*Before I get into today’s post, I want to take a minute to remember the lives lost and the lives changed nineteen years ago. 9/11 is a painful anniversary for so many of you and the constant reminder, constant coverage, can make it worse so I’ll keep it short. Please know that you’re in my thoughts. I’m sending you a big virtual hug or fist pump if your hug adverse. Be kind to yourself and let us all be a little kinder to each other.*
Did you miss me? In my head, it sounded like what’s his name in the movie about the scary stuff. You know the one, right? Okay, I’ve only seen that one clip and it gave me nightmares for a week. Here’s the thing, I’m basically a coward in a cute lion onesie. Grr, I’m a badass. Roar. Meow. Purr? Fine, it’s impossible to take anyone seriously when they’re wearing a onesie and making animal noises.
Sure, when you’re three, it’s cute. When you’re a grown woman? Well, now it’s just sad and a little weird. But there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit weird and screw sad. It’s comfy, damn it! Snuggly. Soft. Gosh darn it, I’m standing in the middle of my very own zombie apocalypse! If I can’t have my mommy, I’ll take a comfy lion onesie and you bet your bottom two cents that I’m going to roar, meow, purr, and shout, “I’m a badass.”
Will anyone believe me or take me seriously? Of course not! I’m wearing a lion onesie, but it makes me feel good. So, as the saying goes, suck it.
Petulance aside, how have you been? It’s been a minute or two dozen. I’ve been…Oh, I feel a dramatic sigh coming on. I would try to suppress it, but I fear it might do some damage to the gastrointestinal sigh hole. Which, I know, is not “medically accurate” but if you’ve ever suppressed a dramatic sigh you’ll know the pain of straining that special place. It sits a little bit to the right of the gallbladder.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I wasn’t feeling all that good. Way back then, in a moment of whimsical optimism, I theorized that I was experiencing nothing more than a minor sniffle brought on by pollen or a cold. Oh whimsy, you always abandon me to the nuisance that is, and will forever be known as, reality.
I’ve been saying it for six months now. Has it been six months? What? Really? March. April. May…Is it just me, or has time been grossly distorted ever since the plague hit our shores? It feels like time is being dragged by a lassoed snail. Yet, at the same time, I blinked and six months passed. It feels like an abstract painting that’s been pummelled by a power washer and then gently kissed by a talking elephant.
It’s all a blur and all of it feels like a dream of a dream that’s being relayed through a tin cup on a string.
Or is it just me?
When this whole deadly infectious disease shenanigans got its sea legs, I said that it was only a matter of time before I’d have to face it down. Like a gunslinger in one of those old movies with the fella who talks real slow but shoots real fast. The spurs on my boots clanging with each step. Villagers running for cover. Lower my head, raise my hat, and stare down the wanted fugitive with a steely gaze. It’s just you and me, partner. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?
Nope, not at all. I don’t feel all that lucky. Never have. Never will. Lady luck doesn’t seem to like me all that much and, if I may be quite frank, I think she’s kind of a bitch. There, I said it. Someone had to say it. You were thinking it. I was thinking it. The filter between my brain and my typing fingers needs new batteries so out it comes. Lady luck can suck it.
Feeling a little bitter, are we?
You would too if you got the damn virus that hung a closed sign on the entire planet. Yeah, turns out those sniffles were the warning shots fired across my eyebrows. The sniffles turned into a sore throat and then it quickly migrated farther south. It got comfortable in my chest and in muscles I didn’t know I had.
Breathing is uncomfortable, but the muscle aches are horrible. I can’t get comfortable. It doesn’t matter how I lay down, sit up, or try to walk it off. It just hurts. I got some medication to help with that, and it’s taking the edge off. It’s bearable and for that, I’m grateful. It’s still there, though, in the background but, right now, it’s not as bad as it was a few days ago.
Count the blessings where you can! Even the smallest ones mean a lot when it feels like nothing will ever go right.
Getting diagnosed was tricker than I thought it would be. I thought I’d go for the test, get my results, and that would be that. Turns out, the test has a significant failure rate which is worrying. A negative test doesn’t mean you don’t have COVID. It means the test was negative, and you could still have it which is what happened to me.
The first test I had came back negative for COVID 19, but after talking to Public Health they were concerned that I was sitting well within the failure rate. My symptoms lined up too perfectly to risk it and we had to make sure nothing more sinister was going on. Oh yes, my friend, there are things more, or equally, sinister than COVID. We had to rule them out while running with, what they called, a presumptive positive. Act like it is but hope it isn’t.
I was sent for more testing which included blood work, more swabs, and x-rays. Honestly, it started to feel more like a process of elimination than a straight-up diagnosis. Long story short, I talked to the doctors and they said, despite my best efforts, COVID had caught up to me.
This moment has been something I’ve feared, dreaded, but they told me something that completely blew my mind. One of the reasons this virus is so deadly, as far as their research can tell, is that it attacks the immune system and creates a firestorm. That storm spreads through the body and destroys, or damages, everything it touches.
I’ve had a kidney transplant which means I’m on anti-rejection medications. These medications lower my immune system so, in the context of COVID 19, there’s not a lot of fuel for the fire. Instead of a hurricane, I have a thunderstorm and some rain. Yes, I’m sick. I feel horrible. I don’t wish this on anyone. However, the virus can’t use my immune system against me so, for once in my life, I have the advantage.
How is that possible? It doesn’t make sense. This goes against everything I’ve ever been told about infectious diseases. If there’s one thing that’s been hammered into my very thick skull is that I can’t fight off infections. If I get sick, I’ll get sicker than most people and it will take longer for me to get better.
To put it in even simpler, less grammatically correct, terms: Infectious diseases are badder than bad, and, for someone like me, it will get worser than worse.
Except, this particular virus is well and truly mad as an anthropomorphized rabbit in an oversized top hat. It’s not doing what it should do according to just about every scientific standard. At least, every standard that has been explained to me in very simple terms. They talked to me like I was five years old, and I genuinely appreciated their overestimation of my level of comprehension.
In this very peculiar situation, it seems that the one thing that has always made me so incredibly vulnerable is the very thing that’s saving my life. Take that giant wad of mental bubblegum and chew on it for a while. It’s sticky and slightly slobbery. The gears are sticking and they’re making whining noises. Do you smell smoke?
If you thought getting gum in your hair was a mess? Try getting it out of your cerebral cortex. What a bloody mess!
Having a chronic illness is the physical manifestation of an emotional state. Being emotionally vulnerable is something that takes courage but, at least for me, it’s something I can choose to be or acknowledge. Being physically vulnerable, however, has always felt like it’s been forced upon me. Having a life-threatening, or life-challenging, disease and/or disability means that I’m often at the mercy of others.
There are times when my physical needs are reliant on someone else stepping in to do things I don’t have the strength or mobility to do. Simple things like having a shower, getting dressed, or brushing my teeth are just a few examples. It’s not all the time, usually after surgery, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have people who’ve helped me while still giving me the dignity everyone deserves. Still, these moments have not left me feeling strong or empowered. Actually, I feel the exact opposite.
Straying onto the dark side of the moon, having to face an ableist world with a body that betrays me with unpredictable frequency can be terrifying. I don’t know when my legs are going to lock up or my hearts going to dance to its own rhythm. One day I’m fine, and I can walk up that flight of stairs with no problem. The next day? It’s slow going for me and anyone who’s unfortunate enough to get stuck behind me. How will they respond? Will they understand or am I going to face abuse?
In those moments, I’m so vulnerable, and it has never felt like, or been, an advantage. I’m fortunate that nothing drastically horrifying has happened to me. I’ve faced verbal abuse and some minor physical altercations. There hasn’t been a situation I haven’t been able to handle or get out of safely, but that’s not true for everyone. The stories of people being abused, hurt, even killed because of their disabilities is gut-wrenching, and it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind.
Being vulnerable? It’s never worked to my advantage, and it’s often put me at a distinct disadvantage.
But here I am, facing down a zombie whose sole purpose is to consume and destroy human life, and the advantage is mine. Uh…What? No! When you’re looking for someone to vanquish a zombie apocalypse do you go for Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot? Or do you turn to me, the cripple, and say, “Go get ’em, slugger.”
Don’t worry, I’m not offended if you chose Wonder Woman over me. I wouldn’t pick me either. I happily relinquish the stage. Just, don’t start the show until I’ve had a chance to grab some popcorn. Who watches a zombie death match without snacks? Nobody. We’re not animals.
Nothing about this makes sense, but I am looking at the idea of vulnerability a little differently. Partly because I’ve been in isolation for over two weeks and I have to stay here until my symptoms are gone. That could be a while and the prospect is making me lose my mind. Well, what’s left of it because, by this point, I think a large portion has gone AWOL. Which explains the zombie apocalypse. Oh, and I binged watched the Umbrella Academy on painkillers. A talking monkey, ape, thing? Dude, that show’s messed up when you’re doped up!
Vulnerability as a superpower strong enough to defeat a zombie apocalypse? I can’t wrap my brain around that idea. I’ve said it before, vulnerability in other people is something I greatly admire. Emotional and physical vulnerability, when worn with courage and compassion, is awe-inspiring. It’s so hard to do, and when I see you doing it I applaud you for it because you’re a hundred times more resilient and powerful than I could ever allow myself to become.
Sure, that’s a double standard that favours you and diminishes me. Which, I agree, isn’t a mentally stable or healthy approach to life. If I was a more evolved person then I would strive to become more like you. I would embrace this very strange superpower and use it to fight the zombies alongside you. Alas, I have more in common with that talking monkey, ape, thing than I care to admit.
Now that I’m thinking about it, is vulnerability a superpower, or is it a superconductor? A powerful phenomenon that transmits energy in the darkest, coldest, harshest environments. Providing light and sustaining life in a time, place, when the brightest lights seem to dim and life as we know it is being threatened or changed.
Could acts of vulnerability be the very thing that saves us all from the zombie apocalypse? Could it be that simple and still be that hard to transmit?
I know what I’m doing right now isn’t working for me. I’m very protective of my heart. There have been a lot of hits, and my flinch response is highly developed. I’m scared of being hurt again. I’ve been too vulnerable in the past, in every meaning of the word, and it’s left me feeling weak, breakable. But here I am, once again facing the very thing that’s always made me so vulnerable, and it’s my vulnerability that’s kept me safe.
By all rights, I should be in a hospital bed fighting for my life, but I’m sitting on my sofa binge-watching silly shows on Netflix. What? No. It’s not right.
For the record, COVID is nothing like the flu and having had both I can tell you, this is worse. Don’t believe the special few who want to downplay the seriousness of this virus. It’s killed too many people. It’s left too many with life-altering illnesses that will make them very vulnerable for the rest of their lives. Healthy people. Strong people. People who had every advantage going into this pandemic will walk out of it changed forever.
I, however, am going to be okay because I walked into this pandemic vulnerable, weak, and at, what I thought, was a massive disadvantage. Vulnerability saved my life, and I don’t know how to unpack that idea. This post, these words I’ve typed, has been a clumsy attempt at breaking through a sticky wall of bubblegum. I think I might be stuck somewhere between hemispheres. Send help, or a shovel, or some solvent.
Oh dear, I think I might be stuck in this wad for a long time. Well, I’ll be in isolation for a little while longer so I might as well keep chewing. Metaphorically. Don’t stick bubblegum in your head. I’m not a doctor, but that can’t be good for you. Is that the weirdest public service announcement ever?
Did I mention that I’m on painkillers right now? Yeah, that should explain a lot.