“Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be… a prudent insurance policy.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert
What is there to say if we cannot be honest with each other?
Let me show you something.
Saturday morning. Sitting in a Byron Bay cafe, unbidden tears rolling down my cheeks. I was there with my ever-patient and supportive husband Ben, who had managed to rouse me from my coma-like state long enough to get me out of pyjamas and into some street clothes that still somehow resembled pyjamas.
So there I was. Weak latte at one elbow, a pile of unread weekend newspapers at the other. Harry the cafe dog lying on my feet, while I drew strength and grounding from his reassuring presence.
These new drugs I am on are a nightmare. I count every day that I must take them. Two weeks, four days to go.
They are my sweet poison. I can literally FEEL them working from just after they enter my body. For the first two weeks I experienced massive body pain, insomnia and complete exhaustion. My brain was numb. I was numb. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t connect to anything during the day. Couldn’t sleep at night, when all of that disconnect would dissolve and leave me stuck in this misbehaving body.
I was so not like my usual self. Empty headed. No ideas, no ability to converse or articulate my needs. I would get one good hour, sometimes less, each morning between when I struggled out of bed and when I began the regime of drugs and herbs that are making me well. Thank god for that one sane-making hour. Then it was back to the place of disconnect.
At least in that space of disconnect I was feeling the pain, but often from a distance, during daylight hours anyway. Anyone who has taken Valium or other such drugs will know what I am talking about. If the house had been burning down my thought process would have looked something like this:
‘Oh, look. Flames.’ Observes them licking across the bedroom ceiling. Observes them set the curtains alight. ‘Boy, it’s really taking hold.’ Turns over in bed and readjusts the pillows.
At night my bed was burning, and I was still in it. But this time I knew it, and I couldn’t make it stop…
So after the trauma of no sleep and endless pain Thursday and Friday brought me two straight days and nights of sleep. Sweet sleep. Sleep with rich lucid dreams.
One good thing, though. My brain is waking up and kicking into gear although I don’t yet recognise the landscape.
I wake long enough to drink some water, take some tablets, go to the toilet. All in a shuffling half-awake space, like a turtle breaking the surface for a sip of air before returning to the depths and those crazy seem-real dreams.
It was in one of those cresting moments of wakefulness on Saturday morning when Ben magically transported me down to Byron.
Sitting there at an outdoor table with my coffee, music in the background, soft rain falling and friends stopping to say hello, I was overwhelmed with sensation almost too much to bear.
The muted sunlight seemed too bright. The background music so loud. Conversations washed over the top of me and I struggled to catch those shining bright words one by one in my clumsy fists. By the time I had captured enough and threaded them into some sort of meaningful order the friends were on their way, their questions unanswered, their faces kind and perplexed. Sorry, I want to shout after them.
But already I was forgetting what for.
On Saturday morning I sipped my latte, holding it carefully in both hands as a child would do. I am shaky and weak, and my spatial awareness is awry. I find it challenging to get food or drink neatly to my mouth. I hope no-one I know saw me as I put my breakfast toast in my nostril and fed coffee to my chin.
At meal’s end I insisted on paying, shuffling into the cafe to hand over my money. My balance is poorer than I remember and I lurched forward like a drunk. This was not one of my better plans. Cafe Friends who we met through our mutual dogs, looked up in alarm as they watched me surf on wobbly legs to the counter. They do not know I am ill. I am aware that I am walking like a Thunderbird puppet right now – all jerky clumsiness and startle reflexes. It’s not just my friends who were staring that day.
They whispered to themselves, shocked, and although I would have liked to go over and have a quick chat, assure them I’m okay, that this is just a bad patch on the way to being well, I knew it was too much to explain and anyway, there were so many steps between me and them.
Home again, to pyjama land. But not to sleep. Not yet. Someone had shoved a pitchfork in my skull and they were twisting it for all they’re worth. The pain? Exquisite.
I slept away the rest of Saturday and much of Sunday.
So how is my Monday? If I were a pirate I would make pain walk the plank and feed it into the grasping maw of a giant shark.
Meditation is the only thing that gives my waking hours real relief. Sleep is better. Sleep is pain-free, and my dreams entertain me better than any book or movie. I like to think that while I am sleeping I am also healing. That glorious battles are being fought in my name and that good work is being done. That these wretched bacteria inside me are dying in droves and my cells are bringing out the dead as the meat wagons travel through my veins.
I wish I could feel normal. I would like to be baking something. I would like to be walking my farm or going for a swim, or working on a book. But sleep is clawing at me, and I can feel myself turning to sand beneath those insistent fingers. Am I even awake? Was Saturday’s breakfast real or just a dream?
Please, when I finally wake properly from this, let me have morphed back into myself. Meanwhile, I’ll keep taking my sweet poison. I’m planning to kill all these bacteria before they kill me. It’s the best plan I’ve got, and anyway, I’m winning.
It really is true. That which does not kill me makes me stronger.
So my question to you is this: What medicine do you need right now? Even if it doesn’t taste good, if it’s what you need, chug-a-lug babe! This is our year of making things better.