“The hospital night.”
That’s how I refer to it now, the blurry Friday night my freshman year that turned into Saturday morning at Knox Community Hospital – and believe me, it’s been referred to plenty of times.
I started joking about “the hospital night” when it was still technically “the hospital morning,” spinning every detail into a punchline for my friends, trying to get them to crack a smile.“The part where I sang Beyonce to the Campus Safety officers.” “The part where I spoke to the ER nurse in a British accent.” “Did I tell you guys about the part where I came to in the back of a van on the way home to campus with some random dog licking my face?”
There were other parts, too.
The part that’s completely blank. No sights. No sounds.
The part where I couldn’t walk, and my friends had to carry me from the Market to my dorm.
The part where I couldn’t stop puking.
The part where I couldn’t stop crying.
The part where I woke up alone in a hospital room at 3:00 a.m. with vomit in my hair, an IV in my arm, and a slow, steady feeling of dread creeping its way throughout my body.
For a long time, I joked about the experience because I didn’t want to seem “dramatic.” I was so ashamed of losing control, of needing my friends to take care of me, of wasting the doctors’ and nurses’ time on yet another wasted college girl. It wasn’t until later that I started reading online about kids my age who hadn’t been so lucky, kids who’d fallen out of windows, kids who’d choked on their own vomit or been hit by cars. I desperately wanted to to put distance between myself and these kids, to tell myself “I’m not that kind of person”, but the truth is, there is no “that kind of person.” There’s lucky, and there’s not. I still don’t like to say it out loud — or even type it — but what happened to me was serious, and it was bad, and if I hadn’t gotten lucky, it could have been a whole lot worse.
At the time, the only way I could deal with the whole miserable, mortifying mess was to laugh about it as often and as loudly as possible. This has always been a coping mechanism of mine, but I realize now that if someone had overheard me making light of the experience, they would have had no way of knowing how scary it truly was for me — they would have thought I’d just shrugged it off, turned it into a dinner-table anecdote and forgotten about it.
When I’m sitting in Peirce on a Sunday morning and hear people casually referring to “getting blackout” the night before, a feeling of unease invariably washes over me. All too often, they go on to add, “Yeah, I completely don’t remember what happened,” or “Everyone said I was hilarious, but it’s all a blur.” My instinct is always to judge these people, to wonder to myself, “Who the fuck thinks passing out and losing chunks of time is funny?”, but then I remember – I did. Or, at least, I would have appeared to, to anyone who happened to overhear me sharing the “epic story” of my hospital stay.
When I look back, I have to wonder – did I, in my own small way, contribute to a negative culture of drinking on campus? In the eyes of a stranger or a prospie or a professor, did my stupid, self-deprecating jokes appear to normalize the terrifying phenomenon of getting so drunk you don’t know who you are or who you’re with?
I’m not the only person I know who’s been rushed to Knox Community after a weekend night gone wrong: according to Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper, there had already been 10 hospital transports from Kenyon as of November alone. We should take advantage of the Good Samaritan policy, confide in friends, family or Counseling Center staffers if we’re having issues with drugs or alcohol, reach out to our friends if we think they’re in trouble. Outside of all those obvious answers, I have no idea how to stop this kind of thing from happening. Does anyone?
The only thing I can do is stop joking around, stop trying to make it OK, and be as honest as I can about how it feels to wake up in a hospital bed halfway through your first year at Kenyon, dressed in a cotton gown you don’t remember putting on, your head spinning as you squint at the “Summons of Court Appearance” resting ominously on the table next to you and and realize that any memory you have of the night that put you there is just a deep, dark blur.