Sunday, December 9, 2012
The Year I Lost Everything (and Gained So Much More)
before you read this, this is long and this is more personal than most of my posts, but that's why I wanted to post it.
tw: suicide, drug abuse, and depression
Today was a Friday last year. I didn't have class but I had a routine, yearly check-up scheduled with the Women's Health Center and then I was gonna see a friend's show in the evening. My girlfriend wasn't on campus that weekend but we were planning to have some really terrific sex when she came back, 'cause it had been a while. I had five final papers to start worrying about and working on, since I am a masochist who signs up for five classes a semester whenever I can. It was all okay, though, because it was nothing I couldn't handle.
And then the year of absolute shit was upon me.
At my routine check-up (that never takes more than 20 minutes), the nurse practitioner found something. "I'm feeling something that isn't supposed to be there" she said as she examined me. There was a lump, an irregularity, something that required an ultrasound. So there I am in the lobby, chugging glasses of water to prep for the ultrasound, texting my friend that I don't think I'll make it to his show and I'm really sorry but something just came up.
The ultrasound technician definitely sees something wrong and it's probably an ovarian cyst but we won't know until later tonight. So, you know, just walk back to campus on this dark, cold December evening, alone and weak from not eating all day in anticipation of the check-up.
I get the call around 9pm, the one from the nurse practitioner that says I'm definitely going to need surgery to remove what they believe is an ovarian cyst. And now it's real. I have no idea how to handle this information. I remember filling out forms before freshman year and talking about the parent's contribution to my tuition with my father and how, when it came to the health insurance, he told me that he probably couldn't afford that part. "Just take care of yourself and let's hope you don't get sick for the next four years." Okay. Fuck. Because now I'm halfway through my Junior year and I never could have foreseen needing this surgery. And I will never be able to afford it. This is the shit they don't prepare you for when you go away to college, when you live on your own, when you try to make it in the real world. They never tell you that one Friday you're just gonna go in for a routine check-up while your girlfriend is out of town and have your whole world shatter before your eyes.
So my girlfriend and I spent the next two months in and out of the Women's Health Center on campus and the Cancer Center at [local hospital]. We would spend the next five or six months worrying about my emotional state and the obvious deterioration of my mental health. The surgery itself, which happened in January, radically altered everything about my life (which I blogged about) from how I ate to how I had sex to how I was as a student, etc. We were advised not to have penetrative sex before the surgery for fear of coming into contact with and harming the thing that had to be removed, and were not allowed to have any sex for two months after the surgery. It was difficult to leave my bed most days and I was so drugged up on painkillers that I didn't even have the inclination to, so I missed a lot of classes. I missed a lot of everything, actually, because I wasn't getting exercise or fresh air, wasn't going to work at my campus job, wasn't eating regularly, wasn't showering more than a couple times a week, wasn't going out and being with people, wasn't doing my schoolwork, and worst of all, I wasn't really telling anybody. I was slipping into a real depression, especially since my sister was back home and could only make the trip up to see me once, and my girlfriend was taking a semester off and we rarely got a chance to talk. So, I developed a sort of dependency on my painkillers... and lied to my girlfriend about it whenever she confronted me. She wasn't physically present which made that part really easy.
I was supposed to take my Percocet whenever I felt pain from my incision but it wasn't just pain from my incision that I was feeling. I was getting headaches from my poor diet and terrible sleep schedule, and getting dizzy from standing up for too long. My back started hurting from having to put effort into standing up straight because the incision made it more comfortable to hunch. I couldn't masturbate, so I couldn't rely on the natural endorphins that are released and make you feel good from having an orgasm. I couldn't even fucking laugh without it hurting. I didn't like being awake and missing my girlfriend and knowing I had work I wasn't doing and thinking about how much money I still owed for the surgery (even with the school's standard health insurance covering most of it) and worrying about how I wasn't talking to other people and hating the huge scar on my body now and having anxiety about how I wasn't leaving my bed. That's when I started taking my Percocet for any random reason I could come up with. And one night, I thought about taking enough to kill myself.
I never actually went through with that, and I wish I knew what made me decide not to. It was a real low point and, honestly, I don't even know how to feel like that again, thank god. I wish I could explain what prevented me from doing it. All I know is, my girlfriend saw me mention my suicidal feelings on Tumblr and reached out to me right away because she is actually the best human and gave me as much emotional support during the whole thing as she could. But I don't know how effective that was in stopping me because I was still lying to her (and everyone who asked) about how I was abusing my Percocet, regularly. It's no one else's fault, I just wasn't being honest because I didn't want to be told to stop. I'm just so grateful that I ran out of my prescription when I did. It forced me to deal with a few things on my own and without any drug dependency in the mix.
The Spring semester that started a mere week after my surgery proved to be the most difficult semester of my college career. I actually had to drop one of my five classes for the first time since freshman year and now, my finals week was rapidly approaching. Time for all of that work I wasn't doing to finally collapse on me. My finals week was the most isolated, sleep-deprived, mentally draining period in my life, but I managed. And then, in my first week home after all that, my girlfriend broke up with me. Now, to a normal person this probably seems like the coldest, most terrible thing to follow the months I just went through- but my ex and I are far from normal people. In actuality, this was the best thing to happen to me since our getting together in the first place.
You see, we are adult humans who talk about things. And the things we talked about that night were how we knew we had to break up because after nearly two-and-a-half years of being together and trying to work things out, we realized that maybe we're just shit at fulfilling each other's needs... WHICH IS OKAY! You can get along really well with someone and love them and respect them and communicate with them and just not fit well together. And part of communicating really well with someone is realizing sooner rather than later that the relationship doesn't work, and being okay with that. And I feel like that's something else that they never tell you, especially not when you're 21 and ESPECIALLY NOT when you're a girl.
We have really unhealthy ideas about relationships because there's this heterosexualized notion of monogamy and romance and these unrealistic ideals of finding that one person, and smoothing everything out despite all your differences and your incompatibilities because you're supposed to complete each other. And when you're a woman, it's even more important for you to find that match because your life depends on the man you give yourself to. It's hard to believe that you can actually be truly happy when you're single when this is all you're hearing. Maybe you disagree with me because you have had a different experience but these are the things that I've learned about love and relationships from actually being in them. It's what I've observed from being a girl in this time and place and being told from the media and from cultural traditions and all sorts of things that I need to find the one person who completes me. Well, what if that one person who completes me is me?
I was in that relationship, happy because we get along so well but unsatisfied because we weren't necessarily compatible. And when you are insecure, you need more love and attention than another person can really give you, because you're trying to make up for what you don't have yourself. That's the terribly sad but true paradox of insecurity. And maybe this moment will never happen for you- and for that I am truly sorry- but when we broke up, I immediately realized that I didn't need to try to salvage and cling to a relationship that wasn't working because I was afraid I couldn't find better. I have been told that I'm ugly or undesirable, so no one would want me. Others have wrongfully believed that I'm ugly and undesirable, and have lost out and denied themselves the pleasure. Oh fucking well. Right now I can't be bothered.
Getting through the semester that I needed her most without my ex-girlfriend, and coming out of it relatively unharmed, taught me that I could survive without her (which I sorta didn't think was possible sometimes). And looking back, I know I couldn't see it then but, I had so many people around me who cared about me and who tried to make my life easier. I had bosses who understood when I couldn't cover my shifts. I had professors who consistently encouraged me to rest and take extensions rather than force myself to come to class and hand everything in on time. I had a medical staff that was working on getting me back to normal. I had friends who literally devoted huge chunks of time in their weeks to just staying with me and bringing me food and helping me put my shoes on and just making sure I wasn't alone. I had family who checked in with me and asked about me and drove me to the airport and the hospital and back to campus. I had a girlfriend who gave me all the love and support that she could, that she knew how to give, that I was actually capable of realizing.
And those things are hard to see and appreciate when you're hurting as much as I was, when you are as scared as I was, when you are in the downward spiral of losing motherfucking everything. Okay, so I'm still paying medical bills a year later, and I still have this massive scar on my body, and I still get terrified at the thought of ever having to get another surgery sometime, later in my life. But at least I can recognize that I am not alone. And at least now I understand my own worth and can appreciate myself, which is something you don't expect to gain in the year you lose everything.