Now and Then

I have been poking around in this blog reading old entries and came across Multiply Chronic Illness by the Power of Two. Several realizations struck me simultaneously.

Last year, I was terrified that something would transform my current health status into a creature far harder to handle. What I had achieved felt as fragile as spun glass. Looking back on 2010, I have experienced so many health-related attacks on my body that I actually lost count, yet I’m still here and have bounced back. Was 2010 all about me learning that my health isn’t as tenuous as I fear? Do I have more physical resilience than I realized?

Somehow though this year has embodied medical insanity, I look back and have an impression not of spending days and days on my couch, but of spending finite periods. While my health might have loomed large and felt overwhelmingly out of control, it has only been a part of my life not my entire life. Perhaps the vast amount of it caused me to stop focusing on it in order to not lose my mind. Maybe in crisis I found a new way to be happy. I’m still not certain, but I am not objecting.

Besides a sense of physical resilience, I have recently been surprised – dare I say amazed – by my emotional elasticity. Long about August of this year, I had taken a few too many emotional blows and was just trying to not fall apart. Then I had to put my dog to sleep and totally lost it. I went beyond numb to a state I can best describe as utterly empty. Things did get better, but I didn’t reflect upon it until mid September when I suddenly realized I felt like myself. I’d recovered faster and more completely than I thought possible for anyone let alone myself.

Perhaps because I feel more physically resilient, maybe because I have a sense of emotional strength, or possibly because I’m happier, I am not nearly as terrified to share my life with another person. Yes, there are definite challenges, but several of my concerns no longer ring true. For example, I have more going on in my life than books and crafts. Last week alone I left my house seven times exclusively to be social. No longer do I worry about being duller than burlap. Now it’s more like tarnished metal.

Another shift has crept up slowly. Now I am able to predict my health status making a marked difference in how I approach life. Planning for future activities happens without having to think, “Will I be healthy enough?” A future filled with more than my couch and cotton candy entertainment seems likely.

Even this blog has made a difference. When asked what I do, I say, “Write a blog about disability stuff,” and it feels like enough. I contribute to the world in a way that matters, at least to me.

Some things are still the same, such as how I address the issue with someone. Do I let them see the entire reality immediately or gradually? Who would sign up for this? Would I be able to stomach allowing someone I cared for to join this insanity?

Relationships are hard and they fail often with far less in the way of built-in stressors. Can I really hope to have one that lasts a lifetime? Maybe. Just maybe. That’s a different answer than I would have given even six months ago.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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