Wednesday, January 18, 2017

it's always both

All the sentences I say to AK lately begin with "In Far from the Tree...." When I was reading the chapter about prodigies, she would say, "Ugh, what about prodigies now?" I think I've shown great restraint in not diagnosing myself or Dash with the various maladies and challenges covered in the book, but right now I'm feeling a little extra empathy for the schizophrenics in the schizophrenia chapter. Many of them know that the voices they hear aren't real; it just takes a lot of energy--spoons in the language of disability and chronic illness--to shut them out.

In the same vein, I know that my anxieties aren't grounded in a ton of reality, but it still takes effort to whittle them down to a manageable size. It's haaaaarrd, and I don't even have an official anxiety disorder, let alone auditory hallucinations. 

Here's what's on my plate today:

1) Is it a problem that Dash dropped a lot of height percentile points between his 18-month and two-year doctor visits? (His doctor thinks it's not. I may have Googled "pituitary dwarfism." There may be a chapter about dwarfism in Far from the Tree. I may have been a little bit wrong about not self-diagnosing. Also a main point of the book is that there's nothing wrong with being a dwarf, etc.)

2) Is it a problem that my right tonsillar lymph node is tender and swollen? I had a shitty cold last week that wiped me out and made my head hurt, so that's a far more likely cause than metastatic breast cancer. But then one of the (non-literal...but almost literal) voices in my head was like "How convenient, Cheryl. Do you really even have a cold, or are you just trying to explain away your tonsil cancer?" So I looked in my bullet journal to confirm that I had a note about my cold on Wednesday of last week, a full 24 hours before I noticed the lumpy tonsil. 

Behold the bullet journal, a beautiful container for your anxiety.
That kind of hyper-vigilance is insane, I know, but that's my history. I thought I had breast cancer when I "officially" didn't (but actually did) and then went through a year of treatment after it was already gone. In the same way dieting can ruin your metabolism, hypochondria can ruin your ability to monitor what's going on in your body.

3) Will AK and Dash and Nicole and Jamie and Kendra and Kim be safe at the Women's March on Saturday? I'm going to be out of town, and big crowds are scary. Like people who fear air travel more than auto travel, despite statistics that say the former is safer, I imagine that my presence would help control their safety. I worry, even though they all have excellent judgement (well, Dash does not, but he has an excellent Mama) and aren't really the type to taunt cops or sacrifice themselves on the altar of social justice.

I keep asking myself: What is this really about? Is my hypochondria a mask for my fears about Trump and the repeal of the ACA? Is all of it just a product of having lowered my dose of Effexor? What is real? Do we live in the Matrix? Does it matter?

Hyper-vigilance, meet hyper-reality.
My brain does these funny dances in part because I'm always trying to figure out whether I'm privileged or not, as if privilege were just one fixed, binary thing. 

I have race, class* and citizenship privilege, so therefore I must not really be worried about Trump, right? I might hate him and all that he stands for and all the ways in which he fails to take a stand at all, but that must just be a fun intellectual exercise, right? Just another college paper, another blog post. So if I'm scared, it must be because I have cancer or my kid is a Little Person, right? (Again, it is fine to be a little person--I was honestly more concerned with a note, several Google pages deep, that pituitary dwarfism can be the result of leukemia.)

This is the kind of book that would make me laugh during the day, then keep me up all night.
This is where the schizophrenia comes in. It's like I've forgotten that I'm a queer woman married to a queer woman of color and we are raising a little Mexican kid and I'm a giant, living, breathing preexisting condition. 

(Side note re: ACA: I have health insurance through my employer. I literally owe my life to it, and am eternally grateful. But if AK becomes a self-employed therapist, I won't have the option of being self-employed at the same time, because who would insure me? If I ever have the wonderful problem of earning a living as a novelist, it better be one hell of a living, because I will be paying for any healthcare I need out of pocket, which only multi-millionaires can do. Or I guess I could get much poorer and go on Medicaid, if it still exists.)

I don't know if my denial of these realities is a form of self-protection or self-flagellation. I.e., I don't want to be a victim vs. I don't get to be a victim. It's probably both. It's always both. 

But imagine if stripes weren't an oppressed group, and Bob's stripes were always telling his triangle-ness to STFU.
This morning Homeboy announced that it will be sending a contingent to the Women's March in L.A. Consuelo, a staff therapist in her sixties, gave a moving and intersectional speech about how Cesar Chavez didn't take injustice sitting down and neither should we. She tried to get a si-se-puede chant going, and it didn't really take, either because it was 8:30 in the morning or because a lot of people trying to leave gangs don't see national politics or women's issues as their cause. Probably both. Always both.

Consuelo reminded me that trying to contain my fear in a neat little box can be useful in the short term and when the fear is small enough to fit in a box. But the fear is always a pointy chip from a giant iceberg, sitting in oily black water. That fear will always flatten me when I try to battle it with my usual defenses: probabilities and carbohydrates. It can only be melted with a long hard Care Bear Stare, aka love-and-truth, the kind that leaves me in a puddle too.

Rawr, I love you.
I've read that Donald Trump is obsessed with videos of himself, and only wants to think about his big win on election night, not about the hard work he'll need to do as president. Something about that felt eerily familiar. I imagine him watching footage of the falling balloons, the cheering crowds and his own face as he tried to pretend he belonged there.  

"Hi, I totally believe I deserve love and am not ruining the world as a personal defense mechanism at all!"
Sometimes when I'm Googling cancer statistics, I'll come across that one reassuring number, and for a moment I believe I'm immortal. Later, when fear and reality set in (because even if I never get cancer again, I'm not immortal), I return to that webpage. It becomes practically etched into my screen. I recite the favorable statistic like a rosary. But it wears down, and the only thing that ever really saves me is living my life with love.

Donald, I see the shadow of your dark iceberg too. Maybe it's reductive to say you are the way you are because you've never felt loved, but is it inaccurate? Like a high school smartypants who gets to college and realizes he never learned how to study, your immense wealth and privilege kept you from ever having to deal with the ways in which you're not privileged at all. Your figurative walls are so much bigger than the real one you want to build, and we're all suffering for their success. So I tell you this as a fellow human with a fucked-up head: Googling won't help. The high will wear off. You know it will, because it's already happening. 

Writing, for me, is a form of Walking Into It. I don't know what your equivalent is, Donald. Maybe you don't have one. I hope you find one. The Homeboy CEO said recently "I am a big believer in people being transformed by their jobs." I hope he's right.

*Class privilege is its own can of worms and false binaries. What it means for me at this moment in time is that I have an education and a dad who helps me out in some ways and would help me out more in a pinch. It means I can pay my bills, if barely. 

1 comment:

Cabone said...

Great blog and post! Please chech out mine. It's just started :)