I had a conversation on Twitter with someone late the other night while I was in a different account. Most of you know I have several. It spurred this post, which I think is an important topic. WARNING: this is an extremely personal post about my past and the diseases with which I’ve been stricken.
There was a time many years ago when I wanted my life to end. Twelve years almost. It was nearly a year after I’d been diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. What’s that, you ask? A royally screwed up disease that disguises itself in your liver and has your antibodies attacking your own body. It fatigues you, drains you, yet you can never seem to get enough sleep. It knocks out your defenses, your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to everything contagious. It compromises your immunity completely. There’s something to do with your white blood cell count too, but it’s been so long now that I honestly can’t remember what it is and I haven’t been tested in a long time. It has nothing to do with hepatitis at all. They only give it that name due to similar symptoms, which honestly only consists of jaundice. Ever had that? Dehydration to the extreme. Your eyes turn yellowish, your skin, under your tongue. It sucks. That’s actually how I discovered it on a trip to Flagstaff to visit my cousin over Memorial Day weekend, 1997. She pointed out the yellowish to me. She recognized it because her daughter had jaundice right after she was born. Happens a lot up in Flagstaff, I guess.
I’d rarely been sick in my first 28 years on this planet. I was exposed to chicken pox twice as a kid and never got it. Now I pray I never get it because it would kill me. A nasty flu bug went around when I was eight,and it took everyone down for two weeks, yet I only caught it for 24 hours. That’s how strong my immune system was. Worst thing that’d happened to me up to that point was I had my tonsils out when I was four. I lived my 28 years healthy, regardless of what I ate or did. I’ve never even broken anything. Sprains? Twice. Once, the wrist when I was 16. Twice, the ankle recently.
It took the doctors two months to even come up with the diagnosis. At first, they thought I had lupus–an equally nasty disease, depending on which kind you have. One is fatal. Unfortunately, it would take me several more years to discover the doctor’s first “guess” about the lupus was correct, even though that first rheumatologist said no. My lupus is systemic and sub-acute cutaneous. That latter part means it’s a skin disorder. Not the fatal one. The former means my ANA blood test comes back positive, which in all honesty covers several diseases that are all linked together. Too bad they completely missed the fibromyalgia. Imagine the treatment I could have had all those years.
Around October 1998, I hit a major depression. It lasted six months and nearly killed me, but no one knew about it. I’m good at hiding things . . . most of the time. I hid it very well back then, and even threw a 30th birthday surprise party for the husband (who is now an ex-husband). Only one person knew, and she hadn’t seen my face in years. I call her my Sanity. She lived across the country. Still does. I hadn’t talked to her in months, and yet, she called out of the blue one day. I answered. Her first words were, “What’s wrong?” It still chokes me up because I’m still amazed at the connection she and I share. This call came after a particularly bad morning.
During this six months of hell, I’d go to bed every night praying for God to take me, to end my misery. I was in so much pain. I had absolutely no energy. I didn’t really know what exactly was wrong with me because I didn’t believe the doctors did either. Back then, I wished it had been cancer because at least then I’d know what I was dealing with. So many in my family have had it. I’ll likely still get it at some point, regardless of how I live my life. Cancer loves my family and it doesn’t discriminate at all.
I woke up every morning angry that I was still here. I learned to hate God. I stopped believing in God. What omnipotent being would allow not only this crap happening to me, but all the horrors covering the globe? Feed me your excuses and I’ll play Devil’s Advocate. Don’t talk to me about Balance. I know it well. The irony here is that I’d stopped believing in God in high school . . . until my brother almost died after being hit by a car on his way to school. He landed on his head in the middle of the street, in front of a church. I started noticing things in the world that we take for granted. Little things you don’t see unless you look. I believed in God again . . . until the height of my depression. If it hadn’t been for my dogs that one particular day, I wouldn’t be typing this. K’Lar, my German shepherd-Chow, knew how to open doors. My over-active imagination decided to show me an image of her snacking on me.
Why yes, Stephen King has been an influence in my writing. Thanks.
I have scars now . . . all over my chest and face and upper arms. They’re from the lupus and I’ve learned to live with them. Some days I don’t care; other days I’ll stare at them for far too long after taking a shower. Two years ago, I let those scars and the extra weight get to me. The depression came again. The fiancé didn’t know how to deal with it. Then, a pinched sciatic nerve took me down for five months. I lost my job. In the third month, the fiancé lost his job. In the fourth month, he ended our relationship. By the fifth month, he was out of the house I could no longer afford. Surprisingly, it would take a year for the bank to take the house from me. I moved in with someone I hardly knew in a place too far from central Phoenix when you don’t have a job. That lasted three months before I moved to Tucson. Two months later, I had a job. It lasted two and a half months before the pinched sciatic nerve came back and I was terminated, almost on the same day as two years prior. I can’t stand or sit for an entire shift. That’s why it’s best for me to work from home. I’d done some freelance throughout the past two years, but it wasn’t enough to cover what I needed it to. I decided to apply for disability. I’m still waiting.
The first depression back in 1998/1999 lasted six months. Trent Reznor somehow got me through that one with the Fragile album. Thank you, Trent. Seriously. And I know that album was written during his last major depression. Maybe that’s why it helped. Music has always spoken to me. I hear every note, every word, every sound the artist(s) puts into it, and it moves me, stirs my soul, makes me want to sing and dance, even when it’s not the happiest of songs. The average person doesn’t hear what I hear when listening to music. They hear notes and lyrics. I hear emotions.
This last depression lasted longer than I’d ever want to experience again. Two years. It’s kind of difficult to get help when you don’t have insurance and no job. It took me a good long while to climb out of the well this time around. My Sanity didn’t call until recently. Most likely because I have more than one Sanity. I’m living with one of them now. She has been instrumental in pushing me forward, getting me to a happier place while working on her own at the same time.
Did I want to die at any point during the past two years? Absolutely. When the ex-fiancé moved out, he asked if I wanted the Glock. I said no. I have a respectable fear of guns. What I mean is that while I respect the hell out of them and know how to handle them and shoot, I know how dangerous they are. I opted for the 30/30 and the .22 rifles instead.
2010 was a bad year for a lot of people. For me? 2009 was bad too, and it started in 2008.
Yes, I wanted to die at many points in my life. But do I think death is the answer? No. Absolutely not. Obviously I’m still here. Something has kept me going. I think that something is my writing, my characters, the desire to tell you stories that I hope you’ll enjoy. My editing too. I enjoy helping others shape their stories. When I was a teen, just the thought of escaping my life was enough motivation to live, which sounds rather contradictory, but it’s really not. I didn’t want to escape through death. I mean, I did, but I didn’t. I was emo before they gave it a damn name.
It could also be that I needed to be here for others. We often overlook that when we’re wallowing in self-pity and hatred. One of my Writer’s Club kids–a 19-year-old I’ll call Pasha on here–was diagnosed with throat cancer this year. My reaction? Anger. Children aren’t supposed to get cancer! If I was dead, I wouldn’t have been here for him late at night on Facebook when he needed to talk to someone. Nor would I have seen his words when he told me I’m one of his top three favorite teachers, or that my words–always saying exactly what he needed to hear–are what helped him get through the pain during chemo treatments. I also wouldn’t have been here for my roommate when her Gallbladder of Doom decided to revolt and needed to come out. I wouldn’t have been able to answer the phone when Deni called in tears and I had to rush over to her house and hold her for several hours while she wept in my arms. She doesn’t even remember it, but she knows it happened. She calls me her angel now. Some days, I laugh at that and think, “Right, some angel I am.” Some days I remind myself that I’m not really a bad person when you look at the grand scheme of things and how other people are in the world. But perception is everything, right? I say perception can be deceiving because people can manipulate what you perceive. It’s why I look at your soul when I talk to you, not your shell.
Pasha has finished his chemo treatments now and the cancer is gone. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that he’ll have a chance to live his life. So then, why should I take my life for granted, even at the ripe age of 41? The answer is I shouldn’t, regardless of what I’m going through, and neither should you.
Sorry folks, you’re stuck with me until God’s ready to bring me home. That could mean tomorrow, or it could mean 50 years from now. While I am psychic, I’m not a fortune teller, and that’s one thing the Fates never let you see.