A little while ago I was haphazardly complaining that I couldn’t believe how old, number-wise, I was. I didn’t really feel older. I still feel like an idiot kid figuring it out litrally (said with accent) every day. My cousin Brenda piped in with something that should have been obvious. “We’re all getting older Mary. You’re not suddenly older than us!”
What a self-evident, seemingly obvious take on things. I had it somehow in my mind that only I was getting older, while everyone else stayed the same age. She was right, we were all looking the same, while somehow kids were growing and seasons continued to change and evidence of time past surrounded us wherever we looked. I guess that’s all to say, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. How’s things?
I had no idea how to re-enter this little world I created so long ago and then took a sudden hiatus from for what, two years? Was I doing other important things? You could say that. (I wasn’t.) I was just living, plain and simple. The way people in picture frames and advertisements live. In some sacred moment— without a history of the last 10 years. No memory of being consumed by illness. Nothing lost. All I could ever need, I have. I’m just a smiling girl in a picture, no past—inhabiting ‘the eternal present’ as Tolle calls it. I erase it all.
The taking. Of friendships, relationships, autonomy and money and time. The leaking. Into every corner of my foolish little life. The waiting. In line at the pharmacy. In the first room at the doctor. The exam room at the doctor. On hold with the pharmacy. On hold with the insurance. On hold with the doctors office. And the loss, naturally. The loss of self to something I thought stronger than me. Of livelihood. Of growing into something impressive. Of opportunity. Of ways to make a mother proud.
There had to be a reconciliation with all of all that. And in truth, I might say that every day is exactly that. An eternal letting go, surrendering to what was and is real, all the while continuing to move forward. Embracing what is real and true by the ever changing second. Not to grieve the same things twice. In order for Life to overcome loss. To give what used to be taken. To have gratitude while I wait, because hey, at least I’m able to be here in the supermarket and wait on two feet. Not for long before it hurts, but I am somewhere. I am not a living couch.
This all points to my life now and how things have changed. When I look back at the move to Colorado, I see just how much of an insane shit show it was. We left with high hopes that Rocky Mountain air and crisp clear Colorado water could do nothing but help me. I’d have to feel better here, right? Wrong. It’s all too hilarious that I moved back into my childhood home, but moved into the basement. (It’s a finished walk-out OK!?) Every 36-year-olds dream. I did my best.
Looking back now from a stage of much higher functionality and a new, certain “availability” of health, I see how bad it was. My memory fills with images of me crawling up the stairs to the kitchen, on four legs like a monkey, because I was too weak to walk on two feet. Dizzily stumbling to the bathroom every morning, squinting in pain. Clothes all over the floor and Monty’s chew toys, because there was no energy in me available to do unnecessary things. Multiple Zooms with multiple doctors—zero real answers or treatments. A constant shortness of breath. A darkness under the eyes.
I rarely, ever left the house. People thought it was because of Covid. For me it was just life. For so many with chronic illness, quarantine was simply life as they already knew it. Covid was nothing but an interesting reminder that other people were also at home on a Tuesday afternoon. (Plus a whole lot more. We’ll get there.)
The truth is, I am very, very lucky. I write that with a strong knowing that it’s not even fair, what I’ve been given, because it’s what everyone should be given: a knowing, caring doctor. An MECFS specialist who treats exactly and only that. Proper healthcare. I can hardly convey how stark the contrast—visiting 6 different doctors in New Orleans to address eight different issues and dispense twenty medications, compared to one, bright, excessively knowledgable doctor, in charge of all my medicine, who knows so much more than me about this disease—which, it should be said, is how it should be. The patient shouldn’t have to wonder if the doctor has ever heard of her disease, let alone whether she says its name out loud. That is, if she even mentions it out loud at all. It’s always a gamble. Tell them or don’t tell them? Don’t. Unless they say it first.
Imagine. This will be a time in history, one day, when we look back and say “It was a gamble to even say out loud the name of your disease in the presence of a doctor. It meant they likely wouldn’t believe you. Which meant they couldn’t or wouldn’t help you. Which meant, well, here’s the number to a therapist, in the end. One day in the future, we will look back at this reality in awe. Shock. Shame.
With a lot of luck, but mostly hard work and some gambling on the part of my sister, she was able to arrange an appointment with Dr. Yellman, of the Bateman Horne Center in Salt Lake City. It’s only four hours from here, so even when I have to go, it’s a beautiful drive. I think most ME patients would be eager, health-willing, to drive for days to see this kind of doctor. Like I said, I’m lucky as hell that I got in, and I am far from the most deserving. I’m constantly grateful to have him on board and also a bit woefully heartbroken that so many sick people don’t have this access. To those I say, please hang in there. We will get there. There’s work to do. There’s so much work to do. But we can do it.
I should perhaps clarify that no, I am nowhere near perfect health. What changed is that my specialist is treating all kinds of things that a regular PC doc wouldn’t. Medicine like Cromolyn for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Pyrodistigmine for POTS, electrolytes and compression leggings for all parts dysautonomia. (That last bit is the easiest change you can make right now. I’ll post the leggings I use. That and at least one liquid IV a day.)
I still crash. Push and crash as though I haven’t learned this lesson a thousand times. But my crashes are less extreme, and a lot less long. This last month reminded me I am very very far from invincible, and it still doesn’t take so much for me to overdo it. I still need to be cautious with myself, but it’s difficult when I feel energy not to want to run outside and jump on the roof of my Toyota Camry and, I don’t know, sing Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs. Why? Because I can is all. That’s it really.
There is plenty more to say, about everything. We’ve got two years to account for! But mostly, I’m still me.
I hate to say it, don’t know how to say it, except to say it. I finally lost Monty, which I came close to thinking would never really happen. It was exactly a year ago next weekend. I’ve so much still to write about it, and him, and the whole thing. But the most I can say for now is that yes, it was very hard. But I realized that my fear of losing him was actually worse than the loss itself. When the time comes, you know. When you’re close with another soul like that, you know. Monty chose when and where, and I was simply there to pet his velvet ears and take in his smell one last time. OK, so I’m crying now. That happens sometimes and it’s OK. I think how wasteful all that fear of losing him was, when he was panting directly in my face!
Dogs are incredible teachers. Monty was next-level, and what he gave to me, in nearly every category of life, was precious. I really cannot believe how lucky I was to have such a dog as my own. It was a gift and a privilege to have him. I will never forget it.
It’s been a crazy two years. But I’m still here. Still Surviving. And Monty? Well, he’ll live forever ;)
Health, Happiness, Hellos & Goodbyes