I lay in my bed, wondering why. I had a blinding headache. It felt as if my head were going to literally split, like a ripe melon. A melon that, left unattended, had rolled off of a counter and hit the tile floor with a thump. A thump that was accompanied by the splash of its sweet contents bursting forth from its thin skin, decorating the cabinetry in drippy sweet color. For a moment, I smelled fruit, and opened my eyes to see where it was coming from. I realized that I was smelling my own lotion, on the arm that was curled over my head.
Once again, my sight had 'dimmed'. Even tho the room was very dim, I knew this by the greyness that tinged the world around me. It was noon, after all, and my room should have been a riot of color. Instead it looked like a black and white movie with the contrast turned all the way down. Sort of like being inside of a black and white television, while wearing dark sunglasses, in the twilight of a late summer evening. I've been told that this 'dimness' of vision will eventually become permanent. God, I hope not.
Among other things, I have a condition called Hydrocephalus, which just very simply means that the mechanism that keeps intracranial fluid at a steady level is missing in my skull. I've been dealing with it for years. When one of these headaches lasts more than a day, I go to the emergency room. When I get to the ER, they give me a shot of a heavy narcotic (Dilaudid, or Morphine), and do a spinal tap. Usually, they drain off about eight ounces of extra fluid. This relieves my headaches, and returns my vision to normal for a month of so, then the headaches gradually begin to come back, increasing in severity until I'm back in my bed.
On this particular day, I lay there wondering what I did in a previous life to earn this pain (because I can't think of anything I've done this time around that deserves this kind of punishment). I've wondered this very often. I faded in and out of clarity, (the Percocet that I'd taken to help 'take the edge off' and let me rest was at least allowing me to distance myself from the headache somewhat for short periods of time). I felt a familiar warmth and rush of fluid.
'Oh, my God, really?', I groaned as I shot up out of bed and ran to the bathroom. At least it's only a few steps, four or five. I cleaned up the bloody, sticky mess. I wondered why on earth I was fated to cope with this. Normal periods are a pain in the ass, but this was not an average period. "Babe!" I shouted, calling my husband to come assist with clean clothes and a towel. I hopped into the little shower stall, without turning on the light.
While I stood running scalding hot water on my neck, I was hit with an all to frequent visitor. A pain, like a little gnome with flaming daggers hanging from my lower abdomen, hit me violently, doubling me over. The pain shot down the front of both of my legs, up to my chest, and through to my back. I gasped, struggling not to cry out. I was thankful for the percocet that I knew was the only thing between me and agonized screaming. Tears squeezed from my eyes, despite myself. I knew that crying would just make the headache worse. I curled up on the bottom of the shower stall, waiting for my body to adjust to the new level of pain so that I could stand up again.
Among other things, I have two feminine-nightmare conditions. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is the name of the condition that causes this pain. It is just what it sounds like. I currently have nine cysts on my right ovary, three on the left. Usually, it's just a constant pinch, and I can function in spite of it. But when it flares, it's a searing-hot, shooting misery. Then there's the fact that my broken ovaries dump a lot of hormones into my body. Enought that I test positive on a pregnancy test. I have food cravings, mood swings, the lot (and I can smell someone's feet at ten paces.)
The other feminine problem is Endometriosos. What this means for me is that for the past six months, I bleed for three to six days a week. The bleeding can be anything from a light spotting, to a flow like a heavy period. Don't start me on the clots. It has progressed to this point gradually, over the course of the past thirteen years, since my youngest child was born. My pregnancies are what limited the severity of this problem, until then.
As I lay there, the miasma of pain making the gray world around me seem a to be a puddle of blood, my husband came in. I heard him set my clean clothes on the counter, and pull a towel from the closet shelf. I felt his footsteps on the floor, the vibration like porcupine quills poking me on the overactive nerves that live in bunches in my 'pressure points'. His whisper felt like a megaphone-amplified shout, 'You alright?' 'No.' I gasped. He reached in, and shut off the shower. He gently helped me to my feet, toweling me off. Even his gentle touch sent ripples of pain through my muscles. I felt like a baby, helpless and vulnerable. He helped me get dressed, and led me back to the bed. There was a Percocet and a glass of water waiting for me. 'Thank you' I managed, as I gulped them down. Barely breathing, for fear of aggrivating the pain, I curled up on my side.
Among other things, I have a condition called Fibromyalgia. They don't know what causes it. I have sharp, random pains in my muscles. Most of the time, by itself, this is not something that I treat with more than Tylenol. Being an autoimmune disorder, Fibro leaves me vulnerable to high fevers. I catch every little germ that goes around, and my body over-reacts to it. On a bad day, I feel like this syndrome makes my hair hurt. The slightest breeze can cause me agony, like little hot needles stabbing me.
In short, on this day (and far too many others like it), I knew what hell must be like. I don't know what I did to deserve this. Sometimes I think that I must have agreed to live in this body before I was incarnated here. Maybe no-one else wanted it. Maybe I wanted to prove that I was strong enough not to let this physical nightmare break my spirit. Sometimes I think that I'm not going to be able to deal with this for much longer. Sometimes, I fully understand why a person would step in front of a moving train.
I can't hold a job. For five years now, I never know when I'll be forced to the bed, or for how long. For the first couple of years since it got bad, I tried to work. No employer I found was willing to deal with random absences of unknown duration. I don't qualify for disability, as all of the 'illnesses' I've described here (and those are not ALL of the ones that I deal with), are treatable, either by surgery or medication. I can't afford the surgeries. I can't afford the pills. I don't have medical insurance, being unemployed. I can't get covered on my husband's plan, as my conditions are 'pre-existing'. We don't qualify for medicaid, they don't cover adults here (unless they're recieving disability). The hospital will do a spinal tap, or if necessary, a D&C procedure for the bleeding. 'Slap a bandaid on it', and tell me that I need surgery. "Ya think?"
My God, I'm depressed. That's another issue, treatable but the treatment is out of my reach.
I had been laying there for I didn't know how long. It was dark. I was curled up on my side. I felt a little better, the pain was at a level that I could cope with, but still woozy from the medicine. I went to the bathroom, and climbed back in bed. I flipped on the tv, the sound almost completely off. It was six PM, and the cable informed me that it was still Saturday. Good, I had only lost twelve hours of my life this time. I watched my favorite TV show, I'd TiVo'd a rerun. I could see in color again. After the show, I realized that I was hungry. I could hear the kids upstairs, joking with each other. I heard my husband clear his throat, a warning for them to keep it down, so that I would not be disturbed.
Gingerly, I crept up the stairs. The smell of the grilled cheese sandwiches and mushroom soup that had been dinner made my tummy squeak. My hubby turned away from his computer to face me, and smiled. The kids all grinned. 'Hi guys', I said. 'Hi mom's' mixed with 'Feeling better?'s'. Hubby came to the stairs and hugged me gently. He walked with me to the recliner, and helped me sit down. My son brought me a mug of soup. He knew that my stomach may not tolerate even that much food, after a bad jag. I was sad that he knew that.
After an hour or so, I ate a sandwich. I felt strength returning. 'So', I asked the family, 'What did you all do today?' I was rewarded with five people talking at once. We talked for a few minutes, and they crept closer and closer to me. Within half an hour, I was snuggled on all sides. I took a deep breath, smelling the various shampoos and lotions. I grinned broadly.
'I love you guys', I said, my eyes filled with tears. 'I love you too' echoed back at me in surround sound. I felt a huge, warm feeling expand in me. I wondered what I had ever done to deserve these people, and the amazing way that they made me feel. And for a moment, I understood exactly what heaven must be like.