Half an hour or so whacking weeds, two very simple meals cooked, a drive of two hours round trip, groceries bought: that was yesterday.
Today I pay for all that activity. The troll is on my chest as I wake, its weight taking my breath, panicking my heart, its foul claws piercing dealing pain great enough at first to mask my other pains.
As I breathe and relax the troll backs off a bit. The chest pain subsides enough for me to feel the other pains: throbbing in my temples, stabbing at the back of my skull, chafing in my throat, and, as if I’d run a marathon yesterday instead of an errand, deep muscle pain in my inner elbows and the backs of my knees.
Writing through it, pushing against it, is like heaving against a heavy door that blocks fresh air from a tiny, unventilated room. With great effort I can get a breath, enough to go on for a little. I write a sentence or two then subside, hearing my pulse like tides crashing inside my head and feeling the cotton invade my brain.
Wait a little, breathe, words come back, slower now, and I resume writing, until the text starts to swim and one word falls over into another, sentences stumble and tangle and I have to stop.
Sometimes it’s funny. The other night in exhaustion I tried to tell the dogs to stop barking but the yell that came out of me wasn’t “No,” or “Hush,” it was “Box.” Actually, it worked, they hushed, so all’s well between me and the dogs, and we get another in-joke to enjoy.
But I don’t want to be funny and bumbling. I want---I need---to be clear and sharp. Paperwork piles up, and not just the usual but extra paperwork created by the illness: there’s not only bills and taxes, but extra medical forms, disability documentation, social service applications, foreclosure, bankruptcy, an avalanche set off by this damned illness.
A manageable life is conceivable, and yes, even one with time and clarity for writing something fun again. I have to believe that I can get there or the moments of worst despair would do me in. Hope keeps me going: slowly but surely and with every bit of help anybody can spare I’ll build a life that eliminates enough stress and includes enough rest for there to be more to me than this struggle against pain.
For now, though, it feels like “me” has been smothered by ME. The troll seems to be winning. By the time I finish writing this, despite breaks, my brain is fogged and pulsing so hard I can’t tell you what I wrote, or go back and read it.