Twin Hospital Beds

There was a time, a decade ago, when I was also in a
hospital, when I also was bald, and when I also was frightened of what was
happening to me.
In most aspects, these are entirely different
experiences, but it’s been hard for me at present to not recollect and compare the two.
At the time, at 21, I was committed to a hospital for erratic
behavior that others close to me (though there weren’t very many anymore)
interpreted as apparent manic, perhaps bipolar, behavior: I had shaved my head. I had
torn down posters that belonged to my college roommates and left them strewn about. I had
missed enough classes to not be graduating with my roommates. And I had cursed
out my father before being kicked out.
What these people close to me did not know was that I was
drinking daily, dating a guy who sold psychedelic mushrooms and fed me liberally from his store, and was stoned most of the time.
Therefore, in my addled opinion, all the above “erratic” behavior was justifiable by
me: I was helping, I was expressing myself, I was partying, man. …
Nonetheless, I found myself for two and a half months behind the thick glass of
institutional windows and locked ward doors.
This was not a highlight of my existence. And yet. The first
night I was brought onto the “watch ward,” they wheeled another college student
in on a gurney who, shaking his fist at the sky, bellowed, “DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT!!” And I
thought to myself that all of this nonsense, this adventure, as I saw it at the time, would
make great fodder for the book I would one day write about myself.
Very few people came to visit me in that ward. My family, and my best friend.
And the rabbi from my synagogue who knew me from
Sunday school age.
To contrast this sad sad scene …
This time, I’ve also had rabbis come to visit me. Rabbis who
I now work with, a rabbi who I just happened to befriend almost 5 years ago, and another who sent me a gift card to Whole Foods.
This time, tons of
people have visited me, and tons of people know that I’m here and are sending cards, gifts, thoughts, texts. Prayers. 
This time, I am not huddled over a toilet to retch up pills
that made me dull. Or rooming with a girl who sincerely believed helicopters were following her. Or picking at (the admittedly same) dull food with a man who got drunk and laid down on the train tracks. 
Like last time, my brother has given me books to cheer me
up. Like last time, that same best friend is coming to visit me.
But, the contrast with who I am now and who is showing up for
me now, the vastness of my circle of friends, and the enormity of their (your) heart
and generosity – … the contrast is staggering.
I am still bald, unable to leave the hospital, and dependent
on doctors who prescribe me things I’d rather not take. Like then, I am battling a
life-threatening disease, then called addiction, now called cancer. But, unlike
then – I have a sense of who I am beyond this disease. I have a belief in who I
am and things greater than who I am (like Love, for example) to ground me during my fear. And I have faith that this chaos can be met with
fortitude and with the occasional breath of levity.
Though both, I’d wager, make for pretty interesting writing. 

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