I was told many times before lying down that all of the past subjects have had a rough patch at some point during their stay here. Some of them settle in immediately and the reality doesn’t hit until later. The first day was almost a joke. My sister dropped me off at the Clinic at 9 a.m., at which time I met up with Becca, the other study subject in this session. We sat around and waited until it was time to head upstairs to our rooms. Up there, I unpacked all my clothes, books, and DVDs, and surveyed the room. It didn’t hit me at that point that I would be in this room for 22 hours a day for the next 84 days. I hadn’t brought anything to make it at all homey, aside from a small lamp and my alarm clock. Eleven a.m. came, nervous pacing gave way to acceptance, and I got into bed without much fanfare. The rest of the day went quickly, and my only source of discomfort was a lack of lumbar support.

On day two, I woke up and didn’t know where I was. It came to me in a second, and for a second after that I thought I might be dreaming. With the realization of the situation came an overwhelming sense of disappointment. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Breakfast came, and I ate two bites of my waffles before feeling like I wanted to vomit.

When the body is put at negative 6 degrees, it’s thrown into somewhat of a state of shock. It’s not used to operating on an incline. I am just now starting to appreciate what a key role gravity plays in daily bodily functions. When gravity is taken away, things get disturbed. The urinary and digestive systems are working uphill. Stomach acid tends to run downhill. I was not taking all of this well. For the next two days, I could barely eat more than an apple, and I couldn’t bring myself to do anything besides turn on the TV. I lay there trying not to move at all for long stretches of time, just staring at the screen. A close friend called on the phone. I told him I would call him back later and didn’t. The depression they told me about had crashed down upon me pretty suddenly. All the things I do on the outside to get myself out of a rut are unavailable to me here. So, I just lay there and waved meals away until I felt better.

It was not too long before they figured out that it was a stomach bug. I must have picked it up before I came in. I felt like crap physically and mentally, and the two just fed off of each other and multiplied. The nurses pushed fluids, prescribed medication, and gave encouragement, and before too long I was back on the upswing. I found I could get a meal or two down, I could concentrate on reading, and that jolt upon waking up each morning became less and less severe.

I like to think that I am out of the woods, and that the rest of the study should be smooth sailing, at least in the physical sense. By now, my body has settled down and accepted the fact that I’m going to be head-down for a while, and I think that I have as well.