I forgot how to be well

I look fine but I don't feel fine, a 2016 memoir.

I look fine but I don’t feel fine, a 2016 memoir.

Blue Moon was the last beer I drank, at my favorite campus bar. I left the orange perched on the rim of the glass; I needed beer unbothered. It’s unpretentious, tame beer; I needed that, too. As if a mundane beer choice could somehow balance the blow of it being my last.

Last week I awaited a different kind of last, one infused with cautious optimism and cruel pragmatism. Monday was my final hematology followup, a return to the land of bad blood and beige chairs. “Sooooo, we’re going to have to draw some blood today,” the nurse said as I walked back to a room furnished with a blue chair in each corner. As if they worshiped the wall-mounted display of needles, gauze and tiny tubes. As if I didn’t know what was coming.

I sent my infusion room nurses a thank-you card in May, gratitude and pain weaved together in awkward prose. I wonder if it nests among the cards taped to the cupboards. I wonder what’s inside the cupboard beyond the cards; syringes and Band-Aids and maybe the tacky, tan wraps that leave my arm indented for a few minutes after I unwind the bandages.

No more weekly infusion room visits, hematology appointments or hazy wandering the hospital hoping for casual eye contact with a hot medical resident. I forgot how to be well.

Being attacked by your own body is bizarre. This is why I have trust issues, because of Jimmy John’s sandwich artists who call my unwich a “funwich” and because autoimmune disease. I held a grudge against my body for months after my celiac diagnosis, hating it for attacking me quietly and deceptively, for making me give up beer and Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, for exhausting me while I studied for the LSAT.

For a long time, I wanted to make peace with this year, to somehow echo, “Everything happens for a reason,” the well-meaning words I heard from friends and acquaintances. Genes and biological triggers are the reason; that’s it.

Allowing myself to be mad created a space not for peaceful, quiet reconciliation but for messy, real, sometimes loud words. Words that sting like IV needles. Words that are fuzzy around the edges, blurred by drugs and drips. Words that say, “This sucks, but I’m strong as hell.”

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