Stay Alive

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With a day off for my poor feet to recoup my head has been replaying the last few whirlwind days for me to analyze. It does that; I see people’s facial expressions, hear their vocal inflections, think back on questions asked and comments made. The process isn’t something I can stop. Never have been able to. It just rolls, whether I want it to or not.

Today there is one thing that’s glaring out at me, one thing that’s riding over everything else. Call it courage, call it stubbornness – I really don’t know which is truly the proper term. What I do know is that my friend, J, and I have opposite stances on our illnesses. And it’s all down to our minds.

J has fibromyalgia. It’s very similar to my RA; it causes chronic pain, fatigue, joint and muscle pain. No one can judge another’s pain. We cannot place ourselves in another person’s body and feel what they feel. We can only imagine ourselves in their position which is not the same thing at all. So I can never say J’s pain is greater or lesser than my own. I can only say J is in as much pain as he can handle, and it’s crushing him.

J walks with a cane. It’s a new addition and rarely needed unless he gets quite tired. While we were out and about, his cane caught the attention of a couple of religious freaks. They weren’t horrible about their religion (thankfully) and it took a few minutes before Jesus came up as a topic of conversation. Anyway, one woman stopped J and asked about his pain. This was J’s reply, and it was delivered as flatly as you can possibly imagine:

I am always in chronic pain. There’s nothing the doctors can really do about it. I have to walk with a cane now.

It’s that acceptance I can’t swallow. There’s no fight in J. No energy to feel like he can combat the ongoing aches he has. No FIRE. He sounded to me like a condemned man who’s already gone through the five stages of grief.

It makes me sad. I know this is not a temporary down period for him. It’s just the way it always is. He’s a depressive, full out. No ups like me. Right up until these last few days, I would have said I’d wish bipolar on no one. I take it back. I’d give a lot to see J have even one day happy. One day full of fire and fight and ready to take on the world. No matter how hard the lows are with this, the memory of the highs always stays in my mind. Even though I get afraid I’ll never feel that way again (and that’s awful), I CAN say I’ve had good days. Days I felt confident and strong. Days I felt I flew through life. J doesn’t have that. Yes, he has good memories. His life has not been one black cloud. But it’s also easy to see how the day to day wears him down in a way that doesn’t affect me. For one, J doesn’t have someone close to him on hand 24/7 like I do with my bro. He lives with a roommate in a city far from his family. Even his boyfriend lives half way across the country from him.

And it’s kind of funny/odd, too. Because J travels far more than I do. He doesn’t let his physical pain stop him from bopping around the world, but it DOES stop him in his head. I approach my pain completely opposite: it DOES stop me from traveling as much as I’d like, but my head refuses to absolutely succumb to it. I have my bad days but I’ll be DAMNED if I’ll take up a cane or walker. Nope. I’ll have to be on the very edge of pain beyond measure before I’ll do that.

In some way, J IS his pain. I only FEEL mine.

…Honestly, I feel lucky. Lucky to have this attitude. Lucky as all shit to have my brother by my side. Lucky, even, to have bipolar (or something that mimics it pretty fucking well) rather than straight out depression.

My bro keeps bringing up a little joke between J and his boyfriend. J’s boyfriend calls him ‘grandpa’ once in a while, to which J replies ‘I am not grandpa’ – a direct kitschy quote from the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory. The thing is, J kind of looks like a grandpa. He’s got thyroid problems, so he’s very underweight. His face looks drawn and a bit haggard. And now he’s walking with a cane. I’m more than worried about him. I’m seeing my friend who’s 6 years my junior age faster than me. At this rate he’s going to look ten years my senior in a few years. Even with my smoking.

I guess that’s a lesson that I’ve always somehow known: if you lay down and die in your head, your body is gonna make that happen. That’s when you need to FIGHT. The champ doesn’t become the champ because he wins easy bouts. The champ becomes the champ because he wins the tough ones. He keeps fighting no matter what. He remains on his feet, though exhausted. He may be dizzy, he might not even see too well but damn it! He keeps on going. Keeps throwing those punches. Keeps taking the hits.

Wherever you are in your life right this minute, right now, DON’T GIVE UP. Acknowledge that you may feel like giving up. That happens and it’s okay. But don’t succumb. Stay on your feet. Keep throwing punches.

Stay alive.

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