Sunday, November 7, 2010
A creative confessional + updates
I'm going to Bali for Christmas and I really want to be in a bikini for it, that's the goal. Particularly.... the bikini pictured. Anyway guys, I've rambled enough so below is my creative piece.. I'm a bit nervous about letting you all read it... so uhmm... don't judge too harshly!
I never actually thought it would come to this. When I look in the mirror, what stares back at me doesn’t look like someone sick. But that’s what I am. Was. Sick. It’s still difficult to make the differentiation between what is and what was. It’s hard to see myself as a victim, but I suppose I’m both the victim and the sadist here. I’ve got one of those personalities that doesn’t quit. ‘Addictive’ they call it. First it was razorblades, smooth and buttery, sliding against my skin. And then after that vodka, gin, cider ... later when my old friends didn’t give me the same kick, I made some new ones: Ritalin, Valium and Acid. Not sick, just a girl who liked to have a little fun. Not hiding, just having a good time. If I didn’t think about it, most of the time I could tell myself that nothing was wrong. But when I looked in the mirror, all my carefully built masks would fall down around me. The face that stared back at me was disfigured. Obscenely round, lips misshapen and eyes that stared back at me in revulsion. I never dared look further south, afraid of what I’d see if I did. But even without the evidence mirrored back at me, I could tell you every curve, every fleshy roll. I knew the map off the top of my head, and I didn’t need to see myself to know what was there.
Nothing I could do seemed to help; the yards of flesh clung to me like a lover. If the simile held, and my body was a lover, our relationship was sick and twisted. It held me at ransom, a gun point captive with a painted on smile. The worst was how well I played my part: to the outside world I might have been happy. An out-going girl with enough friends to hold in both hands, I did well in school and although my family life often crumbled down around me – by that point I’d become an expert at building it back up. That had always been my role, to hold things together. I sealed the cracks, soothed the wounds and calmed the raging tempers. While I might have been falling apart, I kept the others together. But that was just one side of me. The other side loved to needle, it knew exactly the place to dig in a knife wound. I was an expert at saying the wrong thing at the right moment to cause the most possible hurt. To me, it was both magic and science – this secret darkness which I felt reflected my true personality. I revelled in my ability to make others feel as bad as I did, if I was going to hell then I was taking as many people with me as I could. If I had to be horribly self aware every second of my life, then I could at least make others the same.
In retrospect – self esteem was an issue.
Before, I said I was sick, but I only teased you with the details. The unreliable story-teller, perhaps whatever answers I give you would be lies regardless. That’s probably the darkness I spoke of before rising to the surface. No matter how much we claim to have resolved our issues, we can never change who we are, really. The question then remains, whatever could be the matter? It would have been enough if the problem had been in my head, or if the answer lay in my ovaries or my body, but in reality it was all of them. Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome doesn’t have enough recognition. But it is insidious, and sneaks into every corner of your life. Bosses will give you dark looks when every third or forth week of the month you call in sick, claiming (yet again) to be vomiting and unable to move. People will doubt it when you tell them you eat healthily. I ran for my life on a daily basis, sweat slicking across my body for hours a day. But the weight never moved. And unless the weight moved, the polycystic ovaries would never stop their relentless attack on my body. It’s a hard thing to cope with when your body is in constant rebellion. What is undoubtedly worse, it is only satisfied with attacking your body for so long, eventually it wants to take your mind as well. I was tormented by visions of how things might change if my life didn’t revolve around my defunct body. Would I be happier? DO better at school? Not nurse secret thoughts about stopping the pain for good? Would I at least be able to make it to normal without constantly self-medicating? In as far as I knew, I was destined to never have the answers to these questions.
The answer came by fluke, a visit to the doctor for something completely unrelated. Not completely unrelated, it was always brought up as an issue, but the official ailment was a chest infection. A pamphlet picked up on whim, as I paid more money than the five minutes of time the doctor had given me were worth. It suggested an answer to me, and in my head I was suspicious. How could it be this easy, that by chance I would pick up a piece of paper and it would solve for me the problem that had plagued my life as long as I could remember? But the pamphlet nagged at me, go and see this man, and see if he can put you back together. But the man didn’t want to put me back together; I was made of too many pieces to fit, so he offered to take some of the extras off my hands. The money was the next problem, ants don’t dream about the stars, and I never dreamed about having so large a sum. Another visit to a man in a suit would follow, and I would spend our meeting imagining that he judged me, that he hated me for even suggesting I was worth the money it would cost for repairs. Self loathing is so self-involved, we never imagine that other people aren’t judging us, or that their lives can exist without despising the stranger in front of them. But he must not have heard that I was to be maligned, denied happiness, for he agreed to lend me the funds, at a price.
The next part goes by slowly, in fact it crawls past. The world moves on around me but I stand still, counting and ticking the seconds off as they pass by. The seconds turn into months, but still I don’t move. I wait. And wait. But despite how slow the time might seem to move, suddenly it is the day. At this point I have been denied food for two weeks, and my stomach churns emptily as we prepare to part ways for good. It’s a cold dawn when the day finally arrives, and I remember shivering as I pack my bag for the hospital. I’m plagued by worries and what-if’s, but worse than the what-if’s are the what-if-not’s. If not, I had decided I would end things in a more finite manner. Surely nothingness would be preferable to the constant onslaught of hate and bile that filled my body. But my contingency plan seemed to be unwarranted, because within moments I’m lying on a hard bed, an unflattering gown draped across my front. Needles invade me, they would scar my hands to this day, but I couldn’t have known that then. I carry my own cross, and like a prisoner to her own execution they ask me to lie on the operating table by myself. Suddenly utterly consumer by the thoughts of so many faceless people seeing me so vulnerable, I grow claustrophobic in the oxygen mask, convinced that I am being tricked, sure that this will be the last thing I see. But not the last thing I feel, that honour goes to a immense fiery burn that burns through my arm into my heart. Despite warnings that it ‘may sting a bit’, I was not prepared and swear, once, loudly.
“You’re awake love, you’re just fine. Open your eyes.”
My eyelids stick shut, and I slip back into the respite of unconsciousness.
“Come on honey, let’s get you back to your room.”
Why is the world spiralling past my lolling head? I want to be sick, but in this haze I am more concerned that everyone around me seems to be covered in blood and screaming. This is a hallucination I am told. I will laugh about it later, but it still seems very real, a frighteningly slick memory that makes me wonder at time if it was real. Perhaps everyone sees blood and screaming, because no one seems surprised. The thought becomes unimportant when I suddenly become aware I seem to be paralysed. I want to lift my arms but cannot, they’re heavy and cement. If I try to lift my head from my pillow it hurts, agony might be a better descriptor.
My mother sits in the room with me, why does she look so anxious? Seeing her child covered in oxygen tubes, perhaps. She says that the real fear was when the surgery took three hours longer than she was advised. I was surprised at this, because I was so certain no time had passed. I didn’t dream as I’d hoped I would. Anaesthetic dreams are supposed to be full of riotous colours and events, but for me there was only empty darkness. I remember being disappointed.
Next I am vomiting, and it is neon blue. My lips, chest and bed are now stained with a vivid blue ink, and yet no one seems concerned by this. Hospitals must stranger places than I can imagine, because I cannot remember another time when discharging frothy blue ink out your mouth was not cause for alarm. I’m told that they poured the ink down my throat on purpose, to check for leaks. I’m not reassured. It’s curious that as writing this I suddenly remember it is time to eat, as I would not eat for months afterward. Perhaps what is left of me remembers the famine. A tube in your arm is not equivalent to food, don’t believe it if they tell you it is. There wasn’t any hunger (and there never would be again, as it happened), but my head played games with me as it remembered how much I enjoyed chewing. When it came to it, it wasn’t even the food, but the chewing I missed. I would later develop a destructive habit of chewing without swallowing, just for the sensation of something moving in my mouth.
But I get ahead of myself.
When I could finally open my eyes for more than a second at a time, my mother was there. She looked up from her novel and smiled at me, I hope that I smiled back, but I can’t be sure. Then I was unconscious again. It would take the rest of the day before I could stay awake for more than a minute at a time. Over the next few days I found out who I was important to, the people who visited me over the days and put up with me as I would fall into unconsciousness without warning, and I learned how to handle my new body. I learned how to pull myself up when my abdomen had fallen apart, and learned that it was usually easier to just stay where I was. My new body would take hours to sip a cup of water, and when I couldn’t sip fast enough my IV would be refilled and the oxygen tubes would reappear. Like a newborn I was dependant on nurses for the simplest task, and I hated it. Utterly dependant on them, I soon learned which nurses could be trusted and which were the ones with needles. My body still remembers the nurses with needles, and clenches at the thought of them. But they were my rock, uncomplaining when I slumped in my wheelchair and refused conversation, or when I threw up on them after one too many sips of the noxious barium swallow which lit me up in x-ray.
They also played the role of antagonist, constantly stabbing at me and making me cry out, but denying it was malicious; even if it certainly felt so. Everything had a dual purpose for awhile. The nurses were angel and demon depending on the time and the rotation, my mother played support role and worrying presence. I calmed her down as often as she calmed me. What would ultimately be my cure was my main source of injury, and in the many hours sitting, staring out of a bleak window I regretted my choices. Regret is perhaps the wrong word, deep down I always felt some sense of gladness that I’d made the choice, but I certainly rued it at times. I longed to walk like a normal person, instead of the awkward shuffle of someone pushing along an IV drip, trying not to pull at my ever-swelling needle site. The nurse, I believe her name was Hyde something or other, didn’t believe my hands natural condition was not throbbing and bulbous, nor did she care for my grimaces of pain whenever she flushed it through. I considered myself lucky that it was nearly lunchtime, and her shift would soon end. The new nurse (I wish I could remember more names, but I’m ashamed to admit they have all gelled together into a single, hazy unit) was kinder, and removed the drip for a brief respite.
After some days I was scheduled to go home, and I was happy for it. But then, I could not breathe or drink or eat, so I stayed in my prison a while longer. Using the word prison is not to imply the room didn’t have its charms, but I quickly grew tired of being coddled, and being constantly left to my own devices. There is only so long I can amuse myself without resorting to the doldrums, to be honest. When I finally did make it home, the effort of walking to the car and staying upright left me spent for the majority of the day. I was yet destined to spend more time in a bed. I woke long enough to quit my job, a fit of rage overcoming me at being asked to work the next day when I was as of yet unable to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. Although I feared I might regret my hasty decision – I have yet to. The next stage of the story comes in its own little parts, separated by miniscule achievements that few would consider worthy of celebration. But I did. Celebrate that is. I celebrated my first sips of water taken without choking, the first time I took a bite of egg, the first time I was able to eat more than a single bite of anything. My birthday came and went, but I never acknowledged it, devoting myself to the pursuit of wellness.
As is the theme for my life, the man with the knife told me I was an “excellent healer.” It is a strange compliment, but one I’ve heard more times than I care to count. And he was an awkward man, so I took what compliments he could give me. Scars circled my belly, each unique in size and soreness, and with a shaky finger I would trace them, imagining the path that wormed within my body like the proverbial rats in a maze. They were alive, it seemed. Scoff, but this thought is vindicated by the fact that they continue to shift and move to this day. Each has risen slowly up my torso by centimetres, some have gone left, one has parted ways permanently with my belly button, when before it sat snugly within it. But I’m not frightened by the thought of these sentient scars, instead comforted and proud that for once my body has rallied alongside me, instead of playing the antagonist. They are like friends then, comforting me when I despair – their shiny redness assuring me that they continue to heal every day, pulling me out of my darkness step by (occasionally unwilling) step.
Then, I began to melt.
Everyday I was less than before, numbers passed by too fast to maintain any significance. At first it was a rush, but I was cautioned not to get too obsessed with numbers, ultimately I needed to find the thrill of happiness within myself. It was true. I may have looked different, but inside I stayed the same. We think that when the one, all encompassing problem in our life disappears, we will feel instant happiness, our dreams will come true. I’m unhappy to relate to you, my dear reader, that this is a goddamned lie. Do not take this too seriously, don’t over-analyse my meaning. Am I happier? Yes. I can stare at myself for as long as I want to in a mirror, and I’m not disgusted. Clothes are smaller now, shopping bills are more affordable. My ovaries seem to have mysteriously given up in defeat, they wave the white flag. So yes, there is much happiness, and yes I cherish it. But my life remains imperfect. Things are bound to go wrong, to add to my arsenal of increasingly bizarre stories (For example I am now not only the girl who broke her spine stretching, or the girl who fell thirty feet off a chairlift, I’m now also the girl with no stomach), and there are everyday frustrations that make me forget my happiness. So I am happy, yes, just perhaps not so happy as I imagined I would be.
Am I that dark little creature who delighted in other people’s misfortunes, feeling like they were that one step closer to my level with each tear? Sometimes. I told you, a leopard can’t change its spots, and there is only so much we can do to perfect who we are. I strive to be less imperfect, but it’s not a complete transformation. Harder, is that I don’t see the changes so much as everyone else. Logically you can tell me that I am different, that I am changed. To an outsider I certainly look altered – I’m told. In my head, I don’t often see the difference. Whether this means I still feel like the same girl, or if this was the girl I always imagined I was, I can’t tell you. But they all say that my mind will catch up with my body one day. In the mean time there are other challenges to cope with. My hair is falling out, and several people are utterly convinced I have cancer, regardless of what I tell them. But compared to the self-loathing that wracked my body, I find them to be trivial problems. Wigs can be bought, people can be told (again) that I don’t have breast cancer, nor leukaemia and no I don’t have lung cancer from years of smoking. So it’s easier.
And that in turn makes it easier to walk away from the dark.