Category Archives: chronic illness

“Stay with me, my blood”

Have you ever felt like holding yourself together is all you’re capable of? I’ve been holding myself tightly, arms crossed over my always-sick stomach. What if I let go and I just…crumble? Fall to my knees, sob, and just howl my anguish. I’m afraid that if I let go of this fucking pain, it will destroy me. I won’t get back up. So I don’t let go. I try not to think. I push my thoughts aside however I can. Of course I’ve cried, probably a million times. But something about this pain, these tears, feels different. This pain tastes like eating hot coals, one after the other, until I burn up from the inside out.

You know that game we surely all played as kids, where we pretended the floor was lava? That’s what my mind is like these days. I’m balanced on the tiniest of throw-pillow islands with boiling, steaming red grief surrounding me. I’m burned no matter which way I turn, and so I stay on this pillow, stuck, raw and blistered.

I keep picturing myself like this:

I sit in a lawn chair in the middle of my house while strangers wander around talking quietly and judging my things. Someone asks, “How much for this chair that caught your daughter when she fell asleep standing up after claiming she wasn’t tired?” And I say, “That chair is not for sale STOP TOUCHING MY MEMORIES I’ll take $50 for the pair.” And so it goes until my home this house is empty except for me and the past.

The guilt is eating me alive. At the same time, I’m screaming in my head that this isn’t my fault. The irony: My mental and physical illnesses are destroying my life and there’s nothing I can do about it because I’m mentally and physically ill.


Feckless Joy

I get up and, immediately dizzy, wait, holding on until I feel steady. I look down as I walk and think I look strong. Maybe it’s the Nike Swoosh across my toes. Maybe Pop’s old blue PJs, rolled up above my knees, or the racerback tank with the hollow-eyed skull on the front. For this minute, I feel not-broken. (Maybe.)

I think, “maybe I won’t cry today.”

Quieter, I think, “this is fine.”

“I can go on, like this.”

No more tests, no more doctors—wait—I’ve already taken my medicine this morning.

(I need water, I’ll get dehydrated, always forget, shit.)

Okay, so no more new doctors. No more tests. I’ll take what I’m taking, this is fine.

This, I can do.

Maybe I won’t cry today?

I fill up a big glass of ice-cold water and the thought, “What is Joy?” floats into my head, an abrupt intrusion, and unlike the butterflies that have been landing on me all morning, it doesn’t fly away.

I drink deep and get my notebook and pen, no idea what will come out other than “What is Joy?” and maybe (probably) not even that.

As I walk toward the door, my head feels heavy, like it’s a bowling ball I won’t be able to carry much longer.

I sit and, turning to a new page, glimpse yesterday’s list of things not done, remember today’s things that won’t be done, all the many things always coming undone…

I shake off, push down, smother out the rush of worry these thoughts bring.

No. Not now. (They’ll wait.) I inhale cancer-causing, anxiety-eating smoke and start writing, not about Joy, at least not as could be recognized.

Soon, though the notebook is resting on my thighs, the arm holding it in place aches and starts to tremble. My handwriting becomes illegible as the fingers of my right hand protest at holding a pen for—what? Three minutes?

Another butterfly lands and quickly leaves.

What is Joy.

I sit back, exhausted, feet burning, back and neck and tailbone hurting so much now, too much, and fuck, what was I thinking, writing, both arms from elbow joints to finger tips on fire, screaming in pain and my bowling-ball head, not one to be ignored, tentatively joining in, tapping out a subtle beat.

Fuck.

Loud, I-am-the-boss, I think, “No. Not. Today.”

Quiet, I think, “please.”

What is Joy?

A momentary illusion of strength.

A fragile bubble burst too soon.

A daily dream that is my life-mare.

I don’t know this “Joy” except as it flits in, then out.

Another butterfly, tasting the blue truth of woven cotton, fluttering away.

I shake my bowling-ball head at feckless Joy, scared off by salty tears.

Someone says, “It’s all in how you look at it!”

I look.

“Looks pretty fucking shitty,” I think, sour.

Someone says, “Stay positive! Other people have it so much worse, you know.”

Someone says, “You know she’s faking it. Just wants attention.”

Someone says, “It’s not like she’ll show up. Why bother asking?”

I say, “These butterflies keep thinking I’m a flower.”


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