sick (part ii)

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t get out of bed.  My limbs felt like they were made of the iron that I lacked, and every time I moved I was crushed with a wave of dizziness and nausea.  I feel a little better after eating, sure.  But I’m leaving the country on Friday, so I’m a little nervous.  This isn’t a surprise, though, due to the fact that I ate too little yesterday and my iron levels, which are supposed to be 13-150, are less than 5.

I’ve been tinkering with the idea of writing this post for a long time now, and it’s ironic that this has given me the space I need to write it.  I talk to very few people about it, so this should be part confession and part discussion.

I can’t ever remember being truly healthy.  We’ve been trying to solve my health issues – stomach problems, low immune system, occasional anemia – for a lifetime.  Sometimes, it was fine.  Until last year, really, it was under control, and I didn’t really think about it.  But there would be days when I would wake up in the middle of the night so ill that I could not sleep.  I felt so frustrated, as though I was trying to calm my body like a crying child.  I would take the shaking and the pain and throw medicines and food at it.  I would throw up my dinner involuntarily at five in the morning, not understanding, and weep into my hands in anger as I watched the pale, blank sky and listened to the premature chirping of the birds outside my window.

I realized just recently the effect that my body’s had on my understanding of the relationship between the body and the soul.  I’ve always put such a heavy emphasis on the soul over the body, regarding the latter as broken.  This past year, I’ve getting pretty tired of my physicality.  It’s only in the past year or two that I’ve realized that there will be a resurrection of the body as well – John Donne’s helped me broaden my understanding immensely.  I’m trying to bypass the hatred and betrayal that I’ve felt to my corporeal form for so long.

This summer, I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease.

There was a week in between the autoimmune test’s positivity and the diagnosis where I thought a lot about what it would mean to know, and what it would mean to actually start getting better.  I thought I would have a sort of identity crisis.  Not in a basic theological way, of course, but in the details.  Celiac is genetic; I’ve had it for my entire life.  I broke out in eczema, one of its symptoms, when I was three days old.  Before I had a name, I had been identified by this disorder.  Did I sleep so much because it was part of my personality, or because of the fatigue? How much of me has been shaped by this? And who would I be without it?

I shouldn’t have worried so much.  Not much has changed.  In part, I’ve realized that celiac’s diagnosis makes a lot of sense.  All of the symptoms I’d been experiencing over the years stemmed from this one disorder.  Here’s how it works: people with celiac can’t digest any sort of gluten, which is a key part of foods like wheat, rye, and barley.  Because we can’t digest it, it slowly wears away at the digestive tract, causing inflammation, pain, and malabsorption.  This malabsorption leads to fatigue and deficiency in things like B-12 and iron.

When I was diagnosed, I was upset.  Having celiac means devoting constant attention to what you eat, because even a little bit of gluten sneaking in can wreak havoc on my whole system.  Gluten comes from the Latin word for glue, and so sometimes, it feels a little bit like I’m coming apart without it, but I’m learning to navigate it.  I may put up a page on this blog with a few tips for the newly diagnosed, or make a separate post on celiac advice.  The strangest part was this: the worse I got, the more wheat I ate.  I thought it was making me better – I saw it as the one thing that was ‘safe’.

For twenty years, I poisoned myself, thinking it was the cure.  If that doesn’t have theological implications, I’m not sure what does.  As humans, we crave the thing that kills us, and we turn for comfort to the very thing that will ultimately destroy us.  Even sin can be beautiful to us, drawing us into a comfortable dependence and our ultimate demise.  The things that are good for us are painful at first.  However, the more I eat the foods I can, the more disgusting the others seem.  The more we live with God, the more repulsive sin will become to us, and the healthier we will become.

So here’s to figuring out painful things, and moving in the direction of getting well.

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p.s. I’m fine, guys.  Haha.  This was a little dramatic. Do not worry.

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keats, classes, and the future

So this morning, at 8:30, I signed up for classes for next semester.  Translation: I had freaked out about it all day yesterday, talked to several professors and parents until I finally had some semblance of a schedule… So I woke up at 8:25, clicked some buttons on my laptop while still in bed, and went back to sleep instead of going to Calc.  Uh…

Basically, I’ve decided to take Chem next semester, just to keep my options open.  And… well, lots of angsty feelings and miniature crises.

I rediscovered John Keats a few months ago, when I found a book of his poetry in a bookstore and bought it on the spot.  He has a marvellously sad and beautiful story (let’s add him to the list of my historical crushes who die young…).  Basically, he was a doctor, and he was torn between practicing medicine and writing poetry.  The enormous amount of time he spent being a doctor meant that he didn’t have time to write, and eventually (and scandalously), he left his career in order to pursue poetry.

Thank goodness he did, because he didn’t have much time to do so.  He was engaged to Fanny Brawne when his tuberculosis worsened, and because of his medical training, he knew that he was going to die.  It’s absolutely heartbreaking.  He died in Italy in the arms of his best friend.  He was only twenty-five.  Twenty five!

But as I sit in my MedPrep class (which basically tells you what it’s like becoming a doctor), I feel like Keats.  Okay, no, I’m not an amazing poet who will forever be remembered by history.  But I understand why he felt the way he did.  I understand feeling split between two very different things, feeling like that Raskolnikov, like a split soul.  I understand worrying that writing isn’t a real job, that I don’t have anything good to say.

Honestly? I hate making decisions.  Thinking about my future makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.  And I’m just tired, and burnt out, and just focusing on getting through finals and to summer.  But that also means another year passing, getting one step closer to making a dreadfully important choice.

And I don’t want to choose something, because I can see myself doing so many different things.  My problem? I love everything.

Alright, that’s a lie.  I don’t love diseases, or ants, or not sleeping, or being sick, or mosquitos, or homework, or fatty foods, or people reading over my shoulder, or getting bad grades, or axe murderers (oh… wait, also a lie… see Rodion Romonovich Raskolnikov…).  I don’t love decisions.

But you know what I mean.

My friends call Wednesdays, when I have MedPrep, my existential crisis days, which is pretty accurate.  It’s frustrating, because it reminds me of all the reasons I wanted to be a doctor in the first place and shows me how hard it is to balance medicine with anything else.

I love problem solving, people, helping others, learning new things, and seeing the beauty of the human body.  I love the logical side to it, the fact that it’s a puzzle with a solution.

But I don’t love how much time it takes.  It’d be years before I became a doctor, and then once you’re there, it’s so time consuming.  Medicine takes over your life, and I don’t know if I could deal with that.  That and people dying.

So, I’m struggling with this.  And thinking about it terrifies me.  Honestly, I just want to go and travel the world or live in a big city where I can learn and meet new people and collect their stories as I go.  I love meeting people and talking to them about the things that really matter.  The eternal things.

I’ve tried to give it up to God but a) I’m very good at worrying and b) I don’t know what He wants me to do.  Honestly? I just want to do whatever He would use me best in.  I know that He’ll use me in whatever I do… but still.

I want to do something that matters.  And sometimes I don’t know if that’s fueled by my own selfish desires for greatness or for the right reasons.  But I don’t want to waste my life.

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P.S.  I’m terribly sorry for the poorly-written, intensely personal post.  I don’t think I was very clear and or insightful.  Excuse me while I melt into an awkward puddle of feelings.

EDIT:I just got back from my meeting with my Christian group, and we talked about… worrying.  God is good, all the time, and He keeps reminding me to trust in Him and find my worth through that.