I started this post this morning, but you won’t see that first draft. It’s not relevant anymore.
For the past several days I’ve been brooding. The pain that started flaring last month, the pain that led to my ANA test and subsequent referral to a rheumatologist, has started to hang around more often than I’d like. It’s scaring me. It’s hurting me. And, it’s making me downright miserable to be around (sorry Mr. But IF!). All-in-all I’ve spent the past week waffling between feeling sorry for myself, and being embarrassed of myself. And, the sheer familiarity of those competing emotions, the fact that they send my mind straight back to the days before my Hashi’s diagnosis, frightens me more than words can say. I don’t want to be someone living with chronic illnesses, always either waiting for the other shoe to drop or wondering if my pain is, in fact, as bad as I think it is. But, when laying down to sleep evokes the fear of how badly you’ll ache when you wake, when the morning alarm is accompanied with an immediate sense of distress more often than it’s not, and when thoughts of the pain you feel occupy more and more of your time, it’s hard not to feel lost and alone.
I’m 29. I have a painful rash on both hips. I wake with back pain that brings tears. I feel completely out of control of my emotions. I spend large portions of my days on the phone with doctors, pharmacies, and insurers. I’m 29.
When my Hashi’s was diagnosed and finally successfully treated I thought this was all behind me. I convinced myself the pain had passed and I’d never get back there again. When my laparoscopy last year relieved the last of my daily symptoms, I knew a new page had been turned. My thirties were destined to be a time of good health and a time to make up for all that I lost of my twenties. I spoke bravely about how the lessons I’d learned on this journey would arm me with the power and self-assertiveness I’d need to overcome future hurdles. But, as the pain returns, I wonder – are those only emotions a healthy person can feel? Had I developed a sense of amnesia about my painful past? Did I try to rationalize it all by assigning some inherent worth to my struggles? I have no idea. All I do know, is that for the past two days I’ve felt everything but strong, assertive, driven, and empowered. I’ve felt broken. As if someone removed my new self from this body and returned to the surface the same scarred, hurting, insecure little girl that was there underneath all along.
This was, by and large, the post I wrote this morning. Then, the world reminded me of its beauty and its cruelty.
I got a call three hours ago from a local floral shop. I missed the call, but, upon listening to the message I heard that a delivery had been made to my house in my name. I won’t get home from work until 10 this evening, so have no idea who they are from or what they are for, but I know they aren’t from Mr. But IF (I asked) and I know it’s not my birthday, my anniversary, my anything. Someone sent me flowers to bring light to this suddenly dark world. I can’t begin to express how appropriately timed that action was. I am not alone.
I finished signing up for the Walk of Hope this weekend, and have already received two donations, and countless well wishes. I am not alone.
Mr. But IF decided to call our insurer today to continue a battle that’s been waging since October about my consult with a new OB/GYN (like I’ll ever need one of those). As I selfishly wrote to him, “Some days, I just want to quit the pills, quit the consults, quit the insurance battles, and do what the medical industry wants me to do and shut up, disappear, and die,” he was waging my battles. I am not alone.
As I checked in with my IF friends on the computer, and told them of my recent hard times, they shouted words of support, encouragement, and, yes, even a few threats to my body and my doctors, from towns across the globe. I am not alone.
When a college acquaintance, now years in to battling her own chronic and debilitating illnesses, offered me words of wisdom and support despite the vast differences in the severity of our conditions, I was humbled and honored. And, when another acquaintance, this one formerly of my RESOLVE group, sought my advice on dealing with suspected thyroid disease in her family, I realized that I don’t just take, as it so often feels, but do give back in return. Thank goodness I am not alone.
As my simple Tweet got “favorited” by thyroid disease royalty, I was overcome with both the geeky excitement of one who gets to shake the hand of an idol and an overwhelming sense of gratefulness that I live in an age when it’s possible for someone like me to be a single virtual step away from someone like her. I am definitely not alone.
And, as the ESPN app on my phone alerted me to the news in Boston, and as Twitter and Facebook lit up with friends and family searching for, reporting on, and offering support to loved ones and total strangers, I was reminded that pain comes in all flavors. Prolonged and abbreviated; expected and sudden; understandable and senseless; logical and visceral; deep and trifling. But where there is pain, there is also often the reminder that we are not alone.
I’ve been in my own head a lot these past two days. Though I do understand why, the events of the past 12 hours have encouraged me to remember the world outside my pain, my sorrow, my worry, my doubt. My place in that world is most definitely worth fighting for.