My mom and I are complete opposites in many ways, which tends to cause conflict. She likes to remain ignorant of any potential unhappiness until it's already engulfed her. I, on the other hand, prefer to know as far in advance as possible so that I can get all my worrying done ahead of time. That way, when the bad times come, I'll have gotten the panicking out of the way and have gathered enough information to confront the issues head-on.
This, however, is not about my mother. This is about me, worrying, now, about problems that may never come.
Most of you know that I have Issues. Some are physical, and some are not. I've been dealing with them all my life, and in a very real way, my life would not be what it is today without them. The pain in my joints comes and goes: when it's there, it's crippling, and when it's not, it's still just behind the scenes, ready to burst forth without provocation or warning. I used to clench my teeth and work through it, stomping through life wrapped up in ace bandages. Now I live in fear of it. Once one thing starts hurting, I know all the rest will follow soon, and it may be months before I get even the slightest relief. On the good days during that time, I walk with a limp and have trouble lifting anything heavier than a spoon. On the bad days, it's a nightmare just to get out of bed.
Add to that migraines, intestinal problems (cramping that feels like someone's stabbing me with a butcher knife before twisting my guts in a giant fist, followed by other unpleasantness), horrible periods and the supposedly unrelated infertility issues and miscarriages, and icy-cold, pins-and-needles hands that can't grip a pencil for long. Mentally, I tend to feel like I'm walking in a thick fog. My short-term memory is so bad on most days that I can't remember if I even asked a question, much less what the answer was. I'm exhausted no matter how much I sleep. I tend towards depression. I am proud to say that I have now spent more years of my life "okay" than I have suicidal. There was quite a while when I couldn't say that.
All this time, I've been told that it's all in my head. Others have told me I'm a hypochondriac or a whiner (which might be true, about the whining) or that I must have a remarkably low pain tolerance (very much not true). After all, there's nothing visibly wrong with me. I just hurt, and I have all my life. A 6-year-old complaining that a certain sound or a flashing light triggers makes her head hurt until she pukes can reasonably be assumed to be making it up to get attention, right? I was told at several points that the knee and hip pain I was experiencing was simply growing pains. This lasted until I was 19 and went to another doctor. I hadn't grown an inch since I was 13.
It's almost hard to notice that your problems go away when you're so busy ignoring them as much as possible and getting on with life. Times goes by, and suddenly you realize: Wow! I haven't hurt in over a year! I've been happy! I've been able to think, at least more clearly than usual! I've not spent hours every week sitting in the bathroom, crying and wishing I didn't hurt so badly!
It is, however, easy to notice when everything comes crashing back down.
I am currently fighting through this brain fog, trying to put my thoughts into any kind of coherent order, while I sit on the couch and try to work up the courage to go clean the kitchen some more. Standing hurts. So does scrubbing. I had blood drawn yesterday to see if celiac disease is the root of all my problems. Oh, and I've developed an exciting new Issue--a blistering rash that itches like the devil (who I assume is very itchy) and has even spread to my mouth, making it hard to talk or eat.
If it's celiac, or even some other gluten intolerance, then my problems have quite likely come to an end. Every single one of my health issues, mental and physical, are common "atypical" symptoms of celiac disease. I read a few blog posts earlier and couldn't stop crying. My heavens, it's not just me. I'm not the only freak out there. Even if my root problem doesn't end up being the same as theirs, I'm not the only one who has spent her life sick and been ignored by the medical community that's supposed to help her. They found relief by eliminating gluten. I can find relief too. I can be healthy again.
The problem is, that doesn't end the problems. If I have celiac disease, chances are good that Moose does too. There's not much I can do about that but to make sure that he gets the care he needs. Our family will not be supportive, but we're used to that. Friends will be, as much as they're able. Should we have more biological children, though, knowing the risks? We've always planned to foster or eventually adopt, so it's less a question of "giving Moose a sibling" (and I really hate that phrase) and more one of what the plan will be. There's so much to freak out about, even before I know if I need to worry at all or not.
And what about the depression I dealt with for so long? It's still something I have to be intentional about fighting off sometimes. What about my anger? I refused to 'fess up to how I felt to anyone in authority for...well, ever, because I knew all they'd do was put me on drugs. I'm not against depression meds. I'm glad they work for some people. I just don't want to take them myself. It's hard to explain. My brain, my thoughts, my emotions: those are my own. Even if they're a product of screwy brain chemistry, it's still my screwy brain chemistry. Even if I know the drugs aren't supposed to work like that, I didn't want to risk having something else in my body affecting who I am and what I feel. The pain is mine as much as the joy, and you can't have it.
If some stupid protein in wheat is the root cause of my desires to kill myself rather than the fact that I was terribly alone, then I will be very, very angry. If they're the reason I've been so terrified of the people around me instead of the fact that a few little kids, way back then, stabbed me in the back...I don't know. My need to be alone and equal need to be heard and to be around others is an integral part of who I am. What if some syndrome or disorder--in my intestines, no less--has shaped who I am as a person? I mean, I'll be glad to be rid of the feelings, but I was a really messed up kid for a long time. If only someone would have listened to me, I could've been spared a lot of heartache.
Maybe what worries me most is not getting an answer. Having such a wonderful break from whatever's wrong with me has put into vivid contract how much I hate how I feel right now. I just want it to stop.