An Effort to Explain

To put to words what my “health” does to my daily life is almost painful in itself. While in some ways I feel as though I talk about it almost nonstop as people question and want to hear the story, in other regards I feel as though I can hardly share with anyone at all what it really entails.

I’m not on death’s row, nor do I have a name for whatever it is that I endure. Not to be melodramatic, but endure feels as though it’s the only word suitable for it at the moment. I suppose you could liken it to a chronic illness, although in restaurants and at the dinner table we call it an allergy. If only it was that simple. Sometimes it’s not bad at all and other days it feels like more than I know how to handle.

To avoid being entirely vague for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, for the past few years I have been through countless doctors, diets and decisions regarding my health. What was once thought to be a case of strep throat that wouldn’t quit turned into a numerous visits to the GI specialist who eventually told me my only option was to give up, because he had long ago. After senseless side effects from dozens of prescriptions, I pushed for more tests and ultimately sprung for a surgery I hoped against hope would end it all. With a few small but lasting scars to my stomach, I got to continue the chase. After an allergist jotted down some notes and sent me off without the slightest bit of advice, I found myself without a long list of foods in addition to my already absent gallbladder. From there I traveled across the state every six weeks to visit the only person who seemed to have a clue what was going on, through methods that sound laughable such as “laser acupuncture” and some crazy machine no one has ever heard of. 

It’s all a barrel of laughs as we recount it over almost every dinner table we share with friends and family. We talk about it as if it’s distant history, something that hardly matters anymore, despite the fact that my diet is more limited than anyone I’ve ever met. Oh, your cousin has had to go gluten-free? Sorry to be harsh, but that sounds like a cakewalk in comparison at this point. They make aisles of products that are specifically gluten-free and have entire menus dedicated to gluten-free options. Try going without garlic, onions and corn (and all of said by-products) for a week and see just how easy it is to eat with other people. Not to mention gluten, oats, barley and many other items to varying degrees.

I’ve likely said more than I should. I wish I knew how to best express how debilitating it can feel sometimes to figure out what to eat. There are days that it doesn’t bother me and it practically seems like a non-issue, really. There are even days that I get through the whole day without feeling sick or worrying about feeling sick later. But then there are days that anything I eat feels like a huge hurdle to overcome, and I’d much prefer to skip eating altogether, if only I could be issued some sort of gummy vitamin that provided me all of the nutritional value I needed for a meal. Mentally, it’s a struggle that I cannot even find the words for at times. Physically, it also continues to be a struggle. Because some days, I’m still sick. Despite all the many things I’ve done and changed, I continue to be sick and not only do I still get sick, but then I desperately try to figure out what I did, what I ate, to cause it. The lack of knowledge in itself is maddening. This is not something I want my life to be about, if only I could shake it.

So at the risk of losing all dignity, that was my shot at honesty about it all. I don’t know how to explain it even to my closest of friends, yet it’s something I must face daily. I am still learning to handle it with grace and patience, but often fail miserably. It’s the cause of many tears, terse words and sleepless nights. I wish I could say that I was better at coping with it. Perhaps in some ways I have become better about it but in other ways, the exhaustion of constantly dealing with it has worn me down. For fear of potentially bursting into tears or speaking with either bitterness or embarrassment, I do what I can to keep it lighthearted or avoid it when possible. Truthfully though, I just wish it would all go away. It doesn’t seem likely anytime soon, so please bear with me as I try to cope as best as possible.

Us–We’re Doing Alright

That basically sums it up. Over a quick weekend out-of-town, I think it sunk in for me. We’re doing alright. We are. We really are. And past that, we’re growing and learning and healing and developing. Some of the past few days, and even weeks, have been rough. Some of them have been as easy as can be. Sometimes we stress over the future and what it holds. Sometimes dwell too much on the past. There are good and bad things on either side of the present, but all in all, we’re doing just fine. This move has been good for us. Good for our marriage, good for our perseverance, good for our faith and good for our lives. I’ve thought it and mentioned it in passing. Now it’s time to say it out loud—we’re doing alright.

Those Days

Today was one of those days. Those days when you can’t seem to get out of bed or figure out what to wear. You hair isn’t cooperating, and the only way you could fit in breakfast was by eating yogurt during the car ride to work. Then you get some coffee and hope it all turns around. I had a rare “early out” at work today due to a very late night of work last night, meaning I was ready to hit the road by 3 p.m. and check off my list of to-dos including a long overdue trip to the bank and scoping out a new gym.

About three blocks from work I found myself instead stalled in the middle of a busy street as my apartment “relocation specialist” continued to make sure I couldn’t feel any more unwelcome over the phone. I attempted to restart the car to no avail. Hazards went on, a frantic voicemail to the hubby was left and a long call with AAA began as cars drove around my sad little car. Even if I could push a car by myself, who would steer? I was in the middle of three-lane traffic in an area I hardly knew. Eventually though, someone went and parked at the nearby grocery store to come back and push me down the road, all the while flagging traffic. I am so grateful for that stranger.

An hour later, the tow truck showed up and lo and behold – same guy as last time. Considering it had been so recent since I last saw him with the same problem (albeit, in far less perilous of a location) I could ask about how his new daytime shift was going, hear his anger about the replacement refs and tell him about my lackluster visit at the previous shop. The repair shop that a month ago said nothing was wrong with the car after it was towed there and spent two days being “worked on.” Sigh. He towed me to a new place and actually walked in to talk to the owner to explain the problem with the car he’d become so well acquainted with.

As I hurriedly biked to the bank to accomplish something today, I passed a few kids walking to the park. They shouted “Hello!” and I couldn’t help but smile and say hello right back. I thought about how kids have it so easy. How they don’t have the stressors of life bogging them down… but they think they do. They have struggles at school and clinging to their favorite toy at all times might make or break their happiness. To us though, those issues are so little in the large scheme of things. And really, aren’t mine too? I am quite alright. I may not have the greatest car or own a house or be making much money, but my life is good. Being stalled in the middle of a busy road caused some stress and sweat, but I had help from a stranger. The bank lobby closed before I managed to arrive, but I got to enjoy a fine moment of awkwardness at the drive-thru window on my bike. Even though it wasn’t at a gym, I got a workout in today. So chalk it up to one of “those days” but I’m okay because I am sure to experience new mercies every morning.

Motivation behind the Drive

In recent weeks there has been much discussion about our vehicles. Far more than I wish was the case. Currently, they are both posted on Craigslist, but that only means so much. At first, the plan was to sell both cars and buy a newer and better one to share. A few hours after we left the hubby’s car in the driveway we got a call from the city saying 1. We couldn’t sell a car there if we weren’t the owner of the house and 2. We couldn’t park on the lawn (okay, it was two tires on the lawn, two tires on the driveway due to our garage sale earlier that day). It felt like we were already failing when we had just begun.

The grand idea was that regardless of what one car we’d take, we could have someone else drive it there. That didn’t pan out. It’s fine and no questions asked. So, we went with Plan B – tow it with the truck. Neither of us were thrilled about this idea but felt it’d be better to be together and we’d just hope for the best. All the while, we continued to look for the car we’d like to buy and take with us.

This week it’s all hit. The car we had made an offer on turned out to be not quite as reliable as we needed it to be in order to make an offer. That was a major letdown. Plan C – take my car and fix it up a little more to make sure we’d be set for awhile. We took it in for an oil change and there are a few things we’ll need to do to it which will all add up. But, that’s what owning a car is, right? Repairs.

Before I can get my head around the fact that we’ve just changed plans in such a short time, I get more news. We’ve been advised to not tow the car. Just drive the truck. Figure out the car thing when we get there.

I might melt right here and now into a little puddle of stress and tears. We wanted to only drive the truck in the first place. Of course that’s ideal. We’ve been looking and trying to find the right and affordable vehicle for the past two months and just came up short. So, we shouldn’t bank on finding a car when we get there, to a much smaller town and area, as if it will be a quick and easy endeavor. Finally, while this advice may be quite valid, it doesn’t seem to solve the problem but rather presents a new one. 

I think the hardest part about this idea is that so many things are going out the door – jobs, furniture, stability, money. Having a car was the one thing that separates us from 12-year-olds as we stuff everything we own into a basement. We are about to go live in someone else’s home while we look for jobs. How will we be able to look for jobs (in another city 3 hours away from where we plan to live) without a car? The thought makes me feel stuck and trapped in a town we’d never want to live in without a way out. Plus, there’s no denying that this is a significant change in our lives. Going from a small house of two adults to a busy house of six – two of whom are children. It’s a lot to take on even with healthy boundaries. The thought of being there without a car, I can’t do it. I need to be able to know I have that final freedom to drive away. Drive to get out of the house. Drive to look for a job. Drive to familiarize myself with the area. Drive to have a moment of alone time. Drive to be free.