Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On Fear, and Being Stronger

"I'm through accepting limits
'Cuz someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down"

- "Defying Gravity," from Wicked: the Musical

"Look before you leap. Then leap."-anon

Jenn suggested that we go out for dinner to celebrate the fact that I've been out of the hospital for a month (this then prompted a long discussion about what should "count" as the date of my "defying death" anniversary. Should it be the 14th, when the paramedics arrived and I got to the hospital? Or the 15th, when I was actually brought into the emergency room [just after midnight], or when I was stabilized, which would have been a few hours after that. But then, I took a turn for the worst and don't remember much of anything from the 15th. So should it be the 16th, when I was finally fully conscious? Or the 18th when I was released from the hospital? Oh, who cares? It's just an excuse for a decent meal).

It feels like it's been a lot longer than a month, mainly because about a hundred significant things have happened between now and then. It's been a busy month, without a lot of time for thinking. I've been doing a lot of... doing -

- visiting friends, Wiscon (including my first panels!), tDW rewrites, insulin routine maintenance, relationship maintenance, movie watching, book reading, contract signing, note writing, long-mad-email-fiascos, weird emotions, low blood sugar nights (again, and again, and again to the point of exhaustion), doctor's appointments, weight lifting, cleaning, sorting, ordering, filing, writing letters to shitty healthcare providers...

I've put on a little weight, which is a relief. When I first got out of the hospital, I'd just spent four days without eating followed by two days of hardly eating because the nasty case of thrush I had made swallowing unbearably painful, to the point where I'd thrash in bed every time I swallowed. At some point that first day back home, I was talking to Jenn and put my hands on my hips. I've got pretty big, wide hips, and I've always had at least an inch of cushioning between the bone and the surface of my skin. But when I posed with hands on hips, I didn't even have to squeeze to realize that I was mostly just skin-over-bone there.

My deep fear of out-of-control weight gain, however, doesn't seem to be materializing. I wasn't eating all that bad before I was sick, but "eating well" and "eating in moderation" is now an enforced state of being. My blood's been high all week, mainly to do with the fact that the doctor cut my noon-day insulin shot. I see him next week, and we'll likely either adjust my Lantus or bring back the noonday shot, which I'd like. I hate the high sugar. It's why I measure what I eat and why I've cut back a carb serving from breakfast and lunch, to try and get it more manageable. I'm trying desperately to keep the sugar levels low because 1) I feel better 2) I don't want to get my feet chopped off

Over the long run, it means keeping me from losing my legs. In the short term, well, having high sugar all week means more problems with my feet, the return of the yeast infection, and a much longer sexual response time.

And that really sucks.

Overall, things are much better: the blood will get sorted out with the doctor again next week. I've been doing my weights routine regularly, and today was the first time in - I dunno, months - that I've been able to add reps without feeling like I'm going to die. I feel a *lot* stronger. Jenn and I are going to make a pilgramage to the local sports store and get me a 50 lb free weight (just one, for now), which'll mean upping the weight, lowering the reps for a couple of my morning exercises.

Jenn also suggested I go back to yoga this Friday. It's been a month, afterall. I'm mostly as "better" as I'm going to get.

I've been putting off a lot of things, like getting back to the gym.

A lot of that has to do with fear.

As much as I want to not be afraid, or just pretend I'm not afraid, I am.

But life goes on (unless you die. ha ha). I can't just keep coming home and reading books. Not that that's a bad thing, but I realized the other day that I've been hiding a lot at home lately. I've gotten better. I took a couple long walks on my own this weekend (with some hard candy in my pocket, just in case), and I walk a lot at the nature preserve across the street from where I work, which is how I get in my hour of walking every day. But mostly, I've been afraid.

Jenn's going to be gone several weekends and a couple of weeks this summer for various business psych conferences. I'm looking forward to it because there's a secret part of me that's really terrified of being by myself in the house again. I need to spend time by myself just to get my confidence back, just to convince myself that I'm not going to fall into a coma and die alone and get eaten by dogs.

Back when I was 19, I decided to change my whole life. I wasn't going to rely on anyone else. I wasn't going to become attached to anyone else, and I sure as hell wasn't going to be dependent on anyone else for the rest of my life.

And I still want those things, even now. I still find strength in it.

I have some traveling coming up as well. I'll be flying out to Ohio for Thanksgiving with my buddies Ian and Stephanie, and in October, my parents are flying the whole family out to Florida for a trip to Disneyworld. And all of that will be good for me, too.

It's a bit like being in a car wreck. Afterward, you really, really don't want to drive a car again. And the best thing to do is drive yourself home again right afterward.

Yoga on Friday will be good for me. If I collapse, there's a whole roomful of people who can call 911.


And I think that there's still a small, secret part of me that worries now that the summer's spinning out and Jenn's going to all her conferences and getting ready to start the job markets process (her whole last year here will basically be sending out applications and flying out for job talks), that worries about What Happens Next.

I've started brainstorming the module I'm writing for the gaming job in Edmonton, and if I *do* get the job, I'd like to take a couple weeks and do some traveling between the end-date for Chicago and the new-date in Canada. I want to scream a big fuck you at the world and do most of it on my own.

But buried deep in me, as well, is the idea of moving on past this life and into the new one and figuring out who the hell would want to hang out with somebody like me. It's not a big thing, but I think about it. Sick people aren't terribly attractive. I worry about my limits. I worry about my restrictions. I planned an 11-day Macchu Pichu hike for my 30th birthday. I'm wondering if I have to postpone that until my 40th. I'm wondering what I can do. I won't know until I try.

I think I'm afraid I'll find limits.

I think about all the things I want to do. Things that I *will* do out of sheer stubbornnes, but... but I think about it.

Because as much as I try to stand up straight and get my shit together, things are harder. I knew they would be harder, and now the anger's starting to get to me, the anger everybody said would come.

Mostly, I'm angry at myself.

I'm angry at my fear, my self-loathing. I'm angry that I spent so many years figuring out how to be strong and live on my own only to be hit with a dependency. I've worked very hard to do what I've done and be the person I am. It's why I react so strongly when I'm with people who want to change me, who say I'm emotionally distant, too aggressive in my speech, too straightforward, too intimidating.

Oh, fuck you.

I was not always this way. I know that better than anyone. I've been the screaming, crying, blubbering housebound who kowtowed to an overbearing boyfriend, back in the day. I hate that person, and anybody who wants me to go back to being her can kiss my ass.

I remember that when B and I broke up, he spent the following days and weeks writing terrible stuff to me and about me. He insulted my friends. He said I "disgusted" him. He insulted my writing. He said I'd never make it as writer (one of the greatest things about allowing somebody to get close to you is that they know *exactly* where to hit you when they decide they never really loved you). He insinuated that by breaking up with him, I was giving up on love. I didn't understand love. I would never be in love. I would always be alone, exploring dead cities. He said I wasn't a fighter. If I was really a fighter, I'd have kept pushing through our masochistic relationship, which was killing us both.

Oh, fuck you.

I'm not a perfect person. Strong emotion scares me. Getting out of bed in the morning scares me. Going into a coma and dying scares me.

Not living the life I want because I'm afraid scares me even more.

At a certain point in my life, I realized I couldn't blame anybody else for the way I lived my life. I couldn't blame my parents because I overate. I couldn't blame my parents because I was bad with money. I couldn't blame crappy boyfriends for my terror of committment (Me: "I don't want to get married. I mean, being with Crappy Boyfriend #1 pretty much put me off that. He kept pushing and pushing, like a ring was a collar, like once I say yes I'd never be able to leave." My buddy Ian: "So you're basically avoiding marrying other men or forming strong committments because of some high school boyfriend you had." Me: "Yes. It was a bad experience. It formed my conception of what marriage meant to most guys." My buddy Ian: "Well then, he wins, doesn't he?" Oh. Shit). I couldn't blame a lack of physical activity on my historically sedentary lifestyle. I couldn't blame teachers for convincing me I was stupid, or assholes who told me "you can't." And I can't blame my pancreas for exploding and leaving me to figure out how to live my life without it.

Instead, I'm caught in this neverending loop of fear and anger, anger and fear. And it drives me, it drives me, because if I stop too long to think, if I think too much, I'm going to feel sorry for myself. I'm going to spend too many nights crying for no reason at all and saying, "I can't" when I don't even know what's possible.

But you know what? It fucking occurs to me that the sorts of people who cry and say I can't every night and never get out of bed because it scares them, they aren't the fighters. They're just tired, because it's too hard. I understand that. I understand how hard it is. But it's not the life I'm living, nor the one I want to live.

So what the fuck does that make me?

I've been called some pretty terrible things in my time. I've called myself even worse.

I remember my mom telling me once that she could never do the things that I've done or am doing because she'd be too afraid.

There's a false assumption in those sorts of statements.

It assumes that people who "do stuff" aren't afraid. It assumes that when you step into a ring, that big motherfucker in front of you doesn't - just for a moment - scare the living shit out of you. It assumes that I never have a crises of confidence, that I don't sit around fighting myself, my own assumptions, my own fears, everyday.

But I am afraid, and I do fight, every day.

I am getting better. I will be better, if only through sheer determination.

Because that's pretty much all I'm running on right now -

Blind faith, anger, fear.

And maybe a little hope.

Hope that I made myself into the sort of person who can get up and push back. Hope that I already know myself and my limitations (none), and that where I can go from here, what I can do, will surprise even me.

"You're the only person I know who can leap off a cliff into empty air and fly." - Jenn

6 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your one month anniversary! It sounds like you've got the feet in line... now it's just a matter of speed.

Steph said...

I think the important thing is that you recognize this for what it is: a step backwards in a life-long process. Just as it's good to look back at what you were while remembering why you changed (despite the pain), so it is good to see the progress you have made.
I'm not at all trying to belittle your experience--you've had an absolutely terrifying thing happen to you and I think (as we discussed) many people sat back and took stock. "If Kameron who works out and eats right can fall, what hope do the rest of us have?"
Yet hope is still strong.
Recognize that this is just another (albeit, more serious) challenge for you to work through and that even though you may have slipped, you are still further along than when you started. Like everything else in your life, you will make it through. I know this deep in my soul because I believe. I believe in destiny (of our own making, or otherwise). I believe in the ability to ""step in the ring and look some "big fucker" in the eye and swallow that fear. Most of all, I believe in you.
And I know you do, too. I guess what I'm trying to say is that although the fear is natural and to be expected, acknowledging it is the first step to conquering it. I have no doubt that you WILL conquer.

Zan said...

Can I say that everything you're feeling is absolutely normal for someone just diagnosed with a chronic illness? You swing from anger to fear to wanting to cry over the sheer unfairness of the whole thing. Because it always seems to happen just when your life was getting really good.

But it does get better. You just have to be willing to let it take the time it takes to work through everything. Go with the good days and don't be too hard on yourself on the bad days. Eventually, the good days outnumber the bad. Eventually, you go days and weeks and then months without thinking "I'm sick. I'm broken." It because just another part of who you are, nothing more important than any other part. Just one more thing you can put on that list of Things I Can Handle. And it absolutely makes you stronger.

Patrick said...

As a friend, I'd say, with all love and respect... cut yourself an effin' break.

You're doing great, Kam. You've adapted with a grace and courage I could only hope to emulate under the circumstances, and you're getting your life back in gear one step at a time. Don't stop improving, but stop beating yourself up for not improving fast enough. That's a ticket to a great physical breakdown.

To answer a few of your points:

1) There are limits everywhere. Being 30 and finding out what happens when barely noticed back injuries develop over time set me with some limits. You might die before I do if the apocalypse hits, but I'm dead as soon as anything blooms the following spring, given my sinuses and apparent asthma. You're doing a great job of managing and stretching those limits.

2) Anyone who wouldn't want to hang out with you because you have to count the number of pieces of pita bread you eat at dinner isn't worth hanging out with. You addressed the question of worrying about what shallow dipshits think of you pretty well in a later post today. :)

3) The best (and hardest, and lifelong-est) way to kick diabetes in the proverbial nuts is to turn it into a learning experience that helps you face some of your old struggles with leaning on people and wanting independence... and ideally, to let that guide you into even better independence than you've got right now -- the kind where you're not even fazed by someone suggesting that the independence is based on fear rather than strength. I saw you take the first steps down the unpleasant road to Being a Better Person over the week I was down in Chicago. It's a pain in the ass -- the fucking shovel, as you noted -- but I can already see you turning it into a source of strength.

4) And that, all of that, is why you kick ass.

5) PS: Your book still rocks.

Kameron Hurley said...

Patrick, you are the best friend ever.

And Stephanie - thanks. I can't wait to see you next month!

inkgrrl said...

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway... you are the incarnation of that phrase. Not to get all kumbay-fucking-ya and shit, but thank you for showing up. You remind me what not whining looks like. And I needed reminding.