An Open Letter to my Chronic-Illness Fighting Body:
Posted Nov 04 2013 12:00am
I don’t know what I should start with… should I first thank you for carrying me safely through every shitty, terrifying thing you’ve been put through? Or should I first apologize for being rude and ugly to you? For cursing you out for every scar and bruise. For sobbing and screaming out of frustration and blaming you. You see, deep down, the part of me that is writing this knows that you aren’t to blame. I know that you have tried your hardest since the day I came into this world (25 weeks and 5 days premature and only 1lb, 12oz.)
But there is another part of me, Dear Body, on the days when I’m in too much pain to fathom sitting up and too exhausted to form a sentence that I get so damn disappointed in you. The questions start making themselves too prominent to ignore, the what ifs start polluting my brain. Why must you put me through the ringer? Why can’t I go out for a night without paying for it miserably for a week? Why can’t my body rally for the things my mind can’t stop nagging me about? What if I’d never been taken down by the tremendous weight of chronic illnesses? Where would I be in life if I’d stayed healthy? What kind of life would I have today? A better one?
I think anyone with a chronic illness is familiar with this torturous mind game. When you live this way every day you start to idealize every day before it. Meaning, you look back on your healthy days and suddenly they’re the most extraordinary days you’ve ever experienced. This is a mind game, Dear Body, and it’s a cruel and completely false one at that. Because what you’re not remembering in your reminiscing, is that those days were not perfect, they were not flawless. You were no prettier or smarter or more intriguing or popular than you are now. I promise. The difference, dear Body? The difference, is that back then you had people around you, not just friends or family but your teachers and your checkout cashiers and your baristas and your acquaintances at the gym. These people, while not necessarily teaching you anything or saying anything remarkable, they were reminders. Reminders that you were part of a community.
For the past four years, my community has mostly just been you, Body. I woke up one morning four years ago and you told me I wasn’t ready to face the day. I didn’t know back then that that was just a small indicator of us not being able to face many, many days. I didn’t know yet the battle we were about to fight. I had no idea you’d have scars, and bruises and injuries. I had no clue you’d go through surgeries, and organ removals, and every diagnostic test known to man. I hadn’t fathomed you’d be poked and prodded with needles, IVs, PICC lines, spinal taps and shots. I didn’t realize we’d face one delicate, dismal diagnoses after another. I didn’t know the pain you were capable of facing, the fiery, deep pain that Dilaudid could barely take the edge off. The heart-stopping sadness you were able to overcome. You see, Body, I immensely underestimated you, and for that I am so very sorry. I didn’t know how strong you were until that was your only option. Thank you, Body, for carrying me through these chronic illnesses. Thank you for being stronger than I ever realized.