This past year, with my health issues, I’ve been through a lot. Sometimes, I don’t give myself credit for how much I’ve been through, because I’m so focused on getting better, feeling better, staying alive. Every now and then, something will happen, and it’s usually some little something, and I’ll be reminded of just how bad things really were, and sometimes, perhaps, still are. This isn’t a negative post. Stick with me here. See, I guess I don’t usually see things as being as bad as they are. Part of this is my positive attitude (though admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to stay positive), and part of this is because, when you’re going through something, you just keep going through it. There’s really no other choice besides death, and I just simply don’t consider that an option. I realize some people do, or have, but I don’t think that’s something I could ever consider. There are days I have wished I’d never been born, but there has never been a day in my life that I’ve wished I were dead.
And yet, death doesn’t scare me. I really am not afraid of dying in the traditional sense of the fear of dying. I’m not afraid of what lies beyond this life or even if there is a life beyond this life (I am certain there is more… I take comfort in that, and if I’m wrong, I’ll worry about being embarrassed about that after I’m… oh, wait, never mind, I’ll be dead.) You know, I’m totally digressing, but when it comes right down to it, I think I’m more worried about the things people will find out about me once I’m dead. Things most don’t know. You know, like how disorganized my computer is, how messy my bedroom can get, all the things I hide in my closet (not metaphorical, but literal) and why I hide them, how bad some of my writing is/was (’cause they’ll see it on my computer), or even just reading some of my personal journal writings that I don’t put up on the internet. I worry there might be misunderstandings and I won’t be around to explain. Silly, huh?
Now, sort of back on track, when I was in the hospital the last time, I was whining about the fact I’m a hard stick and they had not been able to get a PICC line in me, and they were running out of places to stick me in my arms. The nurses and doctors were talking about how to stick me, such as pulling the blood from my neck (uh, no thanks). I was almost in tears. I turned to my best friend and said to her, “I wonder what they would do if I ever had something really serious.”
She blinked, then she started laughing, then I started laughing, and we both laughed until we were crying. I mean, congestive heart failure, pulmonary arterial hypertension, multiple massive bilateral pulmonary embolisms… nope, nothing serious there.
But it got me to thinking: It’s all in how you look at it.
IT’S THE LITTLE WORDS FROM OTHERS THAT MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
My good writer friend Rissa Watkins was diagnosed with a type of leukemia, and she’s in remission, but still receiving treatment. She and I sometimes whine to each other about all our health problems, how we miss being normal, how we hate all the medicines and needle pokes and procedures. I said to Lynn (my buffy, best friend) in the hospital that day, “But I meant something serious, like cancer, like what Rissa has.” But the truth is, more people die from congestive heart failure than die from leukemia each year. It just doesn’t have the ‘cure’ and organizations behind it like leukemia has. Then, one day, Rissa said to me (paraphrasing just a bit), “What’s going on with you sounds worse than what I have. It sound so awful.”
Well, I never told her, but since she’ll likely read this at some point she’ll know now, hearing that from her made me cry… but in a good way. See, the truth is, there was a point during all the hospital stays and poking and nearly dying that I got angry and said, “It’s not fair that someone has cancer and everyone is all supportive and rallies around, but you get something like this that’s just as deadly and nobody even understands!” But Rissa understood. She understood because she’d been there. So here I was thinking she had it so much worse than me, and there she was thinking I had it so much worse than here. My point being again: It’s all in how you look at it.
But to have Rissa, who I know has been through so much that she likely understands better than most what I’ve gone through, say to me that what I’m going through is pure hell, that meant something to me. It validated something I had been feeling inside of me, and it gave me permission to be, for a moment, strong enough to admit my weaknesses and fears.
BUFFY SAYS THE RIGHT THINGS
A moment like this happened again the other night, this time with Buffy. I don’t talk about it as much any more, because I know it gets old, and I know there will be harder moments in which I need to vent my spleen about things, but for now, let’s just say that things still aren’t great. Better? Oh, absolutely. Even the doctor asked me last time if I thought I was getting better, and I really, really do. But it’s nowhere near good yet. My pulmonary function tests showed me functioning only at 75% of predictive, and my predictive was already low to begin with. I am still on oxygen nearly 24/7, with a leash around my nose that gets stuck in the furniture when I try to move anywhere in the house, and makes me have to take an oxygen tank or the portable unit with me everywhere I go. It’s a real pain in the ass, let me tell you.
But worse than the oxygen is the lack of it, that is, the breathing problems. I still cannot walk to the bathroom from the bed or the other bathroom from the recliner without my oxygen levels dropping into the low 80s, and walking to the car is excruciatingly painful — think about the worst asthma attack you’ve ever seen, and this is similar to how it hits me. Even with the oxygen, when I did my 6-minute walk, I was on the highest oxygen level setting their portable machine would go to, and I was still in the upper 70s after just one lap down the hallway. I had to sit in the wheelchair halfway through, because my vision greyed out. The entire hallway was about 170 feet. I couldn’t even walk 170 feet without nearly passing out and greying out and my oxygen sats dropping to dangerous levels, even with oxygen.
Sometimes, I get pissy with myself, and I think, “Oh, I’m just out of shape, I need to lose some weight, I need to exercise…” this is sometimes compounded by what the doctors say to me too, even though they know that these things, though they might improve my breathing somewhat, are not the cause of my problems. I was breathing and moving around just fine before the embolisms, and can you believe that was just 8 months ago? Man, how my life has changed.
So last night, as with most nights, I was walking back from the bathroom and I crawled into bed instead of going back into the living room. I was hurting, I was panting and gasping for breath, and I was just tired… not sleepy tired, but tired. World weary, deep down, soul tired.
Buffy came into the room, she sat in the rocking chair beside the bed, and she looked at me. I looked back at her, still not fully caught up in my breath. She whispered, “I’m sorry it’s so hard.”
Well, after three days of being in pain and being pissy and angry and not knowing why, I lost it. I said, choked up and quietly, “It is hard.” Then I started crying, because, you know, sometimes you just need to cry. Those simple words were like permission to me, to be weak for a moment, to acknowledge that, yes, it’s hard, but I’ll get through it. To say, “I validate your feelings… I validate you and what you’re going through, I acknowledge how hard you’re trying.”
Sometimes, we just need to be validated, to feel someone understands or just even sees how hard we try.
I VALIDATE YOU!
It’s the same with my writing, in that one reader’s review that is positive validates me. I don’t write to get reviewed. I do write to be read, but I don’t really care if someone loves my work or hates it, if it makes them think, feel something or just simply entertains, but when you are a writer, you are often in a solitary void, a vacuum without validation. That’s what reviews do for writers: they validate us. If you’re a reader, even if you’re another writer, please leave reviews when you enjoy a book or story. It makes a huge difference to us. A lot of people don’t realize how much work and time and emotion goes into writing a good piece of fiction, how we live with these characters like they are real to us, how we experience all their feelings, and we do this mostly alone, since we rarely have anyone who understands grieving for a character, or hurting or being angry because some fake person in our writing did something. Your reviews help keep us as sane as any writer can be.
To all my friends, all of you who post comments on Facebook and here, on my forum, on my writings, and anywhere else I might wander in the internet universe, I need you to know how important you are to me and my sanity. How you are what keeps me going sometimes, when I don’t feel I want to keep going with things… not life in general, but writing, or sharing, or fighting, or struggling or whatever it is I need to do. I can post an update, post a blog, get your feedback and feel like I might really have the strength to keep going. The simple words DO mean something. The DO make an impact.
If you’re writer, realize that yourself. The simple words make an impact. Don’t try to make grand speeches for your characters. Don’t write purple prose and flowery metaphors and struggle to make something perfect – human beings aren’t perfect.
Sometimes, the best things are found in the simple words: “I’m sorry it’s so hard for you.” “I wish you didn’t have to experience this.” “This sounds so awful.” Validation. Support. Empathy. Understanding.
You don’t have to DO anything to make a difference. Just BE there. You don’t have to SAY anything to make a difference. Just let someone know you listened. It matters.
And when you do that, you’ll see things in a new light in your own life too. There’s nothing so bad, so awful, so horrible, that you can’t get through it, especially when you consider all that others have gone through and survived. If they can do it, you can too — it’s not cliche… it really is all in how you look at it.
Love and stuff,
PS: Quite honestly, I hate taking Lasix (a diuretic–water pill) almost as much as I hate getting stuck with needles! I think I will just move my computer into the bathroom and make it my office! I’ve only had to go pee seven times while writing this post! Yes, yes, you needed, NEEDED, to know that.