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September 2016

Working on it

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Inhale. White clouds when I exhale. Lungs filled up with smoke, one of the small pleasures of life. It’s going to kill me. It has too. These pleasures never go unpunished. Right now it’s something that keeps me steady, everything can wait while I have this cigarette. Nothing but the sole purpose of doing nothing, and it cannot be disturbed.
As the smoke evaporates my mind goes places, it scans my body. It becomes aware of the headache, the pain in my ribs and chest, and of the numbness in the left side of my face. My heart rate is increasing one beat at a time. It’s at the door, but somehow I still have power to keep it out. Maybe it will come crashing through it, or maybe it will go away. Good days and bad days, nothing more.
I go downstairs to the third floor and I melt in my chair. I stare at the screen on my laptop. So many things I would do, but I have energy for none. So I just stare. Scrolling down, hoping to reach an end. But the end is not in sight, it’s just a newsfeed that goes on and on. I mechanically check everything and reassure myself that all is fine, things are covered. Are they really? Probably not. I am not fully there, so I cannot be sure. I have to have trust. But I don’t. I just don’t care.
Someone comes to tell me something and to make a decision. I listen, but I really don’t. It’s a story I’ve heard many times before so I dismiss it. Did I do the same with the previous ones too? Can’t remember. I might have, or I might have done something else. Who cares?
I come in late and I leave early. Most of the time I am not even there, mentally mostly. It’s not exciting anymore, but it does have it’s moments. There are times when I have a vague remembrance of how it was before, pure excitement. There where times where a goal meant something, now it’s just an annoyance. Maybe things will change, or maybe not. Ever the dreamer, I still have hope.

The emergency room

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Numbers on a screen above my head. Pretty colors, but no time to admire or enjoy. Staying in the hospital bed I’m trying to make sense of what those numbers mean, afraid that one will show something serious. Panic sets in when the monitor starts beeping, but a nurse comes and presses a button. It stops.

First medication for pain doesn’t work and another one is on the way. My left arm and the left side of my face is numb, cannot relax and I start looking around for something to distract me. Everyone is busy, but no one looks like they have anything serious – small relief, but not much to take me out of my state. My attending comes to check up on me, asks me if I’m sure I don’t want to do the head CT the neurologist that saw me minutes before recommended. I decline again and she sees through me. She figures it out and makes the nurse go for a benzodiazepine to get me out of my state. The pain is gone and so is my fear, now I am just tired. I have been here for approximately 4 hours and all I want to do is go home and sleep – it can’t be much longer now.

Before I go another doctor needs to check up on me. A cardiologist. That makes me feel anxious again, what is wrong this time? A nice man in his forties comes followed by 3 residents. He looks at my EKG and tells me that a line is a bit off, might be something serious or not. I tell him I have had EKGs before and we decide I should bring them tomorrow morning so he can look at them. I am free to go.

In the taxi I start thinking about failure and how often we experience it in life. Where have things gone wrong? Is it something I did? Stupid questions that have no real answers, just my mind circling around in a state of horror, trying to solve something that has already been solved. Still, I am not ready to accept my diagnosis, there are other things I need to check out. A little voice in the back of my head tell me there is none, it is all in my head and I need to make peace with it. Can I?

I meet the cardiologist the next day and he says everything is fine, there would have been something to show on those papers, but it isn’t. No heart is perfect and mine is pretty average, which means I’m healthy. He tells me that it wouldn’t hurt to do a stress test and we make plans to have one the next day. I go to work and keep my mind occupied, but my days are unpleasant at best and torture at their worst. I go through with it any way, I have no other choice.

Stress test went fine, nothing to show again. As I leave the hospital I try to make myself think straight. It partially works, but no more than that. Everything is as before, nothing has changed. I keep on walking and trying to find solutions. What if there is none? What if this is it?

I am here

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An itch. A twitch. Just one second and I am no longer myself. A nerve goes haywire and my body instantly reacts, it transcends to a war zone in which the battle is already fought and won and I don’t even know it. The restlessness is immediate and powerful, it encompasses my thoughts and my reactions.

First line of response should be a cerebral decision, one of dismissal and acceptance – it happens every day – but not this time. Now I have to see it through, like Virgil following Sibilla in the Inferno, I am a mere spectator to the show my mind creates. It is subtle, but fierce – it isn’t about me, but it takes place in my body. It shouts: pay attention to me or I will hurt you. It is true, I have seen it.

Sometimes it’s like chamber music, barely noticeable and yet very much there. Other times it’s a violin concerto, short and brisk. It can be a symphony, elegant and powerful. But those are manageable. When it becomes an opera, intricate and with variations, you see for what it can really be: passionate, precise and poignant; elegantly tuned so it ravishes all your senses – this is no mere doodle, it’s the highest form of art that you can experience.

It comes in the morning as I wake up, just a little daze – insignificant, but powerful enough to let me know things are not how they usually are or should be. Sometimes it goes away in minutes, other times I carry it with me for hours, either constantly or on and off. But the hardest part is always at night, relaxation is the enemy and it comes after me with a vengeance just so I cannot accept it. Like an Ouroboros it feeds on itself, but it does not consume itself – the goal is to cause chaos, not to damage – but chaos itself creates the most damage – the alterations are sufficient to last and by the time I shake it off another one is ready to come take it’s place. Convinced myself that one area is harmless? No matter. It will move somewhere else. It is me fighting myself, and I will always know the strengths and weaknesses of my guard. Like Sisyphus, ever fighting.