Practice Makes Permanent

These previous twelve days have passed in a blurry haze of rawness, exhaustion, and giving it my all. Tomorrow, if everything goes according to plan, I will have completed my 40-hour mediation training and will have taken a huge step in the process/commitment of becoming a state-certified mediator. The entire journey seems a little daunting, but I feel like I am making steps in the right direction. One of the things I was recently discussing with friends is how someone with a chronic illness is always forward-focused. Not to say we don’t linger and get stuck on the past, but rather that we always plan and think with our future in mind.

To explain further, Jon and I recently bought a car. We have talked about it for months, almost a year, actually. We wanted something weather appropriate, full family seating capacity, decent gas mileage, and with more of a physical appeal than, say, a mini-van. Although we had talked ourselves around and around, I was afraid of committing. I tried to explain to him that I spend 90% of my life in fear that I will wake up at home and fall asleep in a hospital. I continued on to say that I worry about what a poorly timed flair would do to our already tenuous financial stability, I worry about losing my job, and I worry about the insurance company making good on their threats to discontinue my treatment.

Naturally, Jon didn’t get it. I wouldn’t say he didn’t understand, he just couldn’t relate…which is actually part of why we work so well together as a couple. He is fun and lively; he forces me to live life and take it less seriously. Alternatively, my side of the relationship coin is to show him stability and the strengths of being prepared.

To steer back to my original and very convoluted story, I am excited about mediation presently, but also in looking at how it could potentially shape my future. If things take a turn medically, or the treatment stops being effective, and I have to quit working, becoming a mediator will allow me to work intermittently. Maybe not enough to support a household, but enough to bring a little something to the table without feeling like the burden I imagine I would become.

Mediation is tough and it takes real work. It guts you, it is emotional, and it is raw. A topic that I have heard repeatedly is that as a mediator you are not striving for perfection, but a sense of ‘good enough.’ It was framed as, Practice makes permanent. It really got me thinking about how I treat myself. I have always been extremely hard on myself, never feeling good enough, and never feeling like I belonged. Good enough though? Absolutely. I am not the best Suzy Homemaker that I wish I could be for the kids, but I realized that as a mom, I am good enough.

I often think that Jon could have fallen in love with anyone, but that he stayed or settled with me. Yet, that “good enough” thing got me introspective. I am good enough.

Good Enough

I am good enough. I need to let that sink in. I am a good mom, a good wife, and I have a good life.

Maybe I am not perfect, hell maybe I never will be, but I am good enough and that is okay with me.

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Rise Above

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I have dubbed this month an awful month. There are two concessions: a possible author meet-and-greet and a few days home with family. Otherwise, I am bracing myself for a long and exhausting whirlwind of a month. Week one and two consist of a typical Monday-Wednesday workday, a 7:30am-4:30pm/5-9pm Thursday, and a nine-hour Friday/Saturday. All of this is done with a two-hour-a-day commute. Week three consists of four 10-hour workdays with treatment scheduled Friday, and a 7-hour drive home. Hopefully now that I am on the increased dose, I won’t flat line during week seven (my flex week) and ruin everything; especially given that job performance (I was recently promoted) and a certificate licensing me to be a mediator is on the line.

Jon always asks me why I spread myself so thin, which often leaves me questioning myself: Why do I have an incessant need to be everything to everybody? The only thing I can think of as the answer is maybe if I do enough, say enough, be enough, nobody will see me. The real me.

So, I’ll keep digging and piling more stuff up, piling and piling until I am nothing more than a hand with a shovel. When you look at me, you won’t see the autoimmune. You won’t see the girl with dark circles under her eyes from lack of sleep, the girl who cries in the bathroom after puking, the girl crouched in the corner of the break-room staving off the pain with silent prayers. You won’t see the girl choking down pills or getting bloodwork done every other week.

No. When you look at me, all you’ll see is the piles.

I would like to think I prefer it that way. Keeping everyone at arm’s length has always been my coping mechanism. I believe it easy to romanticize what you don’t understand. As a kid I never felt like anyone believed in me, and in some small measure I know that I will always feel that way. The bad things people say are often the easiest things to postulate in any given sense. That said, I know that I will swim through hellfire to prove everyone wrong about me and with any luck, I’ll prove myself wrong, too. There is nobody in this world that deems me a failure more than me. Hell, my body practically demands it and my reflection offers little more than mockery to the contrary.

I won’t let it win though. The girl, the other me…the disease. I refuse to let them win. I refuse to let them whittle me down to medical charts and unfounded critic. Some days I think Jon and the boys are my hypothetical smelling salt, but that is an unfair burden to place on them. I have seen with my own eyes what that kind of guilt and responsibility can do to a person. It is too much, a Herculean task of epic proportions.

I don’t know how or when, but someday…someday I will rise above.

 

Short Post/Update

Despite all of the bad days, the near constant pain, the undistinguishable and the distingishable symptoms, I have good days too. Usually when a good day comes my way I do not question it; instead I dive head first into a project or an activity, knowing full well that my carefully stacked wellness is a contingent life-like game of Jenga. Each exertion is done cognizant of the possibility that my good mood can shift. It is important for me to enjoy the good days but to do so with an open mind.

After a pain-filled week we decided to take the boys to the fair again. Somehow the fact that it was a Saturday and the final weekend didn’t occur to me. The whole day was a little frustrating. I woke up moody, but mostly in good spirits. I was experincing eye pain, but I wanted to give the boys some laughter and good memories.

When we arrived, the parking area was overflowing. The lines were incorrigable and there were so many people my anxiety went through the roof…especially when I pushed the stroller to the ticket window and looked back to see Jackson playing with someone’s discarded cigarette pack filled with the butts.

The bathroom lines were insane and I was way too warm, depsite the 60-degree weather. However, despite all of this, it was worth it. Any day that I can spend with my family is a good day. Standing with Jon’s arm around me as we watched the boys “carnival ride” with giant smiles was a sight well worth the aforementioned frustration. 

It is hard to have an invisible illness, to constantly have to explain why I look normal on the outside while complaining of anything but normal insides. It is a feeling carried by isolation and discontent. 

In other news, according to my recent blood work my liver enzymes are still high but my red cell count was low, even by my historic standards. I asked my infusion nurse why she wasn’t concerned and she stated that I am anemic. I have been iron anemic for as long as I can remember, my point was that I was complaining of blood loss and then my results came back lower than MY low. The nurse suggested a multi-vitamin with iron. I have no idea if I am supposed to notice a difference, but I have been taking it for a week now. I have also drastically decreased my caffeine intake. Something I am both happy about and deeply saddened by. With my schedule I basically survive on caffeine and inappropriate humor. Nobody has died in the last week but if I continue to wean myself off of caffeine, I make no promises of future body counts. 

Proof is in the Pudding

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The proof is in the pudding. Did you know that proverb actually has a second part to it? William Camden said “All the proof of a pudding is in the eating.” The full quote changes the meaning, but I like the original. To relate, all the proof of an invisible illness is in the experiencing.

Since you cannot experience this for yourself (not that I would wish that on anyone), I am going to paint you a picture. Bear with me if you can; I am about to show my underbelly.

Saturday I woke up with a headache. It happens; it sucks, but I’ve learned ways to handle it and move on. This headache though wasn’t going away. If anything, all of my attempts to alleviate the pain seemed to make it worse. It didn’t seem influenced by sound or light, it just hurt. A radiating pain of the searingly hot variety. I tried to hang but I was snappy and agitated. My brother took the kids so I could try and nap it off. Mind you, internally I was wondering if it had anything to do with my recent blood test/results. Then again, my internal mode is always set to “over-anxious anxiety.”

By the late evening I knew I needed to get up and handle my adult life, but what I did instead was move all of my stuff (Hydro Flask, blanket, Netflix DVD, and phone) from the bedroom to the downstairs couch. Which–for the record–I totally counted as a win. I was up, I was moving, and I was in relative proximity to my brood. Then my stomach started rolling. I felt feverish and the headache was still unrelenting. In the span of a few minutes, my temperature soared, as did my anxiety.

I climbed the stairs and managed to get to the toilet. However, all I could do was crouch down and cry; deep, can’t-breathe-screams-of-agony intermixed with wails of true debilitating despair. I had no idea what my intent was when I got up, but I was driven to move toward the bedroom and when I got there I collapsed on the bed, still screaming and crying. In the background I could hear the boys asking what was wrong with mommy.

I see Jon start to transition from no idea what is going on to action mode. He immediately starts asking me what is wrong, what hurts, and then telling me to take deep breaths. At this point, my entire body was on fire and my head was hurting so bad I was literally wishing it would just explode. My breaths were coming more aggressively making it harder for me to breathe. “Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath,” Jon just kept repeating it over and over, telling me I needed to breathe in and take slow breaths out.

It took a while. The snot was pouring down my face and mixing with my tears making it hard to see, but eventually Jon calmed me enough and I was able to explain that it hurt to breathe, my head was pounding and I couldn’t regulate my temperature.

Jon had me strip down and get into the purposefully freezing cold water of the shower. I was still in pain, probably screaming (and just as likely crying), so I hunkered down on all fours and just shook as the water beat down on my skin. At first the water was nice but then the coldness seeped into my bones, making me shiver in new ways. I tried heating the water but Jon turned it back to cold and told me to drink the cup of Pedialyte. My hair was sopping wet, my face was covered in snot, tears, and drool, and I was doing everything in my power to handle the shock my system was experiencing. I can’t tell you how short or long the “shower” lasted, but I can tell you it felt like an eternity. Jon helped me out of the tub, wrapped me in a towel and held me while I cried into his chest. He whispered, “I won’t let anything happen to you.” I know it sounds crazy, but I believed him. I knew, even while everything was happening, that he truly had only my best interest at heart. He is the one person in the world that has seen the deeply scarred and damaged parts of my soul and still wants to help heal the ugly.

You might think that’s the end of my episode; I mean really, how much can one person handle? But no. After I was dried off, Jon helped get me into bed. He said he shocked my system and I needed to let my core temperature return to normal naturally or all of that would have been for nothing, so I sipped at more Pedialyte (nasty-awful-salty-sweet drink) and tried to keep my shivering to a minimum. (Difficult to do with wet hair, no clothes and a fan on, but I was doing my best to let my body reset.) The headache was thumping terribly, but I was just happy to have stopped crying. Jon was dabbing at my head with a wet washcloth and mother-henning me in the best way possible.

Extreme dehydration sucks.

After my temp started to come back up, and the sips of water seemed to go down smoother, Jon laid down to sleep. Did I mention I hadn’t eaten much since dinner Friday night? Because, other than a few rolls, I don’t know that I ate anything. Which is only truly relevant when I talk about the puking. Oh my gosh, the puking. Basically, it was one extreme to the next, all the while my head was pounding away. It seemed the more I drank, the more I puked. If I took slow sips I would get too impatient with pain and worry and would try to over compensate.

All night, I sipped, I oiled, I medicated, and I even applied Icy-Hot. By morning, I knew Sunday would be a lost day and by that night I knew I would need to call out of work (something I try never to do). I think the part I am struggling with the most is that the kids had to witness the meltdown. I know they are young but I want them to stay young, stay innocent and full of life, spirit, and imagination. I don’t want my illness or my actions to take away from them the innocence of what childhood should be.

Can you relate? Can you see the image of what this illness is? If so, I am sorry.

Pin Cushion Kayla

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“How do you feel about this?”

Seems like an easy enough question, right? Maybe for some, but not for me. I have no idea how I feel–about anything–ever. In fact, I believe you would need to dig up Freud himself to figure out my idiosyncrasies. By now you’re probably wondering, what on earth I am talking about.

Friday afternoon I started having pain. Not the collapse-onto-the-floor-in-fetal-position pain, but the “maybe if I snap a rubber band or hunch slightly no one will notice my Kujo grimace” pain. In typical working-mother fashion, I pushed through. It was a Friday after all and I had the whole weekend to deal with it. The pain progressed most of the afternoon and far enough into the evening that I mentioned it (in a rather whiny form, if I do say so) to Jon. He said the right things and hugged me long enough that I felt infused with the ability to endure.

Saturday night, after a relatively calm day without the pain from the prior evening, I went to the bathroom. Blood. Lots of it. Enough that I asked Jon to come look. (For those who don’t know, Jon–to put it mildly–is a weak-stomached wimp when it comes to blood.) He asked if I wanted to go to urgent care. I knew he had to be up at 3 AM for work, but I also knew that if I wanted to go, If I wanted to load into the car, drive the hour-plus commute to the clinic, wait in the germy cesspool, get poked, prodded, and left wanting, he would.

While you are probably wondering why his work schedule crossed my mind… it was less of a factor and more of an excuse. Because if you need medical attention, you need medical attention, am I right? Don’t get me wrong, seeing the blood…seeing how much more there was than normal shook me. It made me break down into tears and clutch Jon while I mentally reverted back to my 13-year-old mindset. More then anything though, it made me angry. As I have mentioned before, one of the hardest parts to this illness isn’t the pain, it’s the mental/emotional stuff. I constantly feel like I need to prove myself–or rather my sickness–to others. To my doctors, to my co-workers, and even to my family.

This disease is one never-ending loop of Aesop’s fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Sadly, there really isn’t anything I can do about it either; not any more than I already am. I know being upset about the things I am going through serves no purpose, but I also know that bad things happen when I keep all of my feelings inside. I want to be able to express my fears and emotions without having to look away or without crying.

Sunday had me in bed all day with a headache of migraine proportions, so I decided to send a portal to my Digestive Health Clinic asking for advice. Can you guess what they want? More blood work! Ever the pin cushion, I will be heading to the lab tomorrow. Side note, I wonder how much blood I have given over the years… heck over this year? I don’t really know what they are looking for, but hopefully it will result in some sort of light-bulb moment that will help with my on-again/off-again flairs. I could live without having another day like today.

When I told Jon what the clinic suggested he asked how I felt about it. Since life isn’t multiple choice, I guess I feel unsteady. I want there to be something wrong–even if it’s the smallest sliver of something–so I can feel validated; so I can scoff and groan about the time and energy I wasted. I also want this to be a flair, but I hate, HATE that as an answer. It isn’t acceptable anymore.

Wish me luck.

Traffic Light

Much to my own aversion to the new meds, I started taking them Sunday night. That first night was extremely uncomfortable. A few minutes after taking the pill, I felt cumbersome; unyieldingly cemented in place. My mind was whirring away and I kept telling myself to move, to get up…but my body wouldn’t. I sat stagnant, swathed in a mental game of unrelenting resistance. I felt my eyelids grow heavy and still I forced myself to stay awake. I was playing an internal game of tennis; I wanted the meds to fail, didn’t I? Deep down I know life is a game of chess, not checkers. I can’t go into this disease looking for the easy answer.

 

It has been documented that getting too much sleep is almost as bad as not getting enough sleep. I do not know how accurate that is, but I definitely believe it after this week. I was taking the codeine as the doctor suggested, and even with my internal struggle against it, I have been getting a little over seven hours of sleep a night. Seven hours for me is almost unheard of; I have been living off of five, maybe six hours of broken sleep for years. Even with all of the extra sleep, I have felt more exhausted then ever.

 

Around the third day I started feeling off. Not bad-day off, but the-early-stages-of-depression off. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Not family, not friends, not even co-workers. I was blasting whiny music insanely loud and still not hearing the words. I truly did not have a feeling or care in the world. It wasn’t until I found myself sitting in the dark atop our stairs with headphones on that I realized I might need to start paying attention.
 

I have had my varying mood swings over the years to which Jon is attuned…but this time even he was worried. Well, fake it until you make it, right? It took some effort and a long conversation with Jon, but I think I have finally crested the hill. I am hoping that it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out; especially since the meds seem to be helping. Sigh!
 
This pill struggle has reminded me of some stuff that I haven’t thought of in years. When I was a kid I had this fictitious boyfriend named Harry. He was the heir to the Bayer Aspirin throne. Yes, I really planned out my life with Harry Bayer-Aspirin. I believed, as Cassandra Clare wrote, “to love was to destroy.” I have since found the error in my adolescent way of thinking, but not without my own struggles. I lived in a world of books and fantasy. I imagined Harry would come to me, armed with bags of aspirin and offer to fix me. In those days, I had no clue what was wrong with me; no diagnosis, not even people who believed me. The doctors couldn’t figure it out and my parents wanted me to attend therapy. I felt alone. Despite my feelings, I was still young enough to believe in the magic of the world.
 

Before diagnosis I had this boldness about me, I felt like the world owed me something. Imagine that bucket of cold water to my ideals when the doctors finally figured it out. A diagnosis changes nothing while changing everything at the same time. In fact, it will change everything about you, if you let it. I fell prey to the change for years, but I am finally starting to sort it all out.
 
One of the times I was in the hospital I had a room with a view of a seemingly forgotten street. It was early March so the air was chilly and left visible plumes of white frosted puffs. In the center of my window frame sat a street light. For days I watched this abandoned road light turn from yellow, to red, to green. It was the only constant thought in my head; it was my first taste of metamorphosis. I go back to this memory from time to time, often when I’m scared or frustrated. The light is a symbol: even without cars, the light keeps changing. The world keeps going, and I should, too.
 

 

Infusion Part Two

I feel this unearthly tumultuous dread prior to an infusion. ‘Did I drink enough water? Will they get the IV on the first try? Will my vein blow if they try to take blood samples? Will this be the infusion that causes an allergic reaction? What news will the PA offer up this time? And what medications will they prescribe?’
 

I am a very hard stick so they usually go through my hand with the smallest butterfly needle they have. Fun fact, hand IVs can be more sensitive–something about innervation. Once the IV goes in, I can usually feel an uncomfortable sting-like sensation throughout my entire infusion, yet my arm is always cold to the touch. I don’t know about everyone else, but I can taste the saline. I have always found comfort in this. Maybe that’s odd, given the nature…but to me, it has always symbolized success.
 
The last few infusions have rewarded me with giant headaches almost immediately after the drip starts, so I have started to come prepared with Ibuprofen and bottled water. Thanks to my mother-in-law who came with me last time, I realized that actually eating something during the infusion helps, too. Seems like a common sense thing, but I never thought to bring much more than crackers.
 
Yesterday, because my infusion time was earlier and the clinic is an hour and a half away, I decided to leave with plenty of time to spare. When I neared the clinic, I realized I had an over-abundance of time, so I looped around to wait in line for Starbucks. Starbucks is actually my least favorite coffee place; it feels uppity and disingenuous to me, but I love their sandwiches and I only wanted a small coffee anyway.
 

Why uppity? Well, I couldn’t remember the stupid coffee size names, and I wanted to feel like I belonged, so instead of saying small I said venti. I am aware now of how wrong that was. See, the only two sizes I could remember were grande and venti, for obvious reasons (to me), I assumed venti would be smaller than grande. Lesson learned.
 

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I checked in, laughed with the receptionist about my coffee blunder and made it to the chair without much incident. IV was managed on the first try (thank you permanent needle marks) and as the first patient of the day I got the coveted chair near the bathroom, score! This is when the interrogation started. (It feels interrogation like, anyway.) I know the nurses and PA are only doing their job, I just hate feeling like the kid on a stool in the corner with a dunce cap on. I hate feeling like my feelings and emotions aren’t enough to combat their often-times robotic and medically inclined attitude.
 

For almost a year now, I have had an anal wound that won’t heal. At this point I have pretty much tried everything and nothing seems to be working….to which they are constantly wanting to do rectal exams. Yeah okay, you are trying to make me feel better, and yeah okay it helps to know how the area is or isn’t healing, but come on. Just because you know me better from behind doesn’t mean I want a constant stream of exams.
 

I guess even they figured it would look the same this time around because they didn’t do an exam. Instead, they told me how they want me to take pills on a more regular basis. Codeine. A Tylenol-Codeine hybrid, but codeine all the same. I have avoided taking addicting pain pills on a long-term basis for practically my entire diagnosed life. It might seem insane, but I am frustrated and legitimately worried about starting these pills.
 
The doctor or PA usually make their rounds right away while the nurses schedule the next treatment, verify the med list, take vitals, and then close the curtain and let me be. This is usually when I become inundated with emotion. I try to sleep the experience away but with the burning IV site, pounding headache, worn down body, and overwhelmed brain, I usually cannot sleep. Not until I get home anyway. I always seem to power through the IV flush, hit a second wind for the travel home, and then crash like a crazed new parent minutes after getting back. The headache usually persists until the next day, sometimes even the day after that.
 
The worst part about infusion day and the day after is the absolute lack of energy I have. Between the headaches and the fatigue I have a hard time wanting to leave my room. Jon and my brother do a good job holding down the fort so that I can try and relax. Naturally the guilt-ridden anxiety overwhelms me and I try to take on more than I should. Sometimes it’s just a donut run with the boys or a load of laundry…but it takes it’s toll all the same.
 
Despite all of that, I am grateful. Amidst the darkness and 900 MG Remicade-induced despair, I see hope.

Infusion Week

I think of this blog as my safe space, as my place to vent and share my frustrations. I know I am lucky, extremely lucky. I also know sometimes I can come off as ungrateful or like I take things for granted which is never my intent. That being said…let’s talk about pre-infusion week!
I get Remicade by IV every eight weeks. Maybe it should be every seven or even every six, but eight weeks is what the insurance approved. (Or will be approving…I am still unsure how all the insurance stuff will pan out. I received another letter about another bill they wouldn’t cover, but that can be talked about some other time, or never; I am good with never.)
In my job I get eight hours of sick leave for every full month worked. Despite treatment being every other month, I always seemed to be burning leave as fast as I was getting it–which in turn was stressing me out and making me go to work on days I probably should have just stayed home. It created a horrible ripple effect spanning all aspects of my life.
After a few chats with my Administrator we worked out a flex-week plan. The week leading up to my infusions, I can work a full 40 hours in 4 days and have my infusion on the 5th day. Sounds too good to be true… probably because it is.
The point was I would get my full 40 hours of work, not have to use sick leave, and have the weekend to recoup from treatment. Here’s the rub: I also commute two hours a day. A typical 8-5 is actually 6:30am-6:15pm (on a good traffic day). In order to make a 10-hour day work, it turns into 5:30am-7:15pm. Then factor in the other aspects of my life (forgetting for a moment the source of all the hub-bub): laundry, dishes, dinner, time with my kids, or hey…even just a shower.
Moment over, now add in a chronic illness and all the baggage that comes along with it for good measure: insomnia, pain, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, headaches, and my favorite–brain fog. In order to get into my work area, I have to go through a door with a card reader and then a door with a keypad. Naturally, the brain fog kicked in this morning and for the life of me I couldn’t remember the code. At every error my anxiety grew. As my anxiety grew, my irrational and fogged brain whirred away. I kept hearing “2319” (the CDA code from Monsters, Inc.), and feared one of the sheriffs from the next office would come out. Like I said, irrational! I was mostly panicked that I would be stuck waiting the 45+ minutes for someone to show up and let me in, meaning I would have to stay an extra 45 minutes. Thankfully though, I closed my eyes and let muscle memory guide me. I knew the information, I just needed to slow my breathing and let my brain focus.
If you aren’t familiar, the week prior to infusions is basically one week of withdrawal hell. I get moody, irritable, anxious, and incredibly emotional. In order to fulfill all of my personal and professional obligations I have to minimize other things… the things I would usually consider a luxury as a working parent: reading, taking a bath, or even sleep–I can just forget about it.
Insomnia is its own hell. It forces you to lay awake in a pool of resentment, drowning in your mind. For me, my senses get heightened. The air from the fan feels colder, the sound of Jon’s breathing seems deeper, and the darkened space of my room seems darker. The possibility of sleep lingers just barely out of reach.
I survive hell week on caffeine and crackers. A down-right horrible combination. A fact I am reminded of at the clinic, when despite my best efforts to drink more water for optimum hydration, it still isn’t enough to dilute the excessive caffeine.
Despite my personal trepidation, I am thankful for the creepy sleep station in the building next door. The small room is made up for resting; it is a small room without a lock that has an old, school-nurse-style bed. Although the room is “secretly” located inside the women’s restroom, I am still anxious to fall asleep. It doesn’t help that the foot traffic is heavy and it constantly feels and sounds like someone is going to burst in at any moment. Yet…the room is a necessary evil. Power naps are sometimes the only way I get through infusion week!
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I only have one day left until treatment! Thank gosh. This week seems harder than all of the previous infusion weeks.
Hope

Judgment

Why do people feel they have a right to pass judgement? They can call it whatever they want–concern, curiosity, or even apprehension–but a spade is still a spade. Everyone has an opinion; I am not suggesting people stop thinking for themselves, merely that people stop expressing their feelings with such obvious maneuvers. To be frank, I have a hard enough time making and dealing with the choices my illness requires of me without other people’s scrutiny.
I am not a stranger to odd looks and unsolicited advice, but I have a hard time when these situations come from unexpected places or even people who I thought understood. So then how do we handle this?
Judge
Normally I internalize, over-analyze, and stress the issue until I’ve almost forgotten reality. Lately though, it has been too much. I am tired of shouldering the burden of everyone else. I am tired of protecting others, protecting their feelings, and making myself small so they can shine bright.
I recently read a blog that quoted Juvenal, “Sed quis cutodeit ipsos custodies”–Latin for “But who is to guard the guards themselves?” Maybe this makes me sound arrogant, but I try so hard to protect everyone in my life from the true reality of my pain that I often wonder who is protecting me?
It makes me think of that scene from My Best Friend’s Wedding: Julia Roberts is on the phone with her friend George explaining that she is chasing Dermot Mulroney’s character, who is chasing Cameron Diaz. During the call George asks, “Who’s chasing you…nobody, get it?”
I am appealing to anyone who understands: How do I handle it? How do I go on acting like the things people say about me don’t hurt or bother me? How do I get a thicker skin? How do I stop caring so much about what others think?

Letter to my Surgeon

After years of hemming and hawing, I finally sat down and wrote a letter to my surgeon. I am sealing the envelope tonight and mailing it off tomorrow! I don’t know if he will respond or if he will even see it, but it is a thank you that needed to be said.

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Dear Dr. Ahmad:

You might not remember me, but I was a patient of yours in 2010-2011. I was referred to you after months of battling a flair like I had never experienced before. I was a 20-year-old kid who felt alone and lost in this giant world, without so much as a road map to guide me.

I remember our first visit in waves; never in full focus or with much clarity. You wanted to perform surgery and give me a temporary ostomy. I was scared–but not of dying–at least I don’t think. I was scared of what happened if I survived. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it’s as close to the truth as I can surmise.

To this day I don’t know what compelled you, but you offered your surgery pro-bono. You saved my life. I’ll be honest though, I hated every minute of that bag. I remember feeling powerless. I remember the bag leaks and the shame l felt, like it was yesterday. You were true to your word though, and it was temporary. So temporary in fact, that I never truly got to appreciate what that first surgery meant. I was so focused on what I had lost, what was taken from me, that I never stopped to think about what I had gained: faith. Faith not in God but in science and in humanity.

I have spent the last six years trying to write this letter to you. I think I have never felt worthy, like the things I have accomplished were not enough to make you proud or happy that you went through all the effort. I might not ever be the model patient, or save the world, but for the first time in my life I am proud of me and I have you to thank for that. I have you to thank for everything. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I have included some pictures of the things that I am proud of. Things I was only able to do and achieve because of you.

After surgery, I re-connected with a boy I knew in second grade. A boy I fell in love with and married. That deep-in-your-soul, shout-it-from-the-roof-top, write-a-sonnet love, that I thought only existed in fairytales and Hollywood. After being told I would never have kids, I had two. Two crazy, full-of-energy, wily, smart, and handsome little boys. I went to college, graduated with an Associate’s before deciding to go back for a Bachelor’s. I even bought a house and started a career. I have lived and continue to live well. The hard times are surrounded by the good times, and I know I owe my success and family to you.

So thank you, truly.

Respectfully,

Kayla Lauer