I found that picture about a year ago. I’m not sure why, but searching for period-related humor when blood is coursing like a river out of my vagina makes me feel better. I try not to laugh too hard, because laughing hurts– instead I keep it to “dour chuckle” level. But, it’s coming again next week, and like always I’m running around simultaneously trying to ignore it while doing everything I can to prepare for it. It takes a lot of preparation– I have to write three posts and schedule them (I usually post things the day I write them), cook a few things that will keep me and my partner fed, and make sure that I have food I can eat while laying down. The house has to be spick-and-span because it turns into a nightmare that makes me feel even worse because I’m wandering around making messes that I don’t have the ability to clean up, and the night before it starts I put ginger ale, painkillers, poptarts, heating pads, books, headphones, and laptop next to the bed.
Every month, it feels like such a stupid thing to get stressed out over, but I do. I have to plan to be a bed-ridden invalid every month, and it drives me nuts. When the notification pops up on my phone that it’s time to take my NuvaRing out, the first thought that crosses my mind every time is shit that’s NOW how did it happen this fast?!
And then there’s also the itsy-bitsy part of it all that I’m going to be in literally mind-blowing amounts of pain. I am in so much pain there are moments when I cannot see, when I cannot hear, when I cannot breathe. And every month, everything inside of my brain starts screaming at me how in the world can you stand this every month, this hurts so goddamn fucking much. And I’m laying in bed, screaming, and all I can think is dear ever-loving fuck this is never going to end, is it.
This winter I was diagnosed with costochondritis. I’d been experiencing low-level chest pain for about a year, but it finally got to the point where I couldn’t walk or sit up for extended periods of time without it getting more than just annoying. My doctor handed me the diagnosis and the only treatment: take ungodly amounts of Advil and lie still until the pain goes away. It’s gotten back down to manageable levels, but the past few weeks have really done a number on it– I’ve been traveling pretty constantly, and my chest is letting me know that it is done. I spent all day on the couch yesterday, alternating between heat and ice and playing Hearthstone, and when my husband came home I had to ask him to do every single little thing for me. Honey can you get me some water honey can you move this laptop honey can you . . .
And everything inside of my brain starts screaming you are a burden you are weak you don’t contribute anything you just take and take and take and take.
My mother, my maternal and paternal grandmothers, and my great-grandmother all have fibromyalgia. My mother was first diagnosed with it when she was about the age I am now, and I’m starting to notice things. Little things, like waking up in the morning feeling like I haven’t slept and I’ve been run over by a truck. Feeling like random spots on me are bone-deep bruised, although there’s nothing there and I haven’t done anything to it. Intense, vivid dreams. Mental fogs. This weekend I did all the makeup for the bridesmaids in my sister’s wedding, and that night I couldn’t move and could barely breathe– after doing nothing, or what should have been nothing, but is apparently now a big deal for me.
I’m laying on my parent’s couch, hating every second of feeling so weak, and now I’m staring at a lifetime of constant, never-ending pain, and my brain starts screaming you will never escape this.
While I deal with triggers and times that I refer to being in a “funk,” I’ve been extremely fortunate not to have struggled with serious depression. I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but not suicidal impulses, and those times have been brief and related to periods of extreme stress or emotional trauma. I’ve never had to fight a constant never-ending daily battle with mental illness, and I am extremely grateful for that; but because of everything I’ve just described I feel that I can understand what it could be like.
Every day I have to make a monumental choice about something that seems like it should be relatively simple for normal people. Because I have chronic pain and illness, I have to fight every day not to give in to it, not to let the FM and the costo control everything about my life. I do things, even knowing that they will hurt, because the alternative is do nothing. And I go about my life every day knowing that the same will still be true tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will hurt. Tomorrow, I will be tired. Tomorrow, I will not want to get out of bed. Tomorrow, there will be pain. Always.
And, I have to fight all the mental baggage that comes with it. I have to acknowledge things like you don’t contribute or you’re a burden as the lies they are, lies that have been given to me both by my culture and by a jerk-brain fed by insecurities and doubts. Lies that feel so true.
What I can’t imagine is going through something so painful while also having to fight the lie that suicide would be a release– a lie that my own brain is convinced is absolutely true. Those among us who fight severe depression– and if they are breathing, then they are fighting with all of their might– are dealing with the same things as I am, in a different way. But, I’m lucky. I wake up in the morning and even when I am in breath-taking pain I can feel my partner wrap his arms around me and I am happy. My friend comes over and we watch Rizzoli and Isles together while I’m curled up under a fuzzy blanket and high on painkillers, and I’m laughing because even with the pain, life is good.
I can’t even imagine going through life experiencing all the pain I do and not having those touchstones to latch on to.
Which is why I’ve been crying and shouting off and on for the past two days. When I heard that Robin Williams had passed . . . I’m not sure why his death has affected me so deeply, but I can’t help but think of all the ways his art has changed my life and then start crying. And then when I hear some of the stupid things that have been floating around the internet, I just want to scream.
My pains, because they are physical, would never be treated that way. I would never be called a coward, or selfish. If one day a cyst ruptures and it causes a systemic infection and I die, no one is going to hear about it and think what a selfish thing to do, dying like that.