When I first became sick, I kept thinking that it would end. I mean, it had to eventually, right? Being chronically ill stole a lot of things from me, but the most precious thing it stole was my optimism. Jewel said “innocence can’t be lost, it just needs to be maintained” and I agree with that. I look at the emo kid I was in high school who thought she had it so rough, and I wish adult me could slap the shit out of her. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly had my challenges, but it is distinctly different to face life everyday extremely sick and not knowing if you will ever get better.
My mother had breast cancer when I was a kid, so all of these years I have been worry-warting my way into anxiety about it. God has jokes because I ended up throwing up several times a day and losing half of my hair for an entirely different reason (you haven’t lived until your blood sugar drops 100 points in an hour on a consistent basis).
Fast-forward to the present, post-surgeries and sickness and wheelchairs and medical drains (oh my) and I am fairly healthy. I still have some issues and I have to carry food with me everywhere I go, but I am a billion times better than I was. That optimistic girl from before who faced a lot of challenges with strength and determination? Well, some days I am still searching for her. Some days I am convinced I will never find her again.
What I didn’t know about being chronically ill and going through a LOT of medical trauma and 3 stomach surgeries in 2.5 years, is that it profoundly changes you. Fighting to live on a daily basis puts a real crimp in your style and really messes with your perceptions. I mean, it really jacks that shit up.
I was sure after surgery, I would be much better. I was sure after my second hospital stay and blood transfusion, I would be much better. I was absolutely positive that when my first medical drain was removed and I could sleep in my bed (after two months of sleeping in a recliner) I would be alright. I was convinced when the pain was gone and I could do normal activities and leave the house, I would be ok. Are you sensing a pattern here? Suffice it to say that none of those things left me feeling healed and like my old self. That girl is long gone, as is the woman I was before all this.
What truly helped me feel better, was a million tiny things slowly and progressively over time. The truth is, I am a better and more compassionate person for having been so sick. I didn’t choose to be sick and I hated every minute of it, but it is what it is. All of the crying and suicidal thoughts and raging and hating didn’t change a thing. It isn’t until time started to pass and I just did the small things every day, that things got better.
I’ve been in this life for nearly 37 years and some days I still wake up and freak out. Some days I feel like I will never get back to where I was. And on those days? I tell my mind to shut the fuck up because, let’s be honest, she really isn’t helping. It is OK to be angry and to be full of fear, but it will keep you stagnant. Things never gets any better until you figure out how to get out of those emotions. A really wise woman once told me (Isis in my book) that if I am not trying to move forward every day, that I am backsliding. Some people are just not built to stay static; the momentum is either forwards or backwards. Whether or not my death bed is tomorrow, or sixty years from now, I want to know that I made things in this world better and not worse. I can’t do that when I am living in the world’s biggest pity party, complete with a ticker-tape parade.
So here’s a toast to all of you who know what it is like to have to actively work on recovering every day. To. Just. Keep. Going. Even when you are pissed and a sobbing hot mess. Even when your life has not turned into the inspirational movie you hoped it would. Even if you cannot hear the swell of that uplifting music in the background, you got this. You got this even if you don’t feel like it. Just. Keep. Going. You are not alone.