The arrival of the summer solstice shocked my wintery heart. Despite the forest fire smoke and the 40 Celsius ambient temperature (with humidity) in my AC-less apartment, it feels like just yesterday I was excitedly welcoming a polar vortex and going out to ski in it.
Thrill-seeking might be a maladaptive coping mechanism...
I’ve been trying to sit down and write a little something here every single day since the first week of February, when I went on medical leave. Seeing as I never wrote more than a single expletive-laden sentence, it’s perhaps not too surprising that it’s taken me half a year to finally, finally squeeze out something about how I'm doing, personally.
(I’ve been seriously wondering if the part of me that can really write, vulnerable and no-holds-barred, is just… dead. If trying to survive in this economy during the ecological apocalypse has just crushed whatever part of me can sit down and write poetry about the moon. Or a sentence that isn’t stuffed full of moroseness and f-words.)
Let's address the SNAFU in the room with a lil' bit of a personal health update. I’ve been on waiting lists to see several different specialists since early January. It is unclear when I’ll be through the waiting lists, and in fact I’ve been bumped from at least one of them. The surgeon who gave me a functional diagnosis of endometriosis in 2021 has basically stopped answering my messages. A couple weeks ago, the central medical services for the province finally answered and declined my request to see another specialist, stating that the province does not have the responsibility of helping patients get a second opinion. I’ve been using private health services to coordinate medications and referrals since I don’t have a family doctor, and every single professional I’ve met so far has flat-out told me that they are not qualified to help with my particular set of issues, and keep referring me back to an unresponsive public system. The stress of interacting with the Québec medical system builds and builds. I’m burning through very meagre savings, I’m a burden to my loved ones, I’m not able to get back to work (I’ve tried) and I’m not well health-wise, mental or physical. But, as I was recommended by a team of chronic pain health specialists from CAMH in Ontario, maybe it’s just time to give up. Maybe it’s just time to accept that I’ll just always be in pain and unwell, and that hope for answers is the poison that’s keeping me from being a calm, unobtrusive, and productive-ish member of this economy. I’m 32. The idea that I’ll still be dealing with this in 10, 20, 30 years… Well, it’s not great. Maybe that’s where acceptance comes in. To endure as a always-in-pain, stressed-out, mediocre fuckup, and all that.
There are a few, fragile, bright things keeping my little wintery heart more or less intact through all of this. I’m not a very good friend because of taciturn and solitude-seeking tendencies, but my friendships, especially the compassion and unconditional love from my partner, are so overwhelming that I can often be found crumbling under the guilt of not deserving any of it.
Now that winter is over, my other bright thing tying me to the world is dance. I’m still dancing ballet (if you follow my Instagram I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s become all ballet, all the time). The rest of the world falls away in the studio, so I’m often able to put my chronic pain and panic attacks in a box and ignore them for two or three hours, and for those short hours, I feel something resembling okay. The process of learning how to dance in such a structured way is so different from the writing process, and that’s been a huge positive.
Too much of the writing process is sitting and stewing, which has been a huge strain on my brain and my chronic pain this past year. Dancing demands action and movement. You also can’t avoid your inevitable failures by forever rewriting outlines and first (or last) paragraphs. It's been good for me to fail endlessly on the safe, marley floor of the ballet studio, where every new attempt at something is wholeheartedly embraced, no matter how awkward. 七転び八起き, and all that. I need all the practice at doing that that I can get.
I don’t have any answers right now about what my future looks like. I seem to have burnt out into a nice, crispy crisp. If there is one thing all the health professionals agree on, the fact that I’m not ready to go back to work is not actually surprising. After five months of medical leave, I’m still taking life in 15 minute increments. If I can get through the next quarter of an hour, I’ll probably be able to get through the next one, rinse, repeat.
Here’s to the next 15 minutes. Thanks for reading so far, and putting up with my boundless summer grumpiness. If you’re in a summery hemisphere currently, I hope you’re keeping safe and hydrated.
And, if you pray, pray for rain over Québec. We desperately need it.
A few tweets I'm saving here so I can find them quickly: