Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

Addled All Over


Sometimes (read: most of the time) I think I am making things up about my body. That my ailments are manifestations of my addled brain alone, that I imagine or make myself ill as a means of proving to the world that I am special or deserve attention or something.

Is this related to a childhood with a chronically ill mother, one in which I was constantly reminded by the world (though not by her, I hasten to assure you) that she was Sick, that I must never think of my own body, because hers mattered most? Is it related to my fear that I will become sick like her? To, perhaps, an illogical resentment of her being sick? To an even more irrational (but very American) belief that being sick is a matter of morality, health a question of will power? Maybe.

An example: at the Baby Factory the other day, I was divested of several vials of blood, then sent to talk to billing. I leaned against the cubicle wall while the nice woman there showed me paperwork. I was dizzy and had trouble following her points, finding the words I needed to ask questions. But it wasn’t that much blood, after all, not nearly the vats they’d taken before our original, surreal IVF orientation, which I spent convulsively shuddering under a large, wool shawl. Probably I was using the knowledge that blood had been taken as an excuse to indulge myself. Just in case, I ate part of the pastry in my bag while we waited to meet with the scheduler, Maribelle. See? There’s the I indulgence, right there.

Maribelle came to lead us back to her office, and I made sure to walk very close to Sugar, to consciously notice when she slowed her pace. We have to stop so Maribelle can unlock the door, I told myself, carefully, the way you remind yourself to be careful when drunk. (Our acting teachers always said that it was a mistake to play drunk characters as out of control, that what typifies drunkenness is excessive attention to control, where a sober person can relax and still move her body correctly.) I sat down careful at the desk, thought methodically and hard about whether the dark marks on the roof across the street meant it was raining. I planned my route to get a coke after the meeting. I fought the urge to put my head against the glass and close my eyes, and I pretended that I understood what Maribelle was saying, because of course I could understand it if I’d just stop indulging myself.

Sugar watched how firmly I was blinking, how I was graciously apologizing for needing dates repeated, for misunderstanding the protocol and forgetting about the polyp-check. She told Maribelle I’d had blood drawn, and the next thing you know, Maribelle had produced a can of apple juice and a cup, apologizing that the juice wasn’t cold.

And what do you know? After I drank the juice, I didn’t feel dizzy anymore, I could find at least some of my words, and the calendar wasn’t so hard to interpret, either. I don’t much care for apple juice, especially warm, so maybe that it worked means I wasn’t just indulging myself, after all. Maybe I wasn’t well.

Similarly, I found myself wondering last night, when I was finally done with a long, crampy day of first taking care of the Bean, then teaching a night class, then traveling on late-night trains and subways (none of which combines well with serious narcotics), finally able to take first one half and then, still achy, another half of the Percocet tab I’d been thinking of all day, whether I’m just exaggerating the pain of my periods. Sure, they used to be excruciating, but what if I only think I need strong drugs now because I’m afraid of feeling pain, not because the pain I feel now really is all that bad?

Please just take the medicine, Sugar says. You’re not addicted to it, and there is no downside to treating your pain. So I did, a little convinced I just have her fooled, too.

But you know, I don’t think it’s my fear of pain that woke me up, two hours later, gripping my stomach and belly, feeling those familiar knives and stones. I think, maybe, I’m not as healthy as I would will myself to be, if only my will had anything to do with it.

9 thoughts on “Addled All Over

  1. You are strong. You are okay. You are you. So sorry this is difficult. Pain is pain. You are strong.

  2. Oh boy do I hear you. I have formal diagnoses of three conditions whose primary symptom is pain (migraines, endo, and a spinal problem), two out of three of which are diagnosable by ACTUAL TESTS! With numbers and documents. And yet I feel ashamed when my body forces me to avoid throwing as much energy at all aspects of my life as I could have when I was 22. Not regretful, but ashamed. As if it’s a personal failing. I think that this is in large part because others treat it that way. Sigh.

    So sorry that your body is letting you down. Hang in there, and do what it takes to get through the day (with maximum efficiency and happiness).

  3. I am dreading my saline ultrasound next week. Last time I came very close to fainting afterwards. This time, I will go in the middle of my workday without M because why take the toddler to an ultrasound? I’m so scared I won’t be able to handle it and won’t be able to drive myself back to work or home afterwards.

  4. I think most people think of themselves as healthy the way most people think of themselves as middle class. There is such a range of healthy. It’s odd, though, you don’t strike me as addled in the least. I am impressed and awed about the way you keep your humor in the face of migraines bad enough to make you vomit in pain and periods that are truly miserable-making. Anyway, even in some imaginary world where you were masochist enough to inflict this pain on yourself using your imagination, I’d still be strongly in favor of you taking a pill that would make the imaginary pain go away. Why suffer, even if it were fake?

    Also, having had a mother who had cancer from the time I was eight years old, I will say that I think there is something strongly mindfucking about having a mother with a vulnerable body. The mother’s body is SO important to a kid.

  5. I am sorry your body is causing you grief.

    I know I only know you online, but you do not strike me as someone who would imagine pain. I think in a lot of ways it takes more strength and bravery to accept the issue and choose the medication that makes you feel better than it does to just try to muscle on through. It is hard to admit that our bodies are fallible, failing things. (I have lost count of the number of times Q. has stopped in the middle of something and said, “I’m getting you a snack. Your blood sugar is crashing.” To which I inevitably deny it and then snap at him or cry (because my blood sugar has indeed crashed). And then I eat the snack. And then I always feel better. Sugar is a wise woman. Sometimes our loved ones see it more easily than we do.)

  6. Maybe a redefinition of the word healthy? Less of a “healthy is not sick” and more of a condition in and of itself. Not being in pain is healthy. Taking care of yourself is healthy. Knowing limits is healthy. At times I’ve been convinced I was fooling someone myself but I think that’s most often a distorted health image coming into play. And I agree with the above comment. Our parents’ health can be vital to the way we see our own health. Recognizing that for what it is…that’s healthy.

  7. Bah, humbug. If you do figure out how to will chronic problems away, you’ll make a fortune, let me tell you. Here’s to narcotics.

  8. I’m so sorry about the suffering. It sounds totally wretched. I think super awesome people like us don’t want to feel like invalids, and your mom’s illness can’t have helped… The part where you work all day and then work all night and then beat yourself up for feeling a little icky is telling. Maybe you can fake yourself out with the following logic: acknowledging your limits actually creates less drama than thinking you can muscle through it and being wrong. Saying “I need some sugar after a blood draw” (and there’s got to be a reason they give you cookies when you donate blood, right?) is a matter of fact response to a biological situation, whereas passing out in a corridor (or even being all feeble and needing someone else to take you in hand) is attention seeking. (Which makes it sound like I am accusing you of being attention seeking which I am super duper not, just offering an alternative framing wherein the responsible thing to do is accept your weaknesses.)

  9. Oh, no. You are being so awfully hard on yourself. My wife has a similar attitude about indulgence, and, not that I’m comparing your situations, but she refused to see a doctor for months of excruciating endo-related pain, even as I begged her; and even after surgery, I KNOW she would do it again, because she hates to feel like a complainer. I’m sure growing up with a mom who was ill did a number on your understanding of the body, pain, and how to address it. Be kind to yourself and drink the juice – the juice you LIKE!

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