Wanting To Get Better

I’m not sure where to begin with today’s post. This past week has been a really difficult time. I’m still feeling very shaky and unsure of my life, things have been pretty solid for a while and lately everything has been upended.

Some of it I won’t talk about yet, because a lot of it involves my job and it’s not a good idea to air your job drama in a public space online. But what I can say is that I started a new job in December of last year and over the past nine months or so I’ve become pretty good at it, I’ve received positive feedback from management, from customers, and from the people I’ve met at my job. I’ve become comfortable with where I am and what I’m doing, and it’s been a great feeling to have a job that isn’t a source of constant stress.

Working is always a source of stress for me. Especially if I have to work at a job I hate. I find it completely unbearable. If I’m forced to get up and go to work every day at a place I hate, with no end in sight, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the entirety of life starts to seem futile to me. My thoughts turn very morbid. Last year was especially difficult because I started the year employed and then had a health problem that I couldn’t do much to fix. I had a bone spur in my mouth, poking through the gum, and the oral surgeon I went to see wouldn’t remove it, so I had to spend a month or so on very heavy pain medication just trying to exist, and missing a lot of work. On top of that, my stepfather died, and my family was busy with his funeral and with dealing with his death, and right afterward my mom got a really substantial insurance policy from his death, which meant that all of a sudden our family didn’t have to worry about where groceries was coming from next week until pay day.

My mom moved into an apartment of her own, because she couldn’t take being in the house after he died. I quit my job because it had become too stressful, I was getting in trouble for missing so much work, and I knew my mom could take care of me anyway. I admit that’s not a healthy attitude, but at the time it was the choice I made. Afterward, a lot of things started to happen very quickly. My best friend, who is the closest thing I have to a boyfriend, and who I love very much, moved in with me. I drove eight hours to pick him up and tried to help him break away from his abusive family. After a few months living with me, he went back home so he could go back to his internship, and then his job. I was left alone during the summer and unsure of what to do next. My mom had basically given me one of her debit cards and though it didn’t have unlimited money, I could get food and gas pretty much whenever I needed. I got a couple of jobs that I didn’t last long at. I finally started to settle into a job at Starbucks when I got incredibly sick and had to go to the emergency room, followed by recovering at home for two weeks, during which time I quit Starbucks. After I had recovered I was feeling very alone, very useless, and very unsure of where to go.

I ended up finding the job I have now, a comfortable job in a sales environment, a fairly low-stress job where I can sit at a desk. It’s not quite as stress free as an office job would be, but it’s a good place to be, and I’m able to use my personality to make money. Though I admit to feeling a little slimey being in a sales position at all, as it makes me feel like I’m actively participating as a cog in the machine of capitalism, but then again, I exist in a capitalist society so I have to survive somehow. My pay has been decent. My mom moved into her own house at the beach and my brother and I have been living at the house my mom owns. We don’t exactly pay rent, just the power bill and our phone bill and we help when asked, but usually my mom takes care of the bills. I started to get a lot of commission and have large pay checks for the first time in my life, and I was honestly not sure what to do with the money, so mostly what I’ve done is spend the majority of it on food. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m getting progressively better at grocery shopping but I still don’t know how to cook many meals.

There is a big purchase I need to make, which is a new computer, as the one I’m currently typing this on is on it’s last legs. But I just never seem to have enough money. For a while I was using a savings account and doing pretty well but then I had to start dipping into it until there was nothing left. It seems like I have just enough money to feel confident that I’ll survive, but not enough to get nice things. I guess it could be worse, I am from a poor family.

And all that preamble is to say that I find myself in a position where my life is going to go through some changes, and it all hit me rather unexpectedly. Starting a few weeks ago I started going to the gym and though I haven’t been doing it as frequently as I’d like, I’ve been getting in about two to three visits a week which is a very good starting place. I’ve been overweight since I was a kid and as an adult I have type 2 diabetes that I don’t exactly manage very well, so losing weight is important. I was actually starting to feel really contented with my life a couple of weeks ago: my housing situation is safe, I’m making enough money and I even had a savings account, I was starting to get in better physical shape, and my anxiety wasn’t hounding me as badly as it ordinarily is. I still dealt with intense loneliness and depression, but in general it seemed like things were on an upward curve.

And for all I know, they still could be, but there have been some upsetting developments.

The first and most important thing is that my job situation has changed. I’m still employed, but I’m no longer at the same store. Again, I can’t go into the details, but my old manager, who was great at his job and who was a very honest person with a lot of integrity, left our store when he moved to another state and transferred to a new location. The new manager was a nightmare, who made working there virtually impossible for me. I asked to be transferred to another store and thankfully, the management came through. Right now I’m working at another location while I wait to figure out where I’m being transferred. I don’t exactly know what will happen next but at least I’m out of that toxic environment with the new manager. Still, things have changed, a job where I was happy and comfortable has been pulled out from under my feet and I have to learn to adapt to a new atmosphere, possibly with people I won’t connect with very well. I can’t know what will happen, but the anxiety the past few days has been almost unbearable, and I’ve had to take way more of my anxiety medication than I’m used to, which scares me because I don’t want to become even more dependent on it than I already am.

Today I was off. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon sitting in the living room and playing Final Fantasy X and watching Youtube Essays, which are my favorite form of entertainment lately. A lot of what I was watching was related to media from when I was a kid and early teenager: The Simpsons, Silent Hill, Dragon Ball Z, even W.W.F. Wrestling. And it got me thinking about those days in the 90’s, and how young I was, and how I wasn’t truly able to enjoy a lot of the things that were popular then because I was too young. I’ve started to wonder what life would have been like if I’d been born in the early or mid-80’s and been a teenager during the 90’s or the early 2000’s instead of a kid. I might have been able to go to Tori Amos concerts in 1996 or bought my own Playstation or Nintendo 64 with money from my own job. I would have had a car with a CD player and a binder full of CDs like I do now, except it wouldn’t be outdated. I’d be making mix CDs like I do now, except other people would actually care about mix CDs and I could make them for friends. I could use the internet not as a young child but as a young adult, enjoying the fullness of AOL instant messenger and browsing the web with other people who were just building the online landscape.

Hell, I’m writing in a blog right now. Blogs are a mostly outdated form of media, at least a personal journal-style blog like this one, which might have actually been popular if this were the early 2000’s.

And of course, these thoughts are rooted in the same thing I’ve been thinking about for the past few months: an encompassing feeling that I have wasted the past decade of my life. I’m 29 now, and in a year I’ll be 30, and what will I have to show for it? I’ve done virtually nothing with my twenties. And I came to realization earlier about why I might be feeling that way.

I have never had a social life.

I mean, I almost did, once, in junior and senior year of high school. I went to friends houses and rode around in cars with them, and we laughed and had fun. I met new people, did new things. I went places. But now… I don’t do any of that, and I haven’t for many years. And I think I’ve just wasted so much of my youth. My life since I graduated high school has consisted of trying to survive through a haze of rolling, continuous panic attacks, and then alternating between relaxing at home playing the same handful of video games I’ve played all my life and going to work, day in and day out. There’s been no time for much else. My romantic attempts have all failed. Very few of them were even fulfilling or meaningful. I’m musically talented and I’m a good writer but I’ve not created anything with it. I’ve not written a novel, I’ve not recorded an album.

On top of it, I’m faced with issues I didn’t have when I was younger. I’m fatter, I have type 2 diabetes, and over the past few years I’ve been having issues with my memory that have been getting progressively worse. I have difficulty recalling words I need when I need them, especially when writing, or in the middle of conversations. I can’t recall things I need to when I need to, and my gut suspicion is that it’s a result of all the antidepressants I’ve taken over the years reshaping my brain chemistry and fucking up my memory. I’m tired. I used to just be lazy when I laid around doing nothing, now the reason is that I’m exhausted. I’m just as horny as I used to be but now I’m becoming a grown man whose penis doesn’t respond to the slightest whisper with a stiff erection the way it did when I was a teenager.

Time has not yet quite begun to take it’s toll, but it’s starting. I’m about to hit some kind of peak and then… what? So often my thoughts turn to death. What will I leave behind when I die? I’ve come to accept the fact that I probably won’t have an afterlife. So life is now even more fleeting and precious than I thought it was before. So what then? What will I leave? This blog? It’s the closest I’ve got to a legacy. My journals, where I talk about the really dark shit that I wouldn’t admit in a public space? The conversations I’ve had?

What would my funeral be like, if I died today? Would my mom organize it? Would it be a Christian service? For god sake, would they play I Can Only Imagine or When I Get Where I’m Going? Would I be buried in the same drab cemetery where my grandparents lay? The thought is sickening. It’s defeating. So much of who I am would be lost. No, all of who I am would be lost.

Today when I came to Starbucks to sit down and write this, I felt the overwhelming urge NOT to. It was like a boulder I had to push out of the way. When I’m in my car, when I’m playing videos, when I’m sitting and thinking, I can come up with a brilliant way to express my feelings, but when I sit down to do it I’m reduced to scrambling through a hastily written journal entry like this one. I’m confused, I’m scared, and I’m alone.

So what do I do about it?

Dragon Ball Z is all about growing through adversity. Maybe this is a low point. Maybe this past decade has been building to something, some moment where I make the choice to change. Like I said in a previous post, a little at a time, but a change nonetheless. To go to the gym. To find the right job. To go to school. To study piano and creative writing, to record my songs, to organize my thoughts and feelings, to reach out and meet new people, to build relationships, to not be stuck on my own, sitting in my chair or in my car with nowhere to go and no one to do anything with. To move away from South Carolina to a place where I feel I can truly be myself.

After I wrap up here, I’m going to the gym.

I haven’t reached a point where everything changes, not yet. But I’m still trying. I’ve been sinking and sinking for years, and I can’t come up and crawl and stand and fly and soar in one day or maybe even in a year. But I can keep making changes. I can keep trying. I can keep doing little things until finally, something big happens.

I just don’t want to keep feeling like everything I’ve done up to this point is futile, like I’ve wasted not just the past decade but my life. I wouldn’t want to start all over from childhood because I hate where I come from, I hate being from the south, I hate being from a poor family, I hate having parents who damaged me, I hate not knowing the concept of a loving and supportive family, I hate the pernicious influence of the religious cult I was indoctrinated into. My life has just been a series of traumas, moving from one to the next, and as an adult I’ve been stumbling around, trying to survive, but I don’t want to just survive anymore.

Maybe therapy is the next step. I can’t say I know when I’ll try to reach out to a therapist but I hope I do it soon. I want things to change, to get better.

Maybe that’s what’s different. I didn’t want to get better before. I would have been happy if things got better but I wasn’t driven. Am I driven now? I think I am. I want to get better.

I want to get better.

That seems like the most important step in beginning a journey, truly wanting it.

Advertisements

A Little At A Time

Where to start.

I’m honestly feeling pretty demoralized today. I feel pretty demoralized most days that I’m off. This week I had two days off work in a row. And you know what I’ve done with them? Next to nothing. The things I want to do when I have time free, the thing I want to do to be productive, is to write and to work out. Well yesterday I sat down to try and write but I just didn’t feel it. I never do when I actually want to do it. And I spend so much time thinking about what I want to write and what I want to say that I make little notes for myself about topics to discuss and then NEVER touch those notes again. Right now there’s a notepad document on my computer filled with years worth of blog topic suggestions for myself that I’ve never perused again.

My life has changed a lot since around late last year. I was working at Starbucks at the time (the very same Starbucks I’m currently sitting in, actually) and I got really sick from food poisoning. I ate eggs that I brought home from Starbucks which had gone bad and which I should have known better than to eat anyway, and I became horribly sick for about two weeks. The first few days were the worst, I could barely move at all during that time, eating was impossible. Then a few months later I got hired on to a full time job which I still have, but I got sick twice right around the time I got hired. The first was a cold, then I developed pneumonia and I didn’t miss a lot of work but I did spend a lot of time in bed absolutely unable to move, forcing myself to get some toast or fruit down my throat.

I met a really nice person during that time, a guy on Tinder I’d had a little date with at the bookstore. My mom had moved out and I was in the house all alone (except for my brother, but he’s not exactly much help), and this guy came to see me multiple times while I was sick. He even made me soup and brought it to me. I didn’t eat it because I was too sick to eat and I hated the smell of food, but it was such a kind thing to do. When I was alone and afraid, he came to help me. I wanted to go out and drive around because that’s what helps me feel better, but I was too weak to drive, so I sat in his passenger seat, sometimes sleeping, sometimes talking, often just riding along, and we drove around for hours every day. Once I got better, we visited the mountains in Asheville.

I experienced something that’s happened to me many times before. I started to have feelings for him even though I knew I didn’t really have a connection with him, and though I didn’t admit, we were dating one another, we were pre-boyfriends. We were spending every day together, we were sleeping over at each other’s houses, we were having sex, and when I was sick he went with me to the doctor’s office, and while we were alone waiting for the doctor to come in I started to shake with fear, and he rushed over and put his arms around me and involuntarily, without realizing I was doing it, I whispered “I love you.” And I meant it too. It felt good to say it. A little embarrassing. It was kind of like I’d just busted a nut in front of him without meaning to. But it felt good.

Eventually we had to have “the talk.” The one where we figure out what the hell WE ARE. And we weren’t boyfriends, but we could be. He wanted to be. A part of me wanted to be. But I didn’t feel that it was right, and when that happens, I have to be the bad guy, I have to break someone else’s heart, and my own, and end it. We’re still friends, but it was hard at first. A couple of days after we talked, I started to have a panic attack alone at my house at night, and I needed more than anything in the world to see him. He let me come over and I sat on the floor in his living room and just cried. It was all so sad.

I still don’t know what will happen with our friendship. He left for about a month to go on trips to see friends, and since he’s got back he’s been secluding himself. He’s dealing with his own issues, he’s going to therapy (something I need to do). I’ve not seen him much.

I’ve just been working. Working so much. In early May, I left town for the weekend and went to Washington DC to see Imogen Heap live with my best friend Jake (the one who lived with me for a couple of months last year). It was wonderful to see him again. I felt a little bad because he was so excited to see me, instantly pulling me into bed to have sex, and I was being distant. I didn’t mean to be, nor do I know why I was being distant. Probably I still had my earlier friend on my mind. The concert was wonderful, Imogen Heap was great, and her Frou Frou bandmate Guy Sigsworth was there, participating in about half of the songs.

There was one particularly memorable moment when, during a question and answer segment (Imogen took questions in between each song; I never got to ask my question, which was the very obvious and appropriate “will there be another Frou Frou album?”) someone asked Imogen to use her Mi.Mu gloves to play Angry Angel, and she said she could try but she didn’t remember what key it was in. Jake leaned over to me and whispered “A Minor.” She did some explanation about the gloves and she said “I’ll try to play a bit of Angry Angel but I don’t remember what key it’s in” and I shouted “A MINOR!” Imogen’s head popped up quizically and she said “Eh? What?” and Jake and I both shouted “A MINOR!” in unison, which received a laugh and then a roaring round of applause from the audience and Imogen shouted “Thank you!” We were both so excited, we had our little moment with Imogen.

When I got back from my trip, one of our employees no-call-no-showed and then quit the following day. Later the same week, another employee was promoted to district manager of another store and moved, leaving only my manager and myself to run the store. I had to work a LOT of hours. I was working nearly double my scheduled time because there was simply no one else to help take care of the store. I got MAYBE a day off in a week, never two. In a month, I had three days off. Then my boss had to leave for a vacation which was planned months ahead of time and I was the acting store manager in his absence. It was pretty stressful, I had help from other stores but not much of it, usually one person from another store to help me during the day, if anyone at all.

We finally hired a third person who I’ve helped train, and he’s actually really cool, I like him a lot. We think very similarly and we have long, intense conversations and make each other laugh, which is wonderful. He’s exactly the kind of friend I want to have in my life. I thought to myself at some point “If only I could meet a guy like him, he’d be the perfect boyfriend.” Weirdly, I did NOT develop a crush on my co-worker, which is odd because I usually crush on every male who I befriend.

So then, an important thing happened. I turned twenty-nine.

Twenty-nine years old. A big moment for me. Because it’s the moment I finally started to realize that I’m about to be leaving my twenties and I’m going to be thirty. And being thirty… that means having your life together in some way, knowing who you are, what you want to do. It means starting to look your age. It means I’m running out of time to be a young, cute Instagram model. I’m kidding. Well, I’m half-kidding. I’m probably not kidding at all.

I’ve got a list of all these things I wanted to write about on my blog, but I just can’t right now. My brain is stuck. And for these two days in which I’ve been off work, I’d had nothing to do, and no one to do anything with.

So last night, I decided if I couldn’t find anything to occupy my brain the least I could do was occupy my body. And not by jerking off, like usual. Although there was some of that. I went back to my beginner’s yoga video, which is about ten minutes long and which I’ve been using since around 2012 whenever I want to try to getting into Yoga. It’s a series of five videos on YouTube, but I usually only ever use the first one. I felt incredible. I know I’m an atheist or whatever now, but it felt like all my chakras were opening up and chi was flowing through my body, my body actually felt alive and aware of itself. I kept up my momentum by going to the gym.

Today will be day two of going to the gym. It’s where I’m going after I finish this post. There’s so much I want to talk about but… I just can’t right now. My brain is all scattered. What was it I was thinking last night?

Writing is a little bit like working out or being fit. You can go for a long time without doing it, and you just have to start again. You won’t do very well at first, you’ll only be able to do a little at a time, and you won’t have much endurance, but with time you’ll get better at it and see better results. I guess I can be proud that I wrote anything at all today.

Part of the reason I’ve not posted in so long (despite the fact that no one reads this so I’m really only writing to a potential future audience of people going back through old posts to read them for whatever reason) is that I started trying to keep a private journal, one I don’t share with anyone, where I can talk about things I don’t want to share publicly. That’s still a good idea, but the problem is the things I’m really upset about, the things I don’t want to talk about publicly, they’re not things that writing about in a journal will fix. They need a therapist to hear them and help

Ten Hours

A few days ago I woke up, early in the morning, drenched in sweat. The sheets beneath and above me were soaked through with it, and my blanket too; everything smelled of sweat. My head was spinning, and I managed to push myself upright and take a drink of water. I got up and very slowly shambled into the living room, where my mom lay on the couch with the news on. It was still early enough that there was no light outside. I collapsed into the recliner, and wrapped a blanket around myself, taking staggered breaths.

There was a hurricane coming through, Hurricane Michael, but honestly I wasn’t concerned about it. I don’t really mind storms anymore, as an adult I’m not really afraid of dying in them like I was as a kid, and I often find the pounding rain comforting. I sat in the chair, my head lolling back and forth because it was so hard to hold it up, and every time I exhaled, a soft moan would accompany it. This was the second day that I’d been sick, and I still didn’t know what with. But it was terrible, and it was wreaking havoc not just on my body but on my mind and heart as well. I suffered from a constant dread, a feeling that this would never end, never get better.

I don’t handle being sick well, and I never have. At least not when it comes to anything stomach related. Throwing up is an incredibly rare occurrence for me, to the point that I’ve always found it incredibly odd to hear people talk so casually about throwing up from drinking, or making themselves throw up to feel better. For me, vomiting is a life-or-death experience, at least emotionally. My entire body goes limp and then seizes up, it’s more like a seizure than throwing up. I never throw up quickly, it churns in my stomach for hours and sometimes even days before it leaves me, like a disease festering inside my body. Usually I can feel a disgusting taste coming up into my throat for days beforehand and when I do throw up, it exhausts me so much physically and emotionally that I almost always cry, and then emotionally collapse and go to sleep, praying that it will be over soon.

So, it was with some unease then, that I went to work several days ago with my stomach feeling uneasy. Now, I’m actually used to my stomach giving me problems pretty often: I’m lactose intolerant, I have type 2 diabetes and issues with blood sugar, but usually it never gets bad enough that I throw up, and thankfully at no point in this story do I ever end up throwing up. Thank God for small mercies, I guess. I work at a coffee shop, and had taken home a couple of the “protein boxes” that were past their sell by date, which I’ve even before and which are usually just fine. I happened to take home a couple that have two hard-boiled eggs in them, and though I still don’t know for sure, I think the eggs are the source of all of this. I ate one of the protein boxes the night before, and another the morning of before I went to work that day. I was in and out of the bathroom all afternoon, but I was determined that I wouldn’t leave work early because of it.

The truth is, I have a bad problem with calling out of work, or avoiding work in general. I’ve never been good at working a job for the same reason that I was never good at going to school regularly: I don’t like feeling trapped. I can actually still remember the moment in Kindergarten, walking into the school on a dark and rainy morning, so early that the sun had not yet come up, and I remember looking up at the ceiling, which to a five year old seemed so incredibly high, like the domed ceiling of a cathedral, and I remember a teacher ushering us all toward our classrooms. As I walked, staring up at the ceiling and thinking of how I missed being at home and being with my mom, I was thinking about how I’d recently learned that school lasts for twelve years. Twelve years was an incomprehensibly long time, and it seemed to stretch out forever before me. And I decided then and there that I hated school, that I didn’t want to be there, and that I just couldn’t wait until it was over so I could stay at home where I was happy. After all why did I need to come to this stupid school for seven hours a day, five days out of the week?

And honestly, that feeling never left me. I was a very smart child so I had good grades up until middle school, when things began to actually challenge me, and my response was to simply give up and slide by on terrible grades until I ultimately graduated high school. I could have applied myself and been an outstanding student, but the truth is I didn’t want to be an outstanding student: I just wanted to go home. I always just wanted to go home. And when school was over and the time for me to start working jobs, it was exactly the same feeling: why am I spending eight hours of the day here, every day, wasting precious moments of my life in a place where I’m unhappy? Why does ANYONE do this? There are so many better things I could be doing with my time. If this is what work is, then I don’t care about work at all, and I don’t want to do it.

And, like school, it’s never really left me, that feeling of the utter uselessness of going to work. I can understand on some level why it’s important to go out and be a member of society, but the fact that in addition to that simple childlike desire to go home, I now as an adult have to contend with debilitating social anxiety and panic attacks, makes it even harder to go to work on a regular basis. And so, it’s always been difficult for me, and probably always will be. I started this new job incredibly excited about working for this company, but within a few weeks I’ve already called out about four or five times and left work early twice, and that doesn’t look good on me.

So here I was, at work, with an upset stomach, just trying to make it through the day. My vision started to get blurry and I began to feel more and more disoriented. I had made a decision the night before that I was going to start eating healthier, so this morning had NOT included a run through the McDonald’s drive through for a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, and instead I’d eaten my protein box with two eggs and some fruit, and later the turkey sandwich from another protein box, and even writing about either of those things right now is making me want to throw up, so you can see where this is going. I felt shaky and weak, which are symptoms that, along with the disorientation, I’m very used to, because they’re common signs of anxiety attacks, and also signs of low blood sugar. I didn’t feel particularly anxious, and when I checked my sugar it was lower than it should be, so I decided I would take lunch soon and have something sweet. On lunch I got a frappucinno (yes, I’m diabetic, and yes, I got a frappucinno, I didn’t say it was a GOOD decision) and a pre-made panini and went to sit in my car and eat and try to recover. After about ten or fifteen minutes I could feel my sugar rising and started to feel a bit better, when I suddenly realized that the air condition in my car was bothering me, so I turned it off. But when I turned it off I realized that actually, I was freezing, so I turned the heat on. All the way. And blasted it.

I was suddenly freezing, cold chills running up and down my whole body, and the heat felt like a warm blanket; my skin was covered in goosebumps, and I was reminded of the time I got bronchitis, which began with a terrible fever, when I’d sat in my truck with the heat blasting for a good fifteen minutes before I got out, and then discovered the next day I had a high fever. This was so unexpected and sudden that I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but my break was nearly over. The 30-minute mark of my break came and went, and I stayed in the car, shivering, and trying to breathe. Eventually about 45 minutes had past. I knew I wasn’t going back inside. I gathered up the courage to call the store and let my manager know what was happening, and that I was going to go to the Emergency Room. When I got to the Emergency Room, I brought in a small blanket my sister had made by cutting and tying together two pieces of fabric. I was surprised to find that I was NOT running a fever, despite having every symptom of a fever.

This led to the longest night in the Emergency Room I’ve ever experienced. I got there at 8PM. I was taken back, had blood taken from me, and hooked up to an IV pole with saline dripping. I kept going back and forth to the bathroom with dhiarrea like I had all day. I was taken to a room and given a gown, and the nurse even brought me a heated blanket. I did NOT like having an IV in my arm, as I don’t do well with needles, and an IV isn’t a needle, but a gauged tube that holds your vein open so that fluids can be injected directly into it, which somehow made my skin crawl even more. The tests were coming back not showing anything serious, my white blood cells were normal, my symptoms seemed to be an elevated heart rate, severe dehydration, and slightly heightened liver function. An ultrasound was taken of my liver and I was eventually given an X-Ray for one of my ribs which had recently been bruised, just in case it had something to do with what was going on. I was continually amazed that I was NOT running a fever, despite laying their shivering under what was now a pile of FOUR blankets: my sister’s quilted one and three from the ER. The fluids were making me even colder. Hours were passing. I was so exhausted, and just laying there and breathing was becoming more difficult. The heart monitor kept making annoying beeping sounds because my heart rate kept hitting 120, which is not dangerously high but is too high to be considered normal.

I was so afraid that at one point I took my phone out and turned on the voice recorder and set it on my chest and made a spoken Last Will and Testament, just in case it turned out to be needed. I told my lover and my best friend Jake how important he is to me, and that I leave everything to him, and said some words about people in my life who’ve been important: my ex-boyfriend Nathan, my friends Zack and Robert who I used to live with, and a handful of others. I said that I didn’t want a Christian funeral, and I didn’t want any preacher to use my death or the grief of my friends and family to prey on them with a funeral service inciting them to come to Jesus. I chose a few songs that I wanted played at my funeral.

I know this all sounds dramatic, and I was aware at the time that it was a silly thing to do, but at the same time… I just DIDN’T KNOW what was happening. All of the tests they’d run seemed to indicate that I was alright aside from dehydration, and despite having fever symptoms, I wasn’t running a fever. Did that mean that I was suffering from something really rare and unusual? Was I having a reaction to something that they hadn’t figured out yet? I certainly felt like I was dying, so was I actually going to? Sadly I didn’t get to finish what I was saying to Jake in my recording because someone came into my room.

Eventually I fell asleep. I woke up covered in sweat, no longer freezing. I felt a lot better already. My vitals were all the same as before: still a high heart rate, my temperature was elevated but not technically a fever. By now it was 1AM. I was lonesome, I was afraid, I was sad. I called every member of my family and none of them answered. My phone was at about 10% and had another hour or so before it died, and I didn’t have a charger for it. One of my friends, Tori, gave me a call, I’d never heard her voice before, but it was nice to hear someone friendly. She assured me over and over again that I was safe, that I was probably fine. It helped a lot, she was the first person to offer me any kind of comfort.

Blood cultures were taken and it was incredibly painful. My veins wouldn’t show up because I was dehydrated and it took three attempts, rooting around inside my veins with the needle, each time my heart pounded as I squinted my eyes shut and tried to breathe. I was told once again that they couldn’t find anything wrong, I learned I have a gall stone but it’s really not a big deal and probably had nothing to do with me being sick now. The doctor finally let me take the damn temperature myself, rectally, and yes I did in fact have fever. Strange though considering I wasn’t freezing cold anymore.

Around 4AM I started to get antsy, I was ready to leave soon, but then I was told I was going to be transferred to a hospital for observation because my heart rate was too high. I was honestly just not interested in doing that, but they suggested I take in another bag of IV fluids since the last one had helped so much and see how I was doing after. That sounded reasonable enough, except after an hour and a half, the fluids were still not any more than halfway through the bag, and I didn’t feel much different than I had before. And what’s more, I did NOT want to go to the hospital and suffer through any more of this. Finally I told my nurse I was thinking of leaving soon, and she said I’d have to sign papers saying that I was leaving against the doctor’s recommendation, and indeed that’s the only paperwork I was given: a pink copy of a sheet saying that I acknowledged that the results of my refusing treatment could be (and then a blank space in which was written very simply) “sepsis, death.” I still don’t know what sepsis is and don’t want to. I waited and waited for my nurse to come back and take my IV out, but now she was helping other people and cleaning another room, and I was nearly ready to march up to the counter and offer them an ultimatum that either someone take this IV out of me or I’m doing it myself and it’s going to be a mess, before finally at 6AM, I was released from the machines I’d been hooked up to and my vein was finally, after ten hours, closed.

The moment I walked outside and smelled the damp morning air from the rain that had fallen overnight, it was like I’d just been reborn. It felt incredible. I was reminded of a moment in Dragon Age Inquisition where Cassandra describes her vigil to become a seeker, where she’d kept in dark and solitude, fasting and praying for days on end, drained of all emotion, until finally being touched by a spirit of faith and let out into the world again, and that the feeling is indescribable. I honestly wondered if maybe I HAD died in the hospital, and this was me in another universe where I’d survived, living out the dead Jesse’s wish to see the outside again. Driving home in my car was a wonderful feeling, and as I got inside and crawled into bed, I hoped that the worst of it was over.

I was wrong, of course, but I’d made it through the experience at the ER. The next day was difficult, filled with just as much emotional trauma as the last. I felt like I was dying, like I’d never be back to normal, never have my life back. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t eat, I could sometimes barely even speak, and I was so tired at all times. When I slept, I sweated profusely. The only things that made me feel any spark of joy were watching the animals in our house: several cats and two dogs, as they went about begging for food or following people around. My dog Butterscotch stood watch nearby wherever I was resting. I felt better as I got into bed that night, and the next morning awoke more tired and afraid than I’d been yet, and a hurricane was preparing to come through our area.

Later that day I felt better, and it continued to go in waves: a little better, then terrible, then a little better, then terrible. No one at the Emergency Room had offered me a concrete answer as to what was wrong with me, but my symptoms perfectly matched that of food poisoning. Tori called me again and reassured me that I was doing great, that I would recover soon, and that it took her husband three days to get better from food poisoning. Everyone kept saying three days, actually, that was apparently the magic number.

And it was.

On the third day, I was out of the woods. I was not recovered or even nearly back to normal. It is the fifth day now and I’m still not back to normal, but I knew that the worst was now over. And I was greeted by another surprise when I woke up: autumn. Every year I look forward to autumn, because the choking heat of summer makes me feel like I can’t breathe, and the fresh breath of autumn is like water when I’ve been choking and thirsty for months on end. I stepped onto the front porch and smelled fall air for the first time in a year, and it was as though nature was congratulating me on making it through, and I had the feeling that my life before the sickness and my life after were probably not going to be the same. I don’t really know, honestly.

I have a lot more to talk about, but it’s getting late and I’ve written all I can. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what’s been happening in my mind this whole time, and where my thoughts are, and what my plans are. Going back to work… it’s something I still haven’t done yet. I don’t know if I’ll lose my job over this. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I am scared. But I’m going to just keep going and doing what I have to. Right now, I can’t afford to do anything other than exactly what will help me recover.

Yesterday there was a fire in the front yard, and they burned limbs and wood all day. At night I took this picture of the smoking embers as I stood by the remaining warmth. It felt like it was really fall. And as I found myself standing up, outside, and walking around, I felt like a different person than the one who’d been suffering these past fews days, like I was his representative, strong and determined, sent out here to speak on his behalf. And I couldn’t help wondering, again, if maybe I HAD died of the sickness, and this was some universe where I’d escaped that fate, or history had been changed to allow me to live somehow. I didn’t feel entirely the same. And with the seasons changing, I knew that one of my biggest sources of fear and anxiety, namely the heat and the environment, was going to be far away for a while. I felt hopeful, and yet still terrified at the same time. And I still do.

But I’m alive, I’m alive.

Hee-ee-ee-ee-ee, I said
Don’t even let this go
And it’s hey to that old man
I’m coming in the graveyard
With my little tune, it’s June
I said she’s gone but I’m alive, I’m alive
I’m coming in the graveyard
To sing you to sleep now.”

– Graveyard, Tori Amos

Like A Lullabye

untitled34
(“The Empty King”)

On this autumn hill
The kingdom of an ancient time
When the birds spoke in verse
When the people of the forest listened
Comes to me at sunrise

The horses can still smell
The air we’ve gotten used to
Our noses were full of cotton
Flares on a cool evening breeze
Asking me to hear secrets I’ve been keeping

Blue, blue
Soft nocturne like a lullaby
I’m asking the ghosts if they can spare a mother for me
I need to be held against her breasts
I hold an empty cup in my hands

The empty king wears a birds head
He looks down on a cold chasm
I have come to ask compassion
Come with my twisted knots of flesh
Tangled nerves that thirst for something fresh
And pools of blood beneath my skin
Where my heart was beaten

And I cross this angry bridge
While they look on silently
With nothing behind me
And a cup of blood in my hands