For a long time I have wanted a spinal tattoo.
I've thought about the word unconventional written vertically in my own handwriting, or a constellation of tiny stars tracing my spine's crazy curvature, or maybe a realistic tattoo of all my vertebrae. I don't know exactly. But what I do know now, is that after this past week, I can say without a shadow of doubt, with 100% assuredness, that I never ever ever want a freaking spine tattoo. Ever.
I have been sick for almost 8 weeks. I get up and go to work, nap in my car at lunch, work some more, then come straight home and crawl in my bed because I don't have the energy for anything else. I have a near-constant fever that hovers around 100 degrees, and a myriad of other symptoms that come and go. I am, quite literally, dragging my own body around. I won't sugarcoat it (because what good does that ever do?), but I am tired. So tired. Worn out. Worn down.
I spent Thanksgiving break in the hospital.
Last week was arguably one of the toughest weeks of my entire life. I left work for lunch on Tuesday and less than two hours later was in the Mission ER dehydrated, with a massive headache, a temperature of 101.5, and a resting heart rate of 140. I left the hospital Thursday night after ruining my sister's 20th birthday celebration, seeing several different doctors, having every test known to mankind ran, countless vials of blood drawn, four (yes, four – thank you crooked spine) attempts at a spinal tap, and eating hospital turkey and gravy for my Thanksgiving meal.
My sweet boyfriend drove me back to the ER Saturday morning, because my head was exploding. We say that euphemistically all the time, I know. But I mean it this time. So much spinal fluid had leaked out because of the spinal taps and there was such a significant lack of pressure surrounding my brain, that it felt exactly like my brain was going to burst through my skull into one million pieces. Literally the most debilitating pain of my entire life. And my friends, the only solution to this problem? More needles jammed in my spine. Three (yes, three – thank you crooked spine) attempts at an epidural blood patch later, my insane headache was gone and I felt like a new woman. There's nothing quite like having a ton of blood vacuum drawn out of your hand and then injected into a hole in your back via a giant needle while you're wide awake, but it was worth every single minute. But no other needle is going near my spine ever again.
And we'd better call Dr. House y'all. Because the best part about all of this? No one can tell me what it is or what's going on. Absolutely no one. Not my primary care doctor, not the ER doctor, not the hematologist/oncologist, not even the infectious disease specialists. No answers. Not a single one. If you can believe it, the only diagnosis I've been given is “a fever of unknown origin.” I'm mad, and frustrated, and sad that my body has been through literal hell and back for the past seven days and I have precious little more clarity than I did last Tuesday.
I'm really not sure why I'm writing all of this.
It's not because I want the entire world to know that my life is somewhat of a shit show right now. It's certainly not for pity. Maybe it's because I don't really know how to be any other way except brutally, unfailingly honest?
Or maybe it's just because I know the intrinsic value of a “me too” moment. I crave the “me, too” moments of connection and understanding. So, my sweet friends, if you're finding yourself feeling beaten up, beaten down, with a battle worn body, with needle marks and bruises all over your arms, and a lower back that feels like it's been beaten to hell with a sledgehammer, I feel you. If all you can do in the evenings is crawl into your bed and sleep, I feel you. If, for whatever reason, getting up in the morning and putting one of your feet in front of the other is harder than it ever should be, I feel you. I see you. I hear you. I stand with you. I'll even hug you, if you want. I will hold your hand and say, “me too, me too.” It will all be ok. Life is still beautiful and sweet and good. We will all be okay.
I see a lot of myself in Job lately.
I am being tested continually these days, there is no doubt about that. Part of me wants to bend God's ear, to lay down in the floor like a toddler and kick my feet and flail my fists. Part of me is frustrated and weary and more than a little bit mad and ready yell at God. Yell at him and say “why God? What is this? Where are the answers? Why am I always, unfailingly preparing my little body for a war?”
But the bigger part of me sees the good in all of this. In my sweet momma who slept in Tuesday's work clothes for two nights beside me in a hospital recliner. In every text message, phone call, and voice mail that has said “this sucks. I love you. I am here for you.” In my sweet daddy & the rest of our family for postponing our Thanksgiving until Sunday so I didn't completely miss out on stuffing and cranberry sauce. I see the good in my little buddy, who spent the evening of her 20th birthday holding my hand and making sure I didn't choke to death on water and McDonald's cheeseburgers while I laid flat of my back in the ER without one single complaint, and spent Friday in bed with me watching Gilmore girls. She actually threatened to punch me if I mentioned ruining her birthday one more time... And in the world's kindest and sweetest boyfriend who made a makeshift couch bed for me in the ER waiting room, ignored my feeble protests and kept showing up anyway, spent his week off sitting in too-small hospital chairs just to be with me, and still tells me I'm hot even when I'm rocking under-eye circles from hell and look like the hottest mess you've seen recently.
In this season of thanks, even though I am worn and weary, there is so much overwhelming goodness shining through in all of this mess, that my chest feels like it might actually explode with love and gratitude. I wlll be like Job. I will remain faithful. I am willing to endure the pain to get to the grace. I am willing to go through hell for the sake of refinement. It will all be worth it for the sake of refinement.