I don’t particularly understand healthy people. I don’t understand how they get up every morning and go to bed the same night without any conscious review of the goings on in their bodies. I don’t understand people who can look in the mirror everyday and see the same person staring back at them. I don’t understand people who don’t feel the pain and aches, the pressures, the uncomfortable nuisances of the human body. I don’t understand people that don’t understand chronic illness.
This may be because I can’t be them and in return, they can’t be me. Because of my very real and very alive mental illness I have so many sicknesses, so much disagreeable moments of disappointing symptoms, so many moments of despair wrapped not in the traditional depression or mania or other mentally controlled devastation but in the secret corners of my own body that health, the idea of it, the dream of it, is all but lost to me. I don’t know what it is like to walk out of a door, into the sunshine, and smile in a naive happiness that my body will work just the way it is supposed to. Because of the mental illness I have, the truth of being healthy in every aspect, will always allude me.
One could argue that some of the mental illness is programming my body to feel every ache, every fever, every strain. And one could argue that it is simply the result of taking so many medicines that my body is thrown into a sort of chaos that won’t and can’t right itself. Some could argue that the problems I have physically are directly tied to the mentality that I carry with me. Some could argue it is a never ending circle of anxiety, depression and then hormones that continue to keep me from who I actually should be.
I imagine myself as a different person than the actual person that I am. I imagine myself traveling on some great vacation, a cruise or a trip to Paris, without worrying about my health. I imagine teaching others or giving lectures about the knowledge I have gained. I imagine myself leaving my home without doing anymore prep than putting my clothes and shoes on. I imagine a world when there will be real medication, from real doctors, that will give me the relief that I don’t know if I deserve, but I think is only fair that I know. Relief that comes from knowing that my body is performing as it should. Relief that comes from knowing that this day will be exactly like the next, and the hamster wheel that so many complain about will be my reality.
I have spoken about my health issues. Between my digestive tract being so disgusting and uncomfortable that at times I don’t know how to even leave my house, to my headaches, my rather pathetic weight which never seems to give me any of the curves society looks favorably on, to my teeth falling out so that smiling is an embarrassing chore, there isn’t much about me that can be pointed to and declared healthy. I will take a moment to acknowledge that I have a rather good pulse point and blood pressure reading, but these hardly help me when I am suffering. And I promise, despite my mental illness, my physical illness is the definition of suffering. There are days when my mental health is so much less than the real horror of my physical state.
The other week a new word was applied to my health: the big “H” word. The big “H” word in my life was always something that older people had to contend with, or those six months pregnant. The big “H” word was hemorrhoids. I have seen the commercials where we are supposed to be okay about talking and sharing our hemorrhoids experiences but for me that word just isn’t okay; I don’t want it to exist in my vocabulary. I know it’s not something to be ashamed of, but like every person out there, once a certain line is crossed the battle begins to change. And for me the word hemorrhoids, was the catalyst for the battle I am finally starting to fight.
I am a person who can function on some degree despite feeling poorly. I can hide certain feelings and symptoms from my wider family and even more specifically my friends. (Although my children always seem to know) I can walk upon this earth, in a large crowd, and not attract any notice. No one can see my health complications, my discomfort in the world that I live in, and if I keep my mouth shut, the teeth that I keep losing. On the outside I look skinny and probably a little malnourished but not sick. On the inside, however, is another story.
I didn’t know that the word hemorrhoids were going to cause such a violent reaction in me. I didn’t know that these simple, but painful, things were going to make me reevaluate how I wanted to go through this world. And while I can certainly talk about the recent change in my thinking, I should also probably talk about the fact that any change I make because of this horror, won’t last long.
Once I heard the dreaded word, I decided that it was time to workout, juice lots of vegetables, and start taking steps to relieve some of the major digestive issues that I have. I am not like my parents, both who actually claim to love working out and eating healthy, and do so on a regular basis. I am not like my sister who is so stressed with work, family, and all the other things she has to enjoy, that she can ignore her health without consequences. I am not my children who don’t know half the crap they are putting in their bodies. And I am not my husband who just doesn’t care. I am not like any of them.
So if I want to start on the road to actually doing something that will make me feel better, yet I know that I don’t have the stamina to go a long distance with this, how do I fight? How do I fight against a world where being ill is my superpower? How do I fight against the very real knowledge that I don’t know if I can fix the person that I hate so much? How do I fight the truth inside of me, and start to make myself, if not better, at least a little bit more comfortable?
I pretty routinely start on a certain path only to walk away and abandon it. A couple of years ago I decided I was going to start wearing some light makeup; I researched my options, spent the money, and can tell you that the same makeup is in a box somewhere barely used and probably out of date by now. I once decided that I was going to try and dress better; no more jeans and t-shirts but cute sundresses and tops that made me feel pretty. Luckily I spent most of my money at Goodwill so that wasn’t a complete lost; and when I gave it back, the store didn’t have to re-tag the outfits. I once wanted to chronicle my life in scrapbooks; now I am just thankful that my daughter is a artist and uses the materials I thought were so essential. I am not a finisher. I am not a person who completes what she starts. I research so many different topics that I barely learn about anything at all.
But ever since I heard that big “H” word, I have deeply and completely wanted to be done with all the digestive issues that caused that word to enter into my lexicon. Ever since hearing that one word, I genuinely have wanted to be healthy and not subjected to the depressing reality of my stomach and intestines. That “H” word was a call to arms deep within me; I couldn’t handle being the young woman I am with that word hanging over me. That word helped me to say, “enough”.
But I don’t know if it is going to work. I don’t know how long I am going to go hoping and praying that not only can I get rid of those pesky “H” words, but that I can find some semblance of health once and for all. Despite my hatred of the state of my own body the truth I must confront is that there is a really good chance that staying the course for me looks like the same body without change day in and day out. How do you change yourself knowing exactly the self that you truly are? How do you make yourself better, when first you have to find a will not to be better, but a will to actually being better? How do you find the substance so you can feel the answer?