Thursday, November 14, 2013

Real Life Horror Stories

WARNING: This post is wholly negative with few to no redeeming qualities. It contains loads of whining and complaining, about which I feel entirely guilty. However, I have been assured by my therapist that repressing emotions leads to great stress and increased health problems. So be warned. Read at your own risk.

Halloween has come and gone, but life doesn't only visit horrors upon us at the end of October. Life has plenty of awful things to go around and it isn't shy about handing them out all year. 2013 has been generous. In January, my heat-pump failed, necessitating purchase of a new system at a cost of more than $4000. In March, I began having health issues which started with chronic exhaustion and deep pain in my bones and joints. My doctor started performing tests and determined that I had a severe vitamin D deficiency, and she began treatment for it. In April, it appeared that my place of work might close down or have to move to a new location. Then, in May, my father went in for surgery to remove a blood clot from his carotid artery, and suffered a severe stroke during the process. He died four days later. The month of June was a blur, trying to catch up with work I'd missed after my father's passing. The situation at my place of employment improved but that in itself created an enormous amount of extra work and pressure. The exhaustion became worse, and so did the pain and stiffness. I chalked it up to overwork and pushed past it, like I always have.

In July, I started having deep pain localized to my right side. This was a kidney stone, and after eleven days, I finally went in for surgery to remove it, only to find that the stone itself had passed earlier that morning. I had a week to recover, then another stone started to move. After over a month of pain, medications, and medical visits, I was unable to get through a day without medication and several hours of rest. My doctor decided that I needed to have more tests run, and after countless needle sticks, IVs, and procedures, it was determined that I have rheumatoid arthritis.

Some days, it hurts to move. I am tired but sleep isn't restful and only lasts about four hours at a stretch. My body doesn't recuperate the way it once did; it takes days to bounce back from exertion, where it once took hours. I am on strong anti-inflammatories, and they make my stomach uncomfortable. Sometimes they help, and other times they don't. I limp and hobble like someone twice my age. I am forty-two years old but I might as well be eighty. My thought-processes have slowed because I am preoccupied with pain and weariness. I lack motivation to complete even the things I enjoy, and tasks that used to be easy now present significant difficulty. For example, the laundry room is in the basement. It is hard to carry baskets of clothes, and it is also hard to go up and down stairs. Hot water feels good on my hands, but I sometimes have trouble gripping dishes in order to get them washed. Driving is necessary to get to work and get the kids to school, but it causes my elbows, hands, wrists, and back to throb.

This week has been particularly hard. After a late meeting on Monday night, I haven't been able to catch up on my rest. Each day has gotten progressively more difficult and the cold I thought I had shaken off last week is back, full-force, complete with sneezing, coughing, and even asthma attacks. I've run a low-grade fever on and off for the last three days. Today, at around 11 am, I walked from one end of the building to the other and back - and collapsed into my chair afterward like I'd just finished a 5K. I was freezing, exhausted, and achy all over - it felt like I had the flu. I'm sure I don't - this is simply what an RA flare feels like.

So where's the horror-story in all this? Try being forty-two, active, and relatively healthy one year, and then lethargic, in pain, and weak the next.  Try thinking about your future and the plans you've made and then integrating the realization that most of them will probably never happen because your body won't be able to sustain them. Try thinking about affording a $2000 a month medication regimen on a single parent's already low income while feeding, clothing, and educating two kids.

Yeah, I'm whining. But it's more than whining. It's grieving. My life is fundamentally changed by this diagnosis. The most I can hope for is a period of remission, or that once the doctors agree on what kind of medication I need and the insurance company stops fighting and provides it, I will experience increased mobility and a better quality of life. I have enrolled in a Master's program beginning in January, but I am facing the likelihood of never being able to use what I learn because the plain fact is that I'll likely be disabled within the next year.

Oh, it is what it is. It's life, we all get through it. Nobody asks for the awful things that happen but we are all responsible for doing everything we can to bring light out of the darkness we experience. If we can find ways to make our suffering redemptive, then at least it will have meaning. I keep telling myself these things. I have struggled for years with pain from various sources; relationships, sexual assault, abuse, and domestic violence. I have sifted through the ruins looking for treasure more times than I can count. I will likely get to that point again, but right now, I can't even type more than a few sentences without needing to rest my hands and arms. I am hard pressed to find anything good in any of this. It is probably best to go ahead and grieve, to cry and scream and shout at God, to ask why the hell, after every other shitty thing I've been through, life had to add this, too. It isn't fair. It sucks.

But it's life. We all get through it. Even with all this negativity, I am still blessed beyond measure. In comparison with that of many others, my life has been ridiculously easy, though comparisons of this type are odious, invidious, and completely without meaning. I know these things to be true. I just can't feel that truth, I can't find the light in this darkness. Right now, I'm too tired to even try.