grid without some sort of update to let people know what’s going on (more on this soon) or to at least keep up with the celebrity gossip or what is going on in the outside world so they don’t feel completely hidden away, a la Repunzel sans her prince charming. Sometimes things simply must be done. I have e-mailed papers from the nurse’s station when I was in college, and most recently virtually streamed the day of speakers I was missing in DC then participated virtually in a strategic planning meeting via texting as well.
Granted, I’m a bit of a work-a-holic and have been resting since then, but true divas know when it’s important to have a presence, and when the statement to make is to be missed.

7. Have secrets:
This is sort of a newer thing I realized more this time, as my mother and I were having disputes of who was telling what information. Now that social media is a huge deal (take it or leave it, it’s there) it’s different than when I had a few select people I would keep informed of my health and the different stages of being sick (hey guys I’m in the ER, I’ll keep you posted, vs. “Ok, not looking good, probably going to have surgery, good thoughts please.” )
But now…when I post an “update” it goes to 600 people. Or if someone in my family posts an update it goes to another several hundred (who may or may not also be seeing mine). To me… information about my health is an earned privilege. I don’t believe in divulging my entire cyber-audience with details of what my blood count was or what my fever was.

I see it as the equivalent of a first date. You don’t go on a first date and say, “Hi, I’m Mal, I’m a little high maintenance and there is a chance I could go into the hospital with a severe infection, want to share an appetizer?” Brutal to say, sometimes the scary truth is a good way to push people away. Not everyone can handle it. Usually after the initial blast that things are not well and there has been a change of plans, I slowly get it narrowed down to the VIP’s who want to be in it for the long haul, and continue to keep them posted (these are usually the people I know will be dropping by with frequent lattes and new issues of magazines, knowing just what I need without me asking).
Otherwise my updates are vague and minimally dramatic (except when I become terribly bored and depressed and the walls are closing in). I find this is the best way, for several reasons, one of which, I have seen what people do when they do not have all the facts. One time I was in the hospital, I had told one of my friends that I had an infection, only to find out that it got turned into that I had AIDS. As much as I love RENT…. That is not the case. The less information that is out there, the less that can be misconstrued, and the less hysteria there is among my 600 “friends,” and the more I can actually rest and do my “get better thing.” This is only my process of course (and as my fellow diva Paris says, “Every heiress has to stay somewhat mysterious… if you don’t have secrets, make people think you do.” Being an open book is not cute). Some of you may love drama, in which case make things sound as scary as possible, but be prepared to diffuse a lot of rumor bombs and deal with people who treat you like creepy, catchy glass after.

8. Be selfish:
This may sound like it’s counteracting #1 (be polite) but you can do both! What I mean by this is- Let yourself be sick. Take the time to heal, and properly recover in style. If you don’t want people to visit you, it’s ok to say that. People usually feel like they don’t know what to do when you’re in the hospital, so if it means waiting for you to be out and taking you for coffee when you’ve got nothing to do, tell them that. If you don’t feel up to entertaining people in your hospital room and would rather watch “What Not to Wear” through half opened unshadowed eyelids, SAY THAT.
Use your silly little nurse call bell if you need help with something, that’s what it’s there for. You’re not being annoying… you’re SICK.

This also applies to when you are home, but still not feeling up to par. If you try to throw yourself back into your fantastic life at the pace you had before without actually letting your body recover, you will crash and burn, and that is not fabulous. Rest, sleep in, drink tea, watch lots of reality television, take hot showers and sleep after. Email all the people you answer to, and explain you are still recovering so you can skip things, guilt free.
You’ll know when you are ready to start taking things on again because you will begin getting bored. Divas can only be down for so long and friend and family online sales only last for so many weeks…
Give yourself the proper pampering, get a good night’s sleep, and perhaps a new NARS lipgloss (or three) and begin getting back into the swing of things. Before you know it, you will be back on a plane, overcommitted, wishing for a real vacation.

And best of luck. Just know, CSHN divas, you are not alone, and all the other sisters support you in your quest for staying well and being fabulous.


Anonymous said...

Amazing, as inspire me glad you have the energy to blog....happy healing thoughts!!


Anonymous said...

You should write the handbook for life. I love you and think of you often. -Caitlin

Anonymous said...

You always have been amazing... and always will be.