You’re hurting me.

Some days I’m so angry, and they stick me with another needle, and another, and another, and I just grit my teeth and take it.

“Anything,” I tell myself, “anything to get well.”

Some days I just stay in my room, I forget to eat and I don’t shower, and I cry a lot.

I’ve had so many needles placed directly into my nerves, or up through my vagina and into my abdominal wall, that I now posses the horrifying knowledge of what those things are “supposed” to feel like.  I understand the difference between when the epidural goes in properly and when the needle strikes my spine.  I can tell a botched IV an hour before my arm swells and the nurses take me seriously.  I can feel when a physical therapist has gentle hands, and I can sense if you don’t care if you’re hurting me.  And some of you don’t.

A few weeks ago I went to to have some of my spinal nerves destroyed with radiofrequency generated heat.  I don’t want to hope because hope has hurt so much, but I come in anyway, grasping at straws.  They go to put the line in, and even though I know I have “good” veins – clear to see, close to the top of my skin – they try to place it in my hand and fail.  I grimace as they fish around; I’ve felt worse.  They pull the needle out and try again, only this time, they hit something.  I jump and cry out, two things I never, ever do, and I try to tell them.

“It’s wrong, something’s wrong!” I yell, and they keep sticking me.

“Take it out!  It’s wrong, I know it’s wrong, take it out of me!”  I’m practically screaming.

“Sometimes it just hurts more in your hands.”

Sure it does.  They don’t know me, and they don’t know if I have a low pain tolerance, or any idea what this is supposed to be like, but I do.  “It’s wrong.” I glare.  “Take it out of me.”

They do, and when I feel my heart rate start dropping back to something close to normal I ask for a glass of water.

“We’re going to have an IV in you.  We’re just about to hydrate you.”  The doctor says.

I can feel the heat behind my eyes as I look at him.  “That’s lovely, but I’m asking because I’m nauseous, so it’s get me a cup or have me vomit on your sterile table, your choice.”

A minute later I sip the water, tell them to try again, and bite down hard on my tongue.

They get it this time.

They wheel me over to the procedure room, where I’m drifting in and out, but not out enough that I can’t feel them yank my pants off.  I should be embarrassed, but everyone in Los Angeles has seen me naked and stuck me with a needle at this point.  There is nothing left to be ashamed of.  There is no pride left to lose.

Anesthesia does odd things to you.  I dream the same dream over and over, and in it, I am alone in a spotlight in a dark room, screaming out again and again,

“You’re hurting me!  You’re hurting me!”

But no one hears me.  Or if they do, they don’t believe.

IMG_2221

Advertisements

Birthday to You.

I hate planning birthdays.

I just hate it.  I don’t like the stress of having to plan a whole party and make sure it goes well when all I want to do is relax and have fun.  I worry if everyone has enough ice.  I don’t like the fact that half the people who RSVP flake and I spend my lunch breaks reversing and revising the sushi reservation eighteen times.  I don’t like getting older anymore.  I guess I’ve hit that limit.

But I have Ash.  And Ash simply says things like, “I’m free on Saturday, it’s your birthday, see you then.”

As generous and sweet as she is ravenous and ridiculous, Ash shows up with cupcakes you didn’t order and a tiara you don’t want to wear because it is your birthday goddammit and you will enjoy it despite yourself.  Thank god for Ash, where would be without friends like her.

I get the feeling that my tough time planning celebrations harkens back to an ugly history of feeling let down.  Sometimes it just takes a kind hand to guide you and remind you that you’re not a kid anymore, you’re more resilient than you used to be, and regardless of what anyone else does, someone will show up with a damn tiara.  It’s your birthday.

It’s only been two weeks since the last time I spoke to Eddy.  Fourteen days is not a long time to grieve before having to go out and celebrate.  But Ash insists, so I’m insisting to myself, that I’ll have a good time.  Right now I’m just thinking that I have nothing to wear for this damn party.  I have felt out of place in all of my clothes since I lost the ability to wear heels.  My strength was in my extra five inches.  I’ve never been quite sure who I am closer to the ground.  But suddenly, as I’m pushing apart hangers, I am struck by the red dress I had picked out back in December.  The one I knew Eddy wouldn’t like, but I bought it anyway, because it was the first thing I’d found since I’d gotten sick that made me feel like I might still be beautiful.  I was going to wear it just for him, but now that it’s my body, my life, I’m pulling it out.    Life is far too short, and the red dress needs wearing.

The girls come up in a laughing, giggling swarm.  We tumble and swirl around the apartment, the old familiar energy I love.  The frenetic clash of curling irons and blush brushes, the leaning and bending into mirrors, the last eyelash curl before the taxis show up.  The lightness and the love.

Someone tells me I look beautiful, and even in my flat shoes with my hip donut, I somehow, crazily, feel a little beautiful.

We go out to sushi.  I remember this place.  Two weeks into dating Eddy, in the alley here he’d pushed me up against my car, kissing me until we pulled apart laughing, discovering black all over the backs of my calves from the wheel well.  I remember, but my new memories, stronger and searing and expanding by the second, are starting to eat the old.  We reach across each other for more edamame.  We curse chopsticks and shoot more sake.  We swap and taste and tell stories over miso soup.  I am happy.

The lights dim, and suddenly everyone is singing to me.  Ash has a point.  No matter how many years you may do it, there’s something special about people going out of their way to show you love.  I put the damn tiara on while they bring out a giant boat made of fruit.

When dinner’s over we trip back to mine for sweatpants, cupcakes, and card games.  I decide to make a move.  I plunge into my closet and grab Eddy’s birthday present, a sushi and sake set.  He had mentioned in passing several times over the summer how he had wanted one, and after raiding everywhere from Sawtelle to Little Tokyo, I determined nothing in Los Angeles was quite special enough for this man, and (way over my budget) had a set of four cups and plates handmade by a potter.  I have this weird thing with redeeming objects.  If I’m stuck with something that reminds me of you, I can’t get over it until I purge it.  If I can’t bring myself to purge it, I have to somehow make it right.

“Pour them out.” I say, setting the cups on the table.  Chloe, always prepared, has brought a bottle of sake.  Leave it to that girl to expect me to be brave.

“I knew you had it in you.”

“Just hush and let me sip one, I didn’t take my meds today.”

We laugh.  We share.  It was a work of art.  Far too beautiful to smash into the ground (Chloe’s original idea) it has a presence all it’s own.  I thought it was so precise, so exact, that it could only ever be meant for him, and what good was it otherwise?  It seemed wrong to regift something so carefully measured out and planned for someone else.  As it turns out, a room full of girls laughing and holding every piece seemed to soak the pain right out.  Redemption, right?  It all feels good.

It’s at this point that I remember the one thing I still have to get rid of.  He’s off my phone, out of my photographs, and away from my bed, but I still have these damn wine glasses.  The ones he bought each time he took me to a wine tasting.  His thing.  His thing that blew it all up.

“Who wants to smash some glasses tonight?!?”

And I know it sounds ridiculous, but we’re doing the only thing in the world that makes sense.  Trust me, it’s my birthday.  We march out of the apartment, down the stairs and to the car park, armed with glasses inscribed with the names of each and every place I want to forget.  I feel enlightened and I feel powerful and I feel – CRASH!  And the first glass shatters into the dumpster.  I jump, then I laugh, and as we keep going, I get lost in the giggle, the flurry, the buzz of love around me.

There is nothing else in this bedroom neighborhood but Saturday silence.

But here, in my home, there is the sound of girls with curled hair and false eyelashes, stumbling in high heels and short dresses, gasping, screaming – smashing memories into oblivion as we laugh into the night.

Battle Scars

There’s battle scars on all my guitars but I still come out here and play – Ozma

At this point, I’ve given up on the idea that any one of these surgeries will cure me.  When people smile and say lovely things like, “It’s so great, after this surgery you’ll be better!”  I smile and agree politely, sighing inside, anticipating the pity and disappointment that will follow when it doesn’t work.  After ten doctors and two years of promises, you grow weary, and wary, of hope.  You just can’t afford it anymore.

My new pain management team tells me to keep my chin up.

“I know it’s been two years now, and you’ve probably been sliced and diced twelve ways to the wind, but stick with it. Pelvic pain is notoriously difficult to diagnose.  Keep with it.”

They are encouraging, but I am exhausted.  I have been sliced, diced, filleted, split open, parts removed, cauterised, injected, hospitalized, had my hip capsule pierced by a needle and my insides pumped full of botox.  I am so, so tired.

My body, for the last two years, has been completely out my control.  And while I have somewhat adapted, learning to relinquish my will in each defeat and go with the flow, I hurt; feeling as if I’ve lost myself while pain dictates where I go, how I dress, who I see.  At some point, I stopped shopping for clothing.  I realized I couldn’t control the weight I kept gaining and losing on all the medications, I couldn’t wear heels, I never felt sexy anymore.  Dressing became a hateful burden.  I despise my body for doing this to me.  How can you lovingly adorn something you can’t stand to look at?

My identity continued to shrink as I moved out of my apartment.  I lived with caretakers here, friends or a boyfriend there.  Another surgery I didn’t plan on.  Another doctor in another town.  Another month without a home to call my own.  At some point I started living out of just a duffel bag.  Shuffling from place to place, grateful for a place to lay my head but reduced to something a little less than human.  Feeling like everyone in proximity is functioning on a higher level, and me, a prisoner to my pain, washing the three T-shirts I live in, sleeping in a borrowed bed.

My body, that monstrous betrayer, that son of a bitch, has been put through the wringer for it’s sins.  As such, it bears the marks of the excruciating journey.  A scar on the inside of my arm where they botched the IV.  Three large round holes in my right hip from the arthroscopy, three rips down my stomach from laproscopic surgery, a gash across my pelvis when they realized I was too damaged for the lap.  They cut me open, peeled my congealed organs off each other, cut out six tumors, and sewed me up.

I feel ugly.  I put on a bikini and the red and purple scars scream the story of my brokenness inside.  I dye my hair so I can pretend to be someone else.  I hide.  I don’t speak up for myself.  I hope, for the first time in  my life, to be invisible.  All these scars, these ugly scars.  I take off my clothes and stand in the mirror, wondering who in the world would ever want to look at this ugly, ruined body.  Between the curve of my waist and the tops of my legs, I have been neatly ripped apart and pulled together so many times that I look and feel like a raggedy doll, repaired and restitched over and over and over again.

I remember my last surgery: I wake up with a start and call out for someone to notice me.  The nurses come and adjust the tubes and hoses, the stuffed animal placed in my arm.  They give me morphine and tell me I’ve been talking gibberish.  I hadn’t washed my hair, so frizzy, haphazard curls swirl awkwardly around my face.  I am ghostly pale and blotchy with acne from the hormones, my lips chapped and dry, a tube up my nose and a catheter between my legs.  I am bound up in bloody bandages.

He is the first to come see me, and when he does, he gently pushes the frizz out of my face, and kisses my forehead. Careful of the tube in my nose, he touches my cheek as he looks at me.  The first, and only words he says:

“Hello, Beautiful.”

And I feel in my bones there is strength to keep going. That there is a chance left in me to love.

On being thin

I’m at the gym, the song “Fergalicious” in my ears, my mantra repeating in my head

“skinny bitch, skinny bitch, skinny bitch”

The cycles on the elliptical whirring, chirping towards 100 rotations per minute

“skinny bitch, skinny bitch, skinny bitch”

Fergie moaning and humping in the background.
That’s right everyone.  My body stay vicious.  I be up in the gym, just workin on my fitness.  And all these sweaty people are my witness.

I don’t know what it is about the gym that makes men want to leer.  I mean…honestly.  I don’t get it.  The idea of bouncing sweaty chicks is nice in theory, but that’s in a music video, sprayed down with water drops and bronzed to perfection, gyrating on the nearest object… person… animal…. Oh pop music…

In reality, it’s me with a red face and rather funky looking sweats, muttering “be the skinny bitch” under my breath while the men on the treadmills behind me try to get a good angle on my ass.  Great.  All I want is the body I had in high school.  Or better yet, when I was in England.  After I came down with mono.  That was the quickest weight loss plan of my life.

I’ve never gained weight before, or been really weight conscious before in my entire life.  I’ve never had a flat tummy or a perfect butt but I’ve always been on the slender side and always very thankful for that luck.

Enter desk job.  Enter desk job from hell.  You’re so sedentary that you sneak out of the office once a day for what you and the receptionist have come to call “A moment with Abbie outside”   This is the time of day where she laughs at your ass while you desperately soak up 5 seconds of sunlight.  You’re so bored that you’ve started getting food to eat just to get up out of your chair and walk to the kitchen.  This is trouble.  You sit on your butt for 8 hours at work, followed by ½ an hour sitting in the car, and 3 to 4 hours sitting at school…. Your ass has become the center of your universe.  No wonder it’s bigger.  It needs a gravitational pull.  Maybe if you’re lucky, you can get some Krispy Kreme’s and an In & Out burger to revolve around it.

This is me, on a low carb diet, wondering how I’ve gained fifteen pounds and hoping that enough Justin Timberlake can help me work it off (we’ve switched tracks and are machine humping to “Sexyback” at this point).  It is swimsuit season.  And thankfully, although I still have 9 units, they’re online.  This means I can actually be a gym rat every day after work.  Unfortunately it means I have to go during the “breeding hour” where the meat heads just stand in front of your treadmill.  Staring.  But we cherish what we have.  And I cherish “A moment with Abbie outside” and the fact that I’ve started doing more reps on the weight machines already.

I’ve decided that it’s time to be buff.   I’ll get back to you when I can beat you all up.

*mantra humming*  “Skinny bitch, skinny bitch, skinny bitch”

********* PS.   Any time I didn’t feel motivated to to do my PT, I would just watch this video.  I recommend acting it out wearing sweatbands in your living room.  I’m not saying my boyfriend and I did anything like that, but I’m not saying we didn’t.