Silenced

My husband always tells me I’m urusai (noisy) because I talk all the time! I always talk to my husband, my son, family, friends, colleagues, I conduct training at work, sing in the shower, I talk to myself and even to the TV. I use my voice a lot! I was in a choir when I was little until in my teenage years so my vocal cords were trained for intense use. I could do solo-karaoke with non-stop singing for 5 hours straight! (I haven’t tried more than that so I’m not sure what my limit is.)

In my post Hospitalized, I shared that the patients in my 4-bed shared room weren’t talking and seemed very concerned about making noises, due to the house rule “be silent and avoid causing disturbance to others”. I have been conforming with it, trying not to make noise, and talking to the nurse midwifes really softly or in whisper. Overtime, I noticed my voice deteriorating — it’s cracking on normal volume and won’t come out when I try to speak softly. I had lost my voice many times before because of colds or belting too much, but never because I don’t use my vocal cords enough. It feels like the muscles are “sleeping” and I’ve lost control of them. I only get to call my husband and son on the weekends, so I hate that my voice doesn’t come out when I speak to them. I thought, “I have to start talking again!”

About three weeks ago, a new patient came to my shared room. Let’s call her M-san. There was a time when my shampoo day was on the same day as hers and she finished earlier, so while she was using the hair dryer, I waited on my bed. Others would just leave the dryer at the sink and go back to their beds when they’re done, but M-san actually came to my bed to tell me she finished and where she left the dryer. I was surprised, and so after I dried my hair, I went to her bed and thanked her for the nice gesture. We chatted for about a few minutes, sharing why we were hospitalized and had a fun chat; we even ended up exchanging some snacks. I finally made a friend, in my third month here at the hospital! Yey!

The next day, two of the patients moved to the labor room so M-san and I were left in the shared room. That afternoon, M-san walked over to the window to get some sunlight and we chatted (my bed is by the window). The afternoon snacks came so she went back to her bed and we opened our divider curtains so we could continue chatting while eating. A nurse midwife came, saw us with the curtains all open, and told us off, nicely. Apparently, it wasn’t just the house rules that silenced my roommates before, it’s also because of the current pandemic situation — the hospital doesn’t “advise” patients to “socialize” with each other. We thought, 1) we’re not disturbing anyone coz it’s only the 2 of us in the room, and 2) clearly, we’re not infected so there’s no risk for the both of us. But the nurses can’t give us special consideration as they have to treat everyone equally, so no matter the room situation, everyone has to follow and act the same. We said OK…

But one time, M-san came over to my bed bringing strawberries. Her husband brought them for her but they were huge and too many to consume before the expiration date, so she came to share some with me. We chatted while eating the strawberries but said we’ll have to hurry before a nurse midwife comes. There were also times when we went to the washroom or sink, we would drop by each other’s bed to say hi and try to limit our conversation to a few minutes, or hurry back to our bed when we hear footsteps coming to our room. It was funny and felt ridiculous sneaking and acting like children when we’re both over 30 already! Eventually, we got caught again and was reminded that it’s not advisable to socialize. (They can’t seem to say “not allowed”…)

We didn’t want to be considered as “difficult patients”, so we conform and now just greet each other whenever we meet at the sink area or the lounge. It’s very disappointing coz I finally made a friend and I was starting to get my voice back again, yet because of the pandemic situation, we are being silenced… Oh how I long for the day that I can freely talk and be “noisy” again!


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*urusai (うるさい, Japanese) noisy, sometimes used as annoying
*-san (さん, informal form of –sama 様, Japanese) salutation such as Miss or Mister, but informal and usually used for personal conversations or when an informal relationship has been established

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