When tragedy befalls a person, like losing a beloved kitty, it can be hard to pick oneself up. But what is lesser-known, is what to do when a period of successive tragedies hit you one after the other. This is me, and where I am right now. It has been a difficult few months for many, many people, but for me, I arrived at the Covid-19 tragedy already battered and bruised. At the tail end of 2019, I had an allergic reaction to an immunosuppressant drug. While I was luckily a day away from a double dose of the medication, I, unfortunately, came away with terrible rashes all over my body (which needed steroids) and lost the month prior to agonizing discomfort as my body tried, and failed, to adjust to the intense dose.
Two weeks later I fell down the stairs and broke my foot.
While a severed fifth metatarsal was considerably preferred to a medication allergy, it wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend the start of the new year. Bedridden and gripping the joy of not being on a debilitating medication, I tried to make the best of it. Reading passed much of my time, as did enjoying the friendly cat nurse that drank my water and kept me company on the couch.
As you’ve read here in May, my cat, Ernie, passed away. And while I regained the ability to walk again in March, I was not quite yet healed from the trauma of my latest medical disaster. Well, a few months since Ernie’s passing, I have not healed. Period.
Some days I cry for missing him. Other days I’m angry at the emotional challenges that have been set before me over the last two years. Sometimes I’m totally fine, grinding my teeth while holding an exercise plank, determined not to let life get the better of me. And then there’s just days that I’m lost, drowning really amid the bad news, the racism, and the chaos that feels like it has become our every day lives. I know I’m not alone. I know many people are struggling and many more aren’t as privileged as me to have the resources to be safe and secure during this time.
But those external factors aside — I’m a little messed up right now. When do things calm down? And I don’t mean all that’s happening around me, I mean when can I pass some days without worrying if a house will fall on me. I don’t really expect that to happen, but some days when I get a phone call, like a few weeks ago for example, when I was told I am currently on the wrong dose of my genetically-tested medical dosage, I just break. It takes time to paper over the wounds from the past. And even longer for those wounds to actually heal.
So this is where I am right now: anticipating another break of my foot every time I look up from the steps I’m walking down, a fear of doctor’s visits and phone calls, and the perpetual aching to see my little black and white cat, Ernie, peering through the kitchen door to be let inside. With the succession of these events, I’m left feeling broken. I told my cardiologist yesterday that I’m tired. I want to submit to the stress of the world, curl into a little ball, and sleep. But I’m trying hard not to do that. I’ve picked myself up thus far, and now it has become a habit to not let myself get down.
But how can I find a solution? How can new memories, happy memories fill the void of the painful ones in the past, of the traumatic experiences that have whittled me down to an anxious, empty vessel? I guess it’s just time. Time between events, counting my blessings, and making new happy memories.
The scar on my foot is a constant reminder of the 4 am fall down the stairs, just as the memorial flowers I can see outside my bedroom make me think of the loss of Ernie. The changing doses of daily medication have made me enlist the help of a weekly pill organizer, one that my 71-year-old mother gifted me from her collection. Trauma is present. It’s there in the scar, it’s there in the flowers, and it’s there in the four, small pink pills stamped with a letter in the swell of my belly. But as these symbols of the past, become symbols of my present, I am hopeful that they will take on new meanings, or, for some, fade into the past. I can already tell that the scar on my foot will be permanent. Despite my studious efforts to keep it covered with a silicone scar patch, the damage has been done. And within a few months, more damage will be done as the doctors need to remove the plate and screws. I will get used to the daily dose of medication, even if it changes up and down due to the ebb and flow of this pandemic. I will get to a place where the reorders will be steady and expected, and where the worries of damaging my body with little, powerful pills will fade too. There was the time before Ernie, much of my life in fact when I didn’t have a cat or know what it was to connect souls with an animal. And now there’s the time after him. I try not to play the memories back of our goodbyes, of his weak body resting on my chest, comatose from exhaustion and low blood count. I try to remember all the good times. Biting Jon while playing, sleeping beside me as I wrote my book, and wandering together through the yard exploring the weeds. We were friends. And I’ll always look at those flowers, at the little hand-painted sign that scrawls “Ernie’s Wood” and know that he was my friend. That the time we spent together was precious. That he saw me, and our souls connected. We were bound, and will always be.
So now there’s a hole in my heart, there’s a scar down my foot, and a pill in my stomach — non of which was there before this year. But they are the changes that come with life. The scarification that needs to come before a new seed can grow. I thought I had been through the darkness, having battled depression many times before, but now it’s different. It’s not sadness as much as it is pain. I don’t feel hopeless, rather I feel beaten. I’m anticipating the next lash from life, rather than the sweet taste of the melons in my garden. I don’t want to answer the phone. I don’t want to get sick with Covid. And I don’t really know how to fix myself this time.
I know time will help. I know time is the answer. I just hope that I get some time before I find myself with another change so soon. I need a break. To heal, to process, to learn how to function again without the burdens of the last months weighing my body to the couch or fixing my eyes on Netflix. I need to indulge, then pick myself back up once again. This is life. It’s hard. It’s painful. But it’s also lovely. And I’m holding out for the sweetness on the other side of the struggle.