Whenever we experience trauma or go through an extremely challenging time in our lives we often remember the bad. We remember the ugly. We don’t remember little moments of hope because our brains are wired generally catastrophize experiences. Just think about the mainstream media, are you happier when you read it at the end of the day?
Don’t you feel like most news reports focus on the doom and gloom of what’s going on around the world? How many “Good Feeling” stories do you read in a day? I’m guessing not many. I’ll never forget during Covid there was this mini-series called “Some Good News” hosted by the American Actor and Filmmaker John Krasinksi. It was genius. It made you laugh and feel hope in the face of a global lock-down. I digress.
The same can really be said for our lives. In 2016 I spent an entire year in bed with multiple surgeries from a pressure sore on my backside down to my bone. It was painful, it was lonely, it was depressing, and it was a very arduous and long road to recovery. Months on end of not being able to see more than four walls and a window.
You see insurance would not approve certain surgeries until I tried other protocols first, which were destined to fail due to mountains of research showing that a giant open hole, a pressure sore, specifically a stage IV pressure sore, was not likely to heal on its own if you have lack of blood circulation or paralysis. I was essentially a prisoner in my own home. Our broken insurance industry is still lagging behind. A story for another article.
The day finally came when I was approved for a major plastic surgery procedure called a “Flap Surgery.” It’s a fancy way of saying that they chop out the necrotic tissue on your backside, re-arrange your buttock fat containing great blood flow in order to cover up the wound. It is naturally much more complicated than that, but you get the idea from the pictures below.
I lived in the ICU for nearly 6 weeks. They didn’t know what to do with me. I kept coding, my blood pressure kept tanking, and no one wanted to be responsible for my death. So, they did the only thing that they could do … they threw me back into the ICU. I had tubes coming out of every part of my body, 600 stitches, 400 Staples, and my arms were bruised from being stuck so many times with needles.
This was only the beginning though. Once they released me from the hospital, I still had another 6 months I was going to have to stay in a specialized air fluidized bed for healing. The healing process is much more complicated than I have time to elaborate on, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Let’s put it that way.
When I was in the ICU there was this one day I distinctly remember when I realized my spirits were starting to wane. I couldn’t imagine another day in the ICU so I decided to do something highly unconventional. I mean really off the wall wacky.
In true, “Do it For the Story” Ali fashion I asked my mother to make a memory with me. I told her it would be very unusual and probably a little weird. She acquiesced to my request.
Life is about the stories. When your time clock is up in life, I highly suspect you are not going to wish you worked more at the office, but created more memories to reflect back on. This is precisely how I try to live each week of my life.
I asked my mother to dress me up in a beautiful and sexy manner for a “Sexy” ICU photo shoot. I wanted to showcase the beauty of disability despite being locked into a hospital room that might have as well have been a jail cell and the wardens were my doctors preventing me from early release on account of good behavior.
This incredible woman stood up on a chair and started snapping the most risqué photos of me. I thought it was hilarious, the nurses were laughing, the doctors were shocked, and we, thus, created a memory together.
I recall this one surgeon walking in my room to come check my stitches and asking him to please come back later because I was in the middle of a photoshoot. He didn’t say anything. Not a word. I don’t think he knew what to say. The nurses were laughing. They could not believe I told the doctor to go away for 15 minutes. Why not? I was paying out-of-pocket 100% for health insurance. They were on my time is the way I looked at it.
Years later I think back to those 6 weeks in the ICU unit and do you know what I remember?
I really remember that moment. That singular moment. Of course, I remember the bed and the tubes, but not specific moments of hell I was going through. I remember giggling even though I coded an hour later. I look back on these photos, not to feel sexy or trying to show off, but to remind myself that through extreme adversity you can still find humor albeit dark or gallows humor as a say.
We each handle trauma in our own way, but I think we can all agree that laughter is sometimes quite literally the best medicine even if it only lasts for a few moments. Countless psychology papers have proven without a shadow of a doubt that people who laugh more or simply fake a smile heal more quickly.
Why? Inflammation in a word. Inflammation is what causes sickness, which can be triggered by stress, food, physical health, etc. Life really is all about your frame of mind – no matter how dark a time you may be going through. It’s about self-perspective. Although, this is much easier said than done and takes a tremendous amount of work each day on your part with respect to wellness and self-care.
Even when you feel like the world is ending on a particular day try to do something just a little wacky and weird because I promise you one thing – you will remember it and you will bank these memory stories for decades to come!