Friday, May 7, 2010

Dear Illness

Dear Illness,

I've been wanting to write you for a while. Not that we don't see each other often enough...you come by every day, sometimes several times a day, to let me know you're still thinking of me. Don't think I don't appreciate it! But I never really get to ask you the questions that bug me about you so much, and we never get anything really resolved. Don't take it personally, please.

For instance, I wonder what makes you so persistent. You know very well that I've tried to keep you away. It wasn't always like this. In the beginning, I thought we could have sort of a relationship. In hindsight, I guess I really knew it wasn't going to work out. I had my life to live, and you...you were just so needy. I didn't want to take you in, but I didn't have a choice. In fact, I didn't even know you had moved in permanently until you were already here for some time. There were early signs, but I ignored them. After all, I was pretty young then! Not young enough that I had no idea of my own mortality, but young enough that I thought I was going to be in good health pretty much forever. You know how it went, though. You orchestrated it. First, shrugging off the minor discomforts that tweaked me here and there for years. And who knows which flare of nerves, which muscle twitch, with flash of random pain was you, and which was just the usual unexplained nonsense that everyone's body does? I was young! I wasn't going to deteriorate!

After some time, though, I noticed patterns. Just little things that happened in sequences that came to be familiar. There were the muscle aches, but who wouldn't think I was just sore from exertion? I was pretty active then. The mental fogs would come and go, but they didn't worry me until I noticed they came along with the muscle aches. I still didn't really think they were connected, and as long as I could function most of the time, I figured I'd just soldier through. Plus, as you know, I've been battling depression my entire life. It was easy to think that my problems were caused by the depression. All in my head, that is. I was young, after all, and in my prime of life; surely an illness couldn't be settling in and putting a claim on my well-being, could it?

The more and more you stayed, the more I tolerated you, though. I don't know why. Maybe I thought I deserved you. I hadn't been the most careful or moral person out there, so I thought that you were sent here for a reason. Like I needed to be punished for being a depressed whiner. But the depression...that was you, too, wasn't it? Not all of it, but you were setting me up. You were the cause and the result. The arthritis-like pain in my joints and muscles, though, and the exhaustion were part of the same deal. So I tried avoiding you. You know how well that worked out: if I could just exercise more, if I could keep up my spirits, maybe you'd take pity on me or help me get better. Since it was all in my head, you know.

I still don't know how my drinking fit into this. The pain was part of the reason I started drinking, but the problem started getting worse after I started drinking. I'll never know if I exacerbated you. See? Here I am, still blaming myself for the awful things YOU do. But I know that after I stopped drinking things got a bit better, but they never went back to the way they were. By the time the rest of it settled in--the shakes, the sweats--I knew there was something bigger than just psychosomatic illness. So I saw a specialist and asked him about all the other signals you'd been sending, major and minor: the sniffles, the tremors, the indigestion, the failing memory, the waking stiffness that never seemed to go away, the tender points. He told me your name, finally: fibromyalgia.

By then you'd started hitting me. It wasn't too bad at first, just little swats here and there to keep me in line. Some pain flare-ups, some queasiness, some weakness. Bouts of shakiness and rampant pain came after. I'd thought it was some sort of hypoglycemia or something, but the doctor assured me that you were doing this to me. I don't know if I could have ever kept you away, but by then, it was too late. You'd settled in. The feeling of having been beaten was daily. You never left me alone. Sometimes you'd shake me like a rag doll and I couldn't do anything but take it, and then I'd be useless for the rest of the day. Boy, does all that hurt. I can't even express it, except to say that at an attack is sort of like having your muscles sanded with sandpaper while suffering from hot and cold flashes and shaking, unable to keep a coherent thought in your head. What else could I be after that but defeated?

So here you are. I don't have any way to make you leave. Everything I try, even the best things I try, put you off a little bit, but then you're right back. You've been kind of leaving me alone lately, and I'm grateful, but now you're back and just as vicious as before. I used to wonder if I deserved you. Now I know I didn't do anything wrong, that it's you, not me. But I still can't get rid of you, and no one can make you leave. I'm managing as best as I can, getting some things accomplished and taking steps to work around you. But I'd rather not have to. I know you won't listen to me--you've got too much invested in me--but I can't stand you anymore. You've cost me enough pain and tears.

Please. Just go. Go. Away.

1 comment:

John Wenger said...

Wow, Scot. That is a very moving blog. Keep fighting, and remember that there are people who care about you and will help you keep fighting.