Some days, I think the only thing worse than being in a coma is what happens when you wake up.

Two years ago, my life was pretty set up. I was a therapist for severely schizophrenic adults, had lots of friends, took '60s dance classes, and often cleaned my house in a cocktail dress. Then, out of nowhere, I came down with a mysterious illness.

It seemed like pneumonia with an attitude; after weeks with no improvement, I was admitted to the hospital. That night, I was in such bad shape that the doctors had to induce a coma to try and keep me alive. My boyfriend had to call my parents to have them fly to the hospital.

For 10 days my family and friends sat at my bedside in the ICU, conferring with doctors and feeling terrified. They discovered that I have a rare disease that is basically arthritis of the organs, and when they started the appropriate medication, I stabilized within days and woke up. Which is when things got weird.

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When I Woke Up ...
My confusion upon waking up was all-encompassing. I had no idea what had happened, and I couldn't ask, since I was hooked to tons of wires and tubes.

You know in movies where someone wakes up from a coma and starts singing and dancing? Total BS. Lying down for just 10 days makes your muscles weaker than a baby's, and makes your body swell up to epic, cartoonish proportions. I was baffled and couldn't make my body work, and frustrated that everyone else understood what was going on but me. I remained hospitalized for weeks while I recovered.

I'm a Coma Patient, Not an Oracle
I quickly learned how irritating it is that the sick and the disabled are often treated as if their "afflictions" make them purer or different than everyone else. Suddenly, my being ill had trumped my being me.

People I barely knew crowded into my hospital room to wish me well, and when I spoke, they leaned in, wondering what kind of wisdom or clarity I'd gleaned from my near-death experience. Instead, I asked them about celebrity gossip I'd missed.

"You are truly blessed," I was told, more than once and more than a little forcefully. I did realize how blessed I was, and it made me feel stronger and weaker and grateful and scared all at the same time. But I didn't see how that related to me doling out platitudes to old co-workers and acquaintances.

It seemed that people were desperate to hear how trauma lit an introspective fire under my ass.

Life After Near-Death

After I was released from the hospital, my boyfriend offered to take me anywhere I wanted to go. I thought of all the things available to me and realized that what I wanted most was to watch "Purple Rain" and eat curry fries from the Irish pub down the street.

I wanted to laugh at people on the subway with my best friend, and I wanted to have one of those lazy days where you only get dressed to greet the Thai food delivery guy. Normal, everyday things.

Being in a coma made me realize that yeah, life should be lived to the fullest -- but I think we get stuck on what "the fullest" actually means. It isn't something you see in Lifetime movies, where somebody gets sick and spends the rest of her time "touching the lives" of every person she meets. It means seeking fulfillment in all its many forms.

All of them -- even fries, Prince movies, celebrity gossip -- are more essential to your being than anything you'd list on a résumé.

Emily Gordon is a blogger and journalist who lives in New York. As a person who has had a textbook near-death experience, she would advise you to spend less time trying to be "a better person" and more time enjoying making fun of people with crazy drawn-on eyebrows.

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