What do you do when your skin doesn't fit?
You can't hang it up in the back of the closet or return it to the rack. There's no refunds or exchanges. You get one body. One vessel to experience life with. And when that vessel malfunctions over and over again, the wires get crossed. The pieces and the parts get warped, their once shiny edges rusting. The cogs get harder and harder to turn. And for a lot of other chronically ill people, there's a Before and an After. Who I was before I got 'sick.' Who I am now. Who am I now?
Depression is something I've struggled with since I was thirteen. I've had the thoughts. The intrusive ones, the better off ones. But I've truly never dissected my own mortality until something that still remains unnamed sunk it's teeth in me at twenty-seven.
They say it's good news: all the tests have come back normal. It must be my anxiety. But I haven't felt 'normal' in months. Closer to a year, actually. What even is 'normal' for a person like me?
I'm in a body that rejects itself.
My normal is fatigue that plagues me every day. A need for a such a deep rest that will only come when I close my eyes for the last time. Which I've feared may come more often than I want to admit. But I always wake up. Some would call it a privilege. And most days, I guess I would too. Other days I'd call it a prison.
My normal is dizziness, heart palpitations, pain in every cell of my body. I could probably create one of those comically long scrolls if I were to list all my symptoms, but that's not what this is about. But to live this way, it's more than just distress. It's debilitating. It's agony. And it quite literally might be eating me alive.
My muscles hurt. My bones hurt. My brain hurts.
My soul hurts the worst.
Because I am not the kind of sick that goes away with bedrest and fluids. I am not the kind of sick that is relieved by two weeks of antibiotics. I am the kind of sick that swallows you whole. The kind of sick that takes and takes until you have nothing left to give, and then it takes some more. The kind of sick that makes people have that pitiful look in their eyes. I'm the kind of sick that people tell me I'm "too young" to be. At what age will it be acceptable? Will I even make it to then?
My contact history has morphed from friends and family to specialists and pharmacies. Don't even get me started on the medical bills. I have watched my bucket list become increasingly unattainable. Daily tasks too. My interests remain the same but the time I can spend on them has dwindled. Without my illness, whatever it may be that's devouring me from the inside out, I knew who I was. I knew what I liked and where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I had the courage to dream.
But now? Now I'm the 'sick girl.' I'm the one people have to worry about. The energy used for dreaming has to go into surviving. I tally the good days on the wall like a captive, savoring then overdoing it on each one because I think maybe it's over. Until it's not. Until I'm back in my bed or in shambles in my best friend's passenger seat.
I've never considered myself much of an actress. Or a liar. But I think the Academy would contend me for my performance. My perfectly sculpted mask with its dazzling smile, sharp wit, and ability to play along with the best of them. But upon further inspection, you'd notice it's entirely flawed and paper thin, my lust for life holding on by a meek and fraying thread.
And in some twisted, distorted way, I've grown close to my illness. Like it or not, it's a part of me. I can't outrun it. I can't ignore it, like a gnat buzzing around your head constantly reminding you of its existence. So I have succumbed to getting comfortable with it. I can rely on my health being unreliable. There is a sadistic comfort in chaos when it's what you've known for so long.
And I would give absolutely anything for my body to go back to the 'Before.' But should it, by some miracle, I fear it'll leave a different kind of emptiness in its wake. It'll strip me down to my bare and battered bones, my skin and barely beating heart a mess on the floor. The fear that it will come back to finish me off will torture me. And should I have a place to set all that down, I will still be left with rediscovering the answer to the question:
Who am I if I'm not fighting for my life?
About the Creator
28 | Libra | Living in a daydream
I've had the dream to be a writer for years, but never the confidence in myself. Even now, I'm doing this terrified, but we deserve to chase what calls us. Take that anxiety.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme