Stories We Tell Ourselves About Being Sick

During the last ten years or so, there’s been something of a time warp: nothing happened.  Things happened, Events occurred, but nothing happened of substance.  But I’m not just speaking about myself.  It’s everything.  Everything has sped up and slowed down in equal measure.  Jobs, relationships, school.  Death pressures its coming; life resists, rejoices.

Or it’s me.  Age is a funny thing and with high-kneed, high-kicked simultaneous marching we all move towards our own impossibility.  Impossibility itself becomes a possibility–the possibility of non-existence, the impossibility of existence itself.  I’m not speaking of death–though that qualifies, too, as the big one–I’m speaking of a primordial non-existence that very much exists within our lives, that leveling of our Being, a restlessness and, for lack of a better word, a doom.  A giving up to boredom.  It’s a giving up to the very demands of life, to the struggling, to the just shrugging forever, and feeling like shit about it.


Sickness is different though: it’s a promise, or at least has the possibility of the promise of death.  We do periodically get sick and die.  To understand this promise we have to understand the superficiality of this specific situation; the structure of sickness is certainly a social phenomenon.  I disagree with those who say we die alone; isolation is a violation of being-with-others, not an aloneness.  It’s an assault, a murder.  Nothing could be further from the truth that we die alone.  First, isolation is a construct of the living; to be dead is to be incapable of isolation.  This logical truth has nothing to do with the “afterlife” or any such concepts.  In fact, the casting off of isolation and loneliness are themselves promises of the afterlife.  It’s not my place to say anything about the existence of an afterlife here though my views are obvious.

Isolation is, as said, a violation of being-with-others, a withdrawal from the world and people.  This withdrawal is neutral, morally, but like other structures of life, it exists: being-with-others, being-towards-death.  But isolation also has the specific quality of causing suffering, though suffering can take many forms and it’s not necessary or even possible to go into them all.  It’s enough to say that, unlike same other structures of existence, it’s morally wrong.  I take a utilitarian stance here: suffering is bad.  I agree with Simone de Beauvoir when in The Ethics of Ambiguity she states that, like Christianity, Existentialism includes the concepts of good and evil.  I don’t consider myself followers of either of the two philosophies (I like Heidegger more) but I agree whole-heartily that suffering exists, and that suffering should be minimized.


I’m sick.  I have illnesses.  I have had Crohn’s disease since I was twelve.  Doubling over in pain as a twelve year old, clutching my stomach and crying out “no” repeatedly.  And this has happened at least a whole bunch of times during the subsequent years.  Though I underestimate: the pain can be unimaginable.  The commercials that show it as a diarrhea problem are wrong; that may be true, but it’s the pain that has you screaming and hating yourself, cursing whatever god if there were one.

I have a seizure disorder.  My first true-to-life wow-that’s-a-seizure occurred at my cousin’s wedding and I could even tell something was wrong beforehand: I was sweating through my suit, I was having time-lapses during which I don’t remember doing whatever it was I was doing.  The car ride with my parents is lost to the void.  Lost time is itself terrifying, or at least the anticipation of it is (one anticipates it and fears it; the actual act is  painless).  The ceremony went as planned, as they all do, and then I walked out of the church and luckily collapsed and flailed about just outside the pews.  Saving me the embarrassment.

I’ve also had seizures in which I’ve ended up arrested (or the equivalent), simply because the police arrived before the ambulance and decided, in their obvious expertise and wisdom, that you should handcuff a person having a grand mal seizure and thrust your knee into his back.  And then the kindly doctor suggested I go to a mental ward “to work through some of those emotions.”  I would have rather had a Klonopin or two and go home (issue: solved).  I ended up staying in the ward for about 8 hours until the workers couldn’t find a reason to keep me.  The police incident is more common than you think: you get thrown into a holding cell, naked, while you wait interminably for something to happen.  It’s genuinely awful.

Halial hernia.  Which isn’t that bad, you say.  Plenty of people have them.  Most people don’t throw up so much with this disease, but I do–probably do to my Crohn’s disease, hey hey–and what happened to me was that I threw up, aspirated on my own vomit, got sick with pneumonia and was stuck in a hospital for a week.  I was coughing so much I couldn’t drink (it hurt quite bad); they offered me Tylenol because they thought I was a drug addict (I’ve had ten Tramadol in maybe the last year?).  Though I did get Fentanyl in the ICU for my headaches, I must say, inexplicably.

Then I got pneumonia a week later, again, the day before Christmas.  I signed myself out AMA because I wanted to be with my family.  They said I could die.  Turned out okay, but move along another week and I got sick again–this time with a virus of some type that mimicked the effects of pneumonia but wasn’t pneumonia.

I couldn’t walk up or down a flight of stairs for a week.


I’ve been diagnosed with depression, ADD, dysthymia, rationality, objectivity, a people person, shyness, Alcohol Misuse Disorder (Unspecified) [I should note this was because I was drinking and was very unhappy and started scream-crying or something akin, and the police came and did their hold-you-down-painfully knee-on-back laughing thing.  No joke:  I repeat this story because it’s been repeated.  I’m also not a fan of the “unspecified” disorders in the DSM: they’re copouts.

So I’m a depressed person who is actually really nice; I’m not really shy anymore; and sometimes I drink.  I like to think I’m intelligent but I don’t think I really am anymore.  I used to be.  I know how to use a semicolon, and I think they are the sexiest punctuation.

Drugs haven’t really worked for me.  Well, some have, some haven’t.  Depakote keeps me from having seizures.  I can’t take most antidepressants because they lower the seizure threshold.  So they try to give me antipsychotics: I’m neither manic nor psychotic, so I shut that down, and I actually got in a “fight” with a doctor about whether antidepressants have really any efficacy compared to placebo at all (they don’t, much).  The side effects are generally horrible though, and in fact doctors, in my experience, like to prescribe them precisely for the side effects (e.g. Trazodone, Mirtazapine, Wellbutrin, etc.)

So that’s where I am.  I used to think life was about trying to be happy, that utilitarianism was more about maximizing pleasure instead of minimizing pain.

I don’t think that anymore.

Now I listen to Mineral.

Absence

empty frame

  Blankness. There’s a space between viewer and maker (perhaps even “artist”) that can be critiqued here as an absence of action, of artistry (there’s nothing in the frame), while still not disregarding the artist herself as that actor.  It’s a criticism of the subject while not separating subject and object.  Thought can think outside of separation in this case, and even subject and object: it’s not even a matter of creation and creator, but rather the inseparable character of questioning itself when it asks the unanswerable and ponderable.