To say this year has been rough would be an understatement.
I had such high hopes for 2018 when – in December of 2017 – I’d moved out of a toxic living situation into a peaceful and idyllic living situation. I went from living in a house of narcissists and drama queens with a continually rotating cast of roommates – a nightmare for my hermit self – to moving in with a friend who mostly stayed with her boyfriend until she moved in with him a few months later, leaving me to take care of the house and yard, which is a delightfully perfect-for-me witchy house with gardens, pond, and other goodness.
Things looked like they were finally coming together in my life as 2018 dawned, after several years living in that toxic environment where I did a lot of growing, but only because I went through a lot of pain and trauma.
And then I got sick.
It was a mysterious illness, in that I didn’t have any highly visible symptoms, I just had no energy. None. Moving became difficult. Thinking became difficult.
This wasn’t depression. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in my early 20s, so I was very familiar with that, and while there was some depression going on, this was something different.
Doctors were mostly useless. In February, two doctors told me to lose weight. That if I ate better and exercised more, I’d lose weight, and I’d feel better. Except I eat healthy, and even in the winter, I’d regularly ride my bike, averaging at least five miles a day, with some days topping over twenty. And I have PCOS, one of the symptoms of which is persistent weight gain with difficulty losing weight.
In March, a doctor referred me to a therapist, who sent me to a psychiatrist who gave me medications which perked my mood up for about a week or two, but then started causing physical side effects which were unbearable, and didn’t help with my energy levels at all, which was why I was going to the doctor.
In April, the water got turned off – I live in Flint, and with the water crisis, billing fuckery, and my income nosediving due to that ongoing mysterious illness, I couldn’t afford the bill.
I dealt with it. I found ways to make it work, and while having no running water was inconvenient, it wasn’t the first time it’d happened in my life, so I knew how to tackle it.
But those energy levels still hadn’t come back.
Then towards the end of April, I started getting physically ill. I couldn’t keep food down. I’d eat, and I’d throw up. Didn’t matter what I was eat. I lost 20 pounds in a matter of three weeks. The doctor I went to see was happy to see I’d lost weight, and blamed the throwing up on my gallbladder issues that I’d been dealing with for years, but because they couldn’t see stones on imaging, they didn’t do anything.
Finally, in June, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the emergency room, where they discovered that I had pancreatitis and my enzyme levels were so high, they admitted me.
Still no stones on imaging – though my heart did pause for three seconds while I was in the abdominal MRI which meant more doctors came to see me.
But because my enzyme levels were so astronomically high, they did MORE tests, including an endoscope where they shoved a tube and camera down my throat, through my stomach, and found that yes, there WAS a stone blocking my bile duct which was causing the pancreatitis.
Surgery was scheduled, the gallbladder was removed, and hundreds of stones were discovered in it. Apparently invisible on the ultrasounds and MRIs that I’d had done over the years.
Then began the process of recovery from surgery, and healing my body from the months of being unable to properly digest any food – the cause of my lack of energy.
Healing, though, and rebuilding a life and business after months of being unable to do life and business takes time.
So through the summer, my life was consumed by healing, obtaining water, and trying to rebuild.
Many times, I was on the brink of giving up. MANY times. I’d finally gotten to where I was in a safe place, and I had hope for my life, and then my body turned on me, and it took months to get doctors to listen to me and actually do what was necessary to allow my body to heal.
Many times, I thought, “Maybe this is it for me. Maybe it’s never going to get any better. Maybe this life is only ever going to be a struggle,” and that thought was hopeless and painful and pushed me even closer to the edge many times.
I never planned or attempted to hurt myself in anyway, but many times, I just wished for it to end. All of it. Not just the struggle in my life, but the bullshit and pain in the world.
The trash fire that is American politics added to that sense of hopelessness and the sometimes desperation for it all to end.
The thing about being on the brink, though, is that you always have the choice to come back.
It might not be easy.
You might not even be able to do it on your own – I didn’t.
Every time I felt like I was going to go over the edge, a friend was there to help me see that maybe I could keep going after all.
Through fundraising and hard work, booking sessions and other work, I managed to get together the money to get the water turned on. I never starved, and neither did my cats. The power stayed on, and I managed to keep the internet on so I could keep working.
It was not the first time that I’ve been so close to hopeless that I considered giving up. And since life is constantly changing, I can’t promise myself or anyone else that it will be the last time.
But each time we come to that edge, each time we’re standing on the brink, we have the chance to get a bit stronger. To get better at balance, and to pull more quickly away from that edge.
2018 has been a really rough year, and there’s only three months left in it. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time.
Three months. Twelve weeks. Ninety days.
But it’s enough time to come back from the brink.
It’s enough time to make some changes.
And even small changes, accumulated over time, can take you so far from the edge that you barely remember being there.