Write a Letter to Your Health – A Throwback
I wrote this 6 years ago, before I had a Crohn’s disease diagnosis. I was living with severe symptoms but no effective disease management strategy, and it was ruling my life. I wrote this as a response to a series of journal prompts posted by WEGO Health titled National Health Blog Post Month.
I am so, so grateful that my daily life looks different than this now, but I wanted to share this in case it resonated with anyone else.
I Wish You Would Let Me Love You Better
Oh hello, my ever so insufficient insides,
As I sit down to write this letter to you, I have closed my eyes, allowing my fingers to skim the keyboard gently, slowly. There’s so much I’d like to say to you – so much I have thought and felt and lived for an impossibly long time now. I hope you know that writing this, it’s incredibly challenging and emotional for me. But my hope is that by pushing myself, forcing myself to write to you, I’ll be able to let some of those feelings out into the world. I’ll be able to stop holding on so tightly. I’ll be able to keep moving forward.
The truth is, I love you.
I have to. You’re the only body I’ll ever get. The only set of organs, the only internal chemistry, the only vehicle in which I can stay here, on earth, loving the people in my life, catapulting forward, finding ways to impact others and maybe, eventually, leave my mark on the world.
But love, love is very different than like. See, I do not like you at all. In fact, I rather hate you. Here’s the thing. I’m not mad that you don’t work like everyone else. There are so many people, so many of my friends and family who have encountered things like that. That, I could’ve handled. That I could’ve embraced, learned about, come to understand. But, you, you stepped it up a notch (I guess you get that from me). You don’t work like everyone else, and you don’t provide enough clues to me, or my medical team, to understand what exactly you’re doing or what exactly you want or need at any moment in time.
I’ve tried. Tried to listen. Tried to gather all the information. I’ve tracked my input and output like a crazy person. I’ve kept journals full of symptoms, daily feelings, pain scales – and for what, really? None of that has helped me to understand you. So yes, that’s where I get upset.
You’ve carried on like this for quite some time.
You and I, we’ve taken many journeys together – most recently have included those to the hospital, the doctor, the pathology lab, the dietician, the physical therapist, the natural section of the grocery store, GNC, etc… and no matter what I do, you don’t help me understand you.
You prohibit me – from so many things. I can’t sleep, but I am always tired. My body hurts in places it shouldn’t, in ways and for lengths of time that are borderline ridiculous. I have honestly developed severe post traumatic stress disorder when it comes to food – what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, how sick it will make me, how much pain it will cause (I have only admitted that to two people before writing this). I cannot commit to plans more than one hour ahead of time. I cannot explain how I’m feeling to nearly anyone who asks anymore – including my doctor, and myself. It scares me. I feel overwhelmed all of the time.
What others have become accustomed to seeing over the past few months is somewhere along the lines of ambition meets determination, meets fake it till you make it, meets the very last few fibers of my being fighting for anything they’ve got or can reclaim.
When I think about you, my body, my health, I have such mixed emotions.
Emotions that can at times riddle my body, take over my mind, and drown my heart in a mere instant. This afternoon, I got to school early, in hopes of visiting a friend who is currently inpatient at the hospital here. When I heard her voice on the phone, I knew it wouldn’t be in the cards today, so instead, I sat down in the hospital lobby, tea in hand, and A Fine Frenzy in my headphones. As I watch the people who pass, I see patients, I see visitors, I see doctors, I see volunteers. And you, my health, make me wonder, on any given day, which role I will play.
In truth, you make me beg for things I honestly don’t understand – relationships, actions, thought processes, hopes, fears. The past few days, I found myself contemplating the merits of hospital admission. Not because I have an overwhelming love of the white sterile environments, being woken up every few hours, or being pricked by needles around the clock. But what you had me feeling desperate for was some hours of IV fluids. Some help. To put your care in the hands of someone else. Someone who maybe understood better. Someone who could help me find relief.
You’ve drawn me to others for whom I would otherwise never have trusted, never have let in, never have tried to understand or help.
You’ve pushed me to give even when you’ve taken everything away from me. You’ve led me to doubt that you will ever, ever return any of those things. You’ve forced me to contemplate something, anything which would dull the pain, which would allow me to return to some semblance of life I could understand, which would perhaps give me the permission to take an honest deep breath and feel relief, rather than fear. You made me think about ending our story. For that, I am angry. I am so angry. Because without you, I never would have ever followed that thought. But I had to. You gave me no other option. I hate you for it. But, in truth, I’ve actually come to be grateful too. Because you’ve shown me strength I never would’ve known I had. Strength that came from the very bottom of my gut, the very end of my road, the places in which I never thought I would be forced to look in. But you did it. You forced me, and I found it. I found it, because I had to. I survived. I am surviving.
You’ve twisted everything that I once understood to be real.
Each day, I feel like I am trying desperately to re-learn life, based on the parameters you’ve set out. I wake up, and wonder how much I will be able to move around that day. What the pain will rank, on a 1-10 scale. How much time I will spend in the bathroom. Or in bed. You’ve made me realize that planning is a joke. That scheduling must be adjusted, re-adjusted, modified, and then, still, flexible. You’re trying to force me to understand that my adamant, type A personality can’t always accomplish what it wants to. That some days, my brain will be on full speed, and my body will be unable to move.
But again, you and I are all each other has. As we struggle to co-exist, all I would ever ask you for is this: some ability for someone, anyone, to understand, some way to help you, some direction in how I should move forward with my days, with my life.
I suppose you’ll offer me some grace only if, and when, you’re ready.
So all I can say is that I wish this wasn’t how it was. I wish there was a way we could work together, a way that I could figure out what you needed or what you could ask for. I wish I could better nourish you. I wish you would let me love you better.
I wish this letter wasn’t making me cry. I wish this year hadn’t left me totaled. I wish I didn’t need to start from square one when rebuilding my character, my wit, my personality. I wish you didn’t have me yearning for a hospital gown. I wish I understood where to go from here. How to move forward. I wish I wasn’t sitting here, doubled over, waiting for the pain to pass, or a way to stand up and walk to class, a way to disguise my reality, my story from classmates, friends, strangers. I wish you enabled me to advocate for you, to be a better patient, a better member of society, a better health activist. I wish you could cut me a break. I wish I could help you.
I wish you would let me love you better.