The Grief Spiral

So it’s been a minute since we’ve spent some time together here, and imma tell you why. Life has been a little bit of a shit show as of late, well actually as of the last like 4 months. The adage “when it rains it pours” is starting to feel like a bit of a personal tag line. I don’t know what it is about life, or maybe life with chronic illness, but damn it likes to kick you when you’re down. The funny thing about all of this, well not funny ha-ha, funny in a cosmic irony sort of way is that I’ve been through it before and I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll come around again. Are you curious enough yet? Let’s just dive into the chaos together, it’ll be fun.

As you, imagined reader, can literally see in my post below as of July 2021 I was doing pretty well, which as a chronically sick person always feels suspicious. Things were managed, I had a handle on life and Covid-19 was at least no longer ravaging DC, so with extreme caution and hella masks I made it back to work in person part-time. Dare I say I was hopeful, lol, first mistake. Within a couple months, around October I was having major health issues, migraine flares, and some kind of sinus infection that just wouldn’t let up. Not to mention my primary care doc retired, which if you are a chronically ill person, feels like a tremendous loss. They’re not just a doctor but a huge advocate in managing your care with your other providers, and specialists, so that SUCKED. Even though my new doc turned out to be delightful, YAY, we just could not get me feeling better. I had been out of work for a month at that point, contributing to an already taxing teacher shortage due to the pandemic. To say things were stressful is beyond an understatement.

As a sick person, you know you need to take time to get “well” or rather back to your “still sick but well enough to function baseline.” But even after more than a decade of managing work and being chronically ill, especially as a teacher, trying to shake the guilt of letting your colleagues and students down with your absence is a tremendous emotional weight. Logically you know it is not your fault, and there is nothing you can do but to focus on yourself and your health, but the reality of the situation weighs on your mind. By the start of December I was still trying to fight this sinus infection, the fibromyalgia flare it triggered, and really questioning what my future would look like. Working together with my rheumatologist I was able to modify my medication and swap in a new Fibro drug (which of course is $$$), but thankfully it helped pull me out of my flare. I only had to throw-up everything I ate between Christmas and New Years as I titrated but that’s the cost of doing business.

Just as I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel with my health, Omicron surged in DC. As a high risk individual, I mean I couldn’t get rid of a fuxing sinus infection for 3 months, I wasn’t safe in-person in the classroom and I was forced into one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. Unfortunately I had no success in trying to seek accommodation to teach remotely, and didn’t want to be forced into taking unpaid leave that just leaves my students with more inconsistency and lack of quality instruction. Ultimately I decided it was just time to walk away. It was what was best for me to be able to deal with my health, and it was what was best for my students to be able to move on and find a permanent, consistent, dependable solution. Frankly, it was heartbreaking. The real kicker being that this isn’t the first time I’ve had to walk away from a career, a passion, and something I’ve poured my life into for so long.

Fun fact, being a teacher was never my plan. I trained, studied, and planned to be a Curator in an art museum since about age 10. I did everything in my power to make it happen, even as my body threw medical hurdle after hurdle at me. The scholarship, the internships, the study abroad, the GRE, even the PhD program applications were almost done. But as I said before, when it rains it pours right? In my final year of college I reached a point of complete crisis. I had to be hospitalized, I lost a close family member, received 3 new diagnoses, even my long-term boyfriend dumped me. All of a sudden, grad school, that plan, that dream, the intense competitive curatorial programs were thrown out the window. Talk about shitty you know? I barely even graduated, only to pack up and become bedridden.

Eventually, I was able to manage my disability to the point I could work when I found a teaching, mostly because I needed something stable with good health insurance. I didn’t know it would transform into something that I love and gives me a reason to get out of bed most days. But now? Saying goodbye again, all those feelings come rushing back, the grief, anger, sadness, frustration at my own body. I spiraled HARD for a few days, and it’s not like I can just hop along to the next thing. Will there even be a next thing? Not to mention the brutal reality of life as a sick AF person, fighting with insurance days on end, trying to make sure I don’t lose treatments I desperately need, and even begging schedulers to squeeze me in before my 31 days of benefits run out. It’s the most frustratingly helpless feeling I’ve ever experienced. You are on one hand in this personal emotional turmoil, and then on the other quite literally very ill and fighting a fucked system for basic care.

So to say the last few months have been challenging may be putting it lightly, but I think given my new free time I hope to be sharing my unedited thoughts with you more often. It’s cheaper than therapy, and you all know I definitely don’t have insurance to cover that shit. I’ve definitely been in my grief spiral for a lil bit now, and I’m trying to find some closure and acceptance. Our bodies make these choices for us and as often as that happens for some reason I never seem to get used to it. Feel free to reach out or leave comments, I’m always open to give or receive help, although I’d take mine with a grain of salt. Thanks for reading my madness, and remember: I’m TOTALLY FINE.

Special Skills You Can’t List on Your Resumé Pt. 1

Sorry in advance I didn’t have the spoons to find perfect hilarious pics/memes so this post is naked.

The whole illness thing is often an inconveniencing major bummer, but I like to look on the bright (or at the very least tragically humorous) side of things and ya know it’s really not all doom and gloom. In that vein I thought I’d share some of the special skills that my 10+ years of being the illest have afforded me. They would likely be frowned upon on my resume, though I low key wish I could put them on there because some of them are clutch.

1) Public Restroom Savant: Ok so you’re probably like where is this bitch going with this one, but bear with me here. This was something my brother actually realized before I did, but given my frequent bouts of digestive distress, I know the location of the restrooms in literally every store, bar, cafe, bank airport, supermarket, theme park and residence I’ve ever been. Domestically and abroad. I also know within certain locations, say the Target near my mom’s house for example, where you can find a secluded private restroom apart from the others if you’re “in a bad way.” This vast knowledge has also allowed me in new locations to extrapolate my existing data (flexing that one statistics class I took) and apply it to the new locale. Someone always has to go, it’s just nature, and you know who is incredibly valuable? The person who knows where the fuck the bathroom is. I rest my case.

2) Amateur Mobile Pharmacist: At any given time in my various bags, jacket pockets, blankets, and wallet you can find pills. Disclaimer they are all medications that have been prescribed to me etc. In addition to the Rx drugs, I like to have a nice collection of backup/supplemental over the counter varieties because you just never know. The bag I take to and from work is filled with so many things my coworkers once tried to guess weird shit trying to stump me as a happy hour game. I won. Anyway back to the pills, so quickly knowledge of my collection of pharmaceuticals spreads, I mean the demand for ibuprofen and excedrin at a middle school? Crazy, always have it in stock. Need vitamin C? Got it. Benadryl? Of Course. Hydrocortisone cream? Most def. At the end of the day it’s really a public service.

3) Yes, You Bet your Ass I’ll Hold: Now this one which is essentially a superhuman degree of patience and tolerance for administrative bullshit is the closest to actually being a real marketable skill and does come in handy when working with my gremlins students. This patience comes from years and years of training, building up my endurance, and believing that I in fact was the next caller and that the doctor would be right with me. Well jokes on them because look at me now. You think I won’t wait on hold for 45 minutes to make you talk to me Mr. Electric Company Man, oh because I will. You think I won’t fill out this 4 page claim to get you to cover my carpal tunnel wrist brace? That $18 is two months of Hulu brah. I have found that the secret to getting the service you want is being willing to wait a fucking long ass time on the phone or fill out bullshit paperwork, something millennials definitely don’t do. Life hack people. They’re (the man, big pharma, the place you’re tryna get reservations) counting on the fact you’ll give up. And with the years and years of being on hold, who knew I was also becoming a better educator because having way more patience than you ever thought possible is coincidentally the key to that too.

I don’t know how proud of these skills I am (ie #1) but living life ill definitely makes things more interesting. I’m certainly not running marathons, and I’ve forgotten my own birthday at the pharmacy but if you need an ibuprofen, don’t know where the toilet is at ikea or want someone to badger the insurance claims department for weeks on end: I’m your girl.

What hidden talents have grown from your time putting up with the endless bullshit of chronic illness? Are your special skills equally inappropriate? Do tell.