i realized this morning, right after i (far too aggressively) tugged on my prized cashmere sweater- the one reserved only for days when you need extra comforting- and right before i stomped defiantly back in the direction of BED, that i am nervous to talk to you, body.
i am squirrelly inside, agitated from the buildup up of thoughts + feelings.
there’s so much i want to say to you, but can’t yet.
we are pacing around each other, hackles up, locked together in trauma but not in step.
the distance between us is short but full of emotional wreckage, the kind that quietly builds up over time and then tumbles out everywhere, touching everything.
so we will go slow, okay?
we will be cautious and tender with each other.
we will not rush here.
i suppose it’s been a small mercy, the concussion they say i have, because it cleanly plucked writing off the table at a time when i’m not sure i’d have had the courage to it pick it up anyway. my new doctor says that even though there wasn’t any blunt force trauma to the head, the sheer amount of trauma to your gut/brain axis is such that we now have the chemical equivalent of a concussion.
this made (still makes?) things like reading and writing, which are two of my favorite activities, nearly impossible.
welcome to the department of redundancy department!
we do a lot of accidental repeating around here.
i’d be lying if i told you i wasn’t already the kind of person prone to repeating herself on occasion (hazzards of being a talker, I guess) but this is like, next level forgetfulness.
sometimes the kids will catch me stuck in a loop where i say something to them, and then say it again 5 minutes later, and then again 10 minutes later as if it’s the first time it ever occurred to me. they gently stop me and we all laugh because that is better than the alternative which is to panic a little and then cry.
maybe i am laughing too much about things that aren’t funny at all.
maybe i am in shock.
maybe you are too.
something happened here, body, and i suspect the best thing we can do is to acknowledge it.
in my last letter i promised that even though it felt like we’d already been plunged a thousand leagues under the sea, i would take another deep breath and keep sinking with you.
down, down, to that place inside that is still and quiet, even when it is afraid.
well, here we are.
or at least, ohmygod, i do hope that was rock bottom. it had to be. i just didn’t realize it at first, on account of how still and quiet it was down there.
you were already so fragile.
you’d been sick for so long, from so many causes, each one layered over the other like a trifle cake gone wrong. your nervous system has been stuck in fight/flight/freeze mode for so long now that you’re twitching like an exposed nerve.
it’s like we were in an explosion and i am grasping at myself, trying to survey the damage; like there was a resounding crack in the universe and ever since then it’s just been white noise.
chronic pain + fear will change you in big, sweeping ways. i mean, that’s kind of it’s whole deal, right? but it will also change you in a million little ways you never saw coming. it will change how you feel in yourself, how you show up in relationships, and how you move through the world.
how do you fit back together after being ground down into powder?
what is left?
each flare, whether it lasts a few days, weeks, or even months, brings your weight lower and your inflammation levels higher. after a year and a half of the pendulum swinging further and further from homeostasis, i became clinically malnourished.
you tolerated less and less foods until there were none left. you were screaming for help. i tried and tried to nourish you. I saw doctor after doctor. you kept shrinking and shrinking.
i lived off bone broth alone as a last ditch effort to avoid the ER + a feeding tube because even a feeding tube would be dumping nutrients into a stomach that couldn’t begin to absorb them.
i lost over half of my already-too-thin hair.
my teeth yellowed.
my skin went pallid.
i aged a decade overnight.
all your curves and softness gave way to angles and planes which then gave way to hollowed out valleys.
eventually, the deficit became too great.
for about a week there, when symptoms reached a fever pitch, i was very out of it. everything just went sort of gray and fuzzy at the edges.
some days the gray felt thick and oppressive, like it was hissing 6 inches from my face.
other days the gray wrapped around me like a blanket and i let it, grateful for an extra layer of protection against the outside world.
i was hyper-aware that this was an extremely tenuous situation but at the same time i felt completely removed from it. like i was floating above it all, watching myself slowly disappear, helpless to stop it.
body, i sensed you fading in a way that, as a mother, terrified me. i love my life. i love my kids and my husband and i desperately want to be here for them.
it’s not like there was a single event, per se, in which you ceremoniously waved your white flag. it was more of a gradual awareness that something was very wrong. all of your alarm bells started ringing, shaking me out of my stupor. i mean literally- you shook- just a slight involuntary trembling, sort of like a dog does when it’s nervous or excited.
my blood pressure dropped dangerously low.
entire systems began shutting down.
i stopped having a period and started passing out.
it became my full time job to keep you over a hundred pounds and out of the emergency room. you were, quite literally, starving to death.
from a physical perspective it hurts more than you’d expect. there are so many nerve endings involved.
you had my full attention now.
everything in us bristled.
death entered the room.
weird things started to happen. i would experience tiny little zaps at random throughout my limbs, almost like mini-electrocutions. we still don’t really know what that was about, soooo R.I.P, i guess, to all the little parts of us that were dying?
there wasn’t exactly time to mourn.
the people around me started having side discussions about what to do next, which was a strange and confusing realization. while i am deeply grateful for a true support system of people who love me and are purely invested in my well being- it became clear to me very quickly that everyone else’s energy around this was it’s own whole machine.
one that i was not qualified to operate.
i could barely, and i mean barely, hold space for my own big feelings around what was happening to you, body.
i’d have been utterly lost without their help + support.
it was a weird and lonely time.
when things get really bad like that, when the pain is white-hot and you are whimpering for help (you screamed yourself out long ago), i know that i need to make my world very, very small. i delete all the apps and say no to all the things and to most people too. i have to get low and quiet and shut out all the outside noise.
triage is loud and we now require long bouts of silence for processing (read: staring out windows + crying in cars.)
what can I say, we are enneagram 4 to the core, baby.
so i allow you to take what you need.
i think singularly about you, body, which probably sounds novel, but it’s mostly just an act of survival.
i shuffle around the house in my softest layers. i take baths and lie in my hammock and try to get outside for at least ten minutes a day. i do red light therapy and biomat therapy and all kinds of other therapies.
i sob into my kitchen sink.
i yell at god while i vacuum, daring him to get mad for me. to flip over some tables for me. to do something, anything. (look, the vacuum drowns out the yelling so i don’t feel crazy, okay?! let me have this. it’s not weird.)
I have to listen so closely to you now, body. i have to trust everything you say, and then i have to stay with you, even when it is unbearable, and that takes a lot of effort and courage.
it’s been a lot, is what i’m saying;
but the one good thing about being blasted off into outer space, ready or not, is that the rules are different out here.
gravity no longer applies. all bets are off. we will cling to this one good thing, body. we will bravely explore this new territory, trying our best to take on a posture of curiosity rather than dread.
it’s hard to shake the dread, though, isn’t it.
something happened here and we will not pretend otherwise. we were in an explosion. there was a resounding crack in the universe.
i will not leave you alone in the rubble. i am here. i will stay.
i love you.
Oh Amber. I have no words except thank you. And I’m praying for you right this second.
thank YOU, then. 🤍 it means the world.
Kitty Sallas says
This is raw. It’s beautiful. It’s experiential, and I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. Thanks for sharing. I drew benefit from learning of your mind/body/spirit connection. We’re all connected by this carnal experience, and we’re all disconnected by different mind/body/spirit experience. Thanks for the vivid perspective!
Thank for holding space so kindly for these words.