As she lifted her head the sour smell of stale sweat from her pillow arose. But it was too hard to move much more and so she lay back down in desperation. She didn't feel as if there were any good reason for her to stay in bed, but she just couldn't move. And that was what she had felt for a long time.
At least it felt like a long time. At this point she wasn't sure how long. She vaguely remembered happy times. But it was as if those happy times were through ten feet of cotton candy and her life now. She could see herself laughing in some photos, but couldn't figure out what that felt like. Yes, she had been happy, but not in a long, long time.
Her living room and kitchen were immaculate. But that was because she didn't have the energy to leave them messy. When she ate – everything was cleaned and put away before she fell asleep. And she didn't buy any food that might go bad. The dried milk she kept on hand didn't taste all that good when she made it up for the meal – it was supposed to sit – but when she had the energy to eat and clean up she wanted to do it then. If she waited any time her burst of energy would be long gone and then there's be the dishes to clean and they'd sit. She'd done that before when she'd tried to wait. And the dishes would sit with the big round eye of a plate accusing her of not doing anything and her mind quivering with the blows of unmet expectations. And she just couldn't face the unwashed dishes one more time. So she made the dried milk up and drank it before it had cooled and as the horrid taste went down – thought – at least I got something in my body one more time.
And at times it was a moment-by-moment decision to keep on existing in such pain. She'd started treatments but so far none of them had worked. And she lived in pain. And she could no longer remember what it had been like before she lived in pain. And the treatments – try this drug and it will take two to six weeks before it works – you've been taking it for eight weeks and there's no change, then stop taking the drug and in two weeks will try another drug – seemed futile. And every day longer until each day seemed like years.
They called it depression – she called it pain.
And she lived with it.
Today she was curled up in bed. Her book club was at noon, but she hadn't read the book and she wasn't sure she could go because she didn't want people to know that she hadn't read the book. It was six in the morning and the book had arrived. The package was sitting next to her bed. But she'd only opened it enough to see the spine and then had let it lie there, accusing her, saying she should just reach out and begin reading it, letting her know how worthless she was since she couldn't reach over there. Instead she tossed and turned and even when she wasn't looking at the book the thought of it ate at her, the acid of not getting it done rising up in her throat and burning so that she couldn't sleep, but couldn't pick up the book.
And she thought – I could call Angie, but I've already made too many excuses for not reading the books. And I've called her too many times. And if I keep calling her she might not want to hear from me again. And I don't want her to see me like this. And maybe I just won't go, but I've missed too many meetings already. And it's too early to call her, but I've missed too many meetings, or I've been to them and not read the book and I just can't do it, but I don't want to miss the meeting and the book is sitting right over there so if I start reading now I could at least pretend to know what the book is saying, but I can't concentrate enough to read and besides my comments aren't as good as those of the other people and can't be since I haven't read the book and the books been sitting there for two weeks but I just haven't had the energy, but I'm perfectly fine so I should have read the book and then I wouldn't have to call Angie and cancel but I still haven't cancelled so!
I could go but then I'd be unprepared and everyone would see what a mess I am.
And it was six-fifteen in the morning and she did not have the energy to get out of bed or to grab the book and yet she was tossing and turning and wondering if she could get out of bed today.
Once upon a time she thought that she would have thought nothing about getting out of bed. And she wondered why it seemed so hard to do, but it did. She was wrapped in a cocoon of frustration and anger and despair and it was torturing her to move and sit up and swing her legs over the bed and she dreaded the day and what would come and what would happen and whether she could actually do something. And she thought, I've got a doctor's appointment today so I don't need to actually go to the book club. I can tell them I'm waiting and they'll understand and then I don't need to read the book, but I do want to read the book and I do want to keep up with things, but how can I keep up with things when I can't concentrate on anything and it takes so much energy and I've been up since 6am and I just can't get out of bed and I used to be able to get out of bed in the morning but it seems like so much work.
And then her thoughts became, not incoherent, only of the pain. At times it was throbbing like when she'd had a migraine, at other times it was just there as a haze that covered everything so that she could barely take a breath and those times she dreaded the return of the throbbing with every movement and noise and during the throbbing she dreaded the return of a persistent ache so that neither was a relief from the other. The pain remained.
It sounds so simple, she thought, when the pain had gone. It sounds so simple to get up and do something. And yet all I can do is lie there until it passes.
And it was around eleven so she got up and called Angie to tell her that she was too sick to go to the book club.
And she lay back down to rest. How long those sessions lasted was irrelevant. Five minutes/ Five hours/ Five days she was in pain. And she could see no end.
She'd heard that some in her situation were tempted to suicide, but that held no attraction. Could she be certain that it would relieve the pain? Could she be certain that it would be final? Might not she wake up to even worse – though she couldn't imagine how – pain? The questions ran through her mind, but found no purchase as all available centers were taken up by pain and longing for something different, some escape.
If there was a light at the end of the tunnel, it was a train coming to meet her. And the tunnel had no end.
She was in a pit. And the sides were soft so she could get no hold. And when she tried to pile the dirt up so she could stand a little closer to the top all it did was fade into the rest of the dirt and she felt soiled and unkempt and still couldn't see any way out. No glimmer of light appeared at the top of the pit whether it was day or night.
There were times when there was neither pain nor agony – they were few – but they were there. But those times she felt nothing. And she wondered, she wondered then, if she were still alive.
In the nothingness that was in-between the pain she couldn't imagine what it was like to go through life feeling something other than that pain. And when she wasn't feeling anything she felt dead. And while being dead was comfortable – more comfortable than the pain – it wasn't where she had been, though she couldn't see how to get any other place. And she wasn't sure she had the energy to go any other place.
The pain ruled. And when there wasn't pain there was nothing left. And when there was pain there wasn't anything else she could do except feel the pain.
So she started about the tasks. The morning had been spent in bed so she changed the sheets. Fortunately she had several sets so she didn't have to think about doing the laundry yet. And then she took a shower. She remembered that there'd been times she spent what seemed like hours in the shower luxuriating in the sense of the water on her skin, but now she felt nothing. The pounding of the water was like the beat of her heart when the waves of pain washed over her and so she was in and out of the shower.
She didn't have the energy to decide what to wear, but that we o.k. The clothes she'd just washed went at the back of the closet so at least she wore something different when she pulled the stuff out from the front. If it was a dress, then she wore nylons. If it was a suit, then knee-highs, and she just didn't have to think about anything. And thinking took up more energy than she had to spare.
And she just did not have the energy any more.
She was lucky, she thought, that she'd never used much make-up or done much with her hair. She didn't know how she'd have coped if she had to do more than the little blush and brushing of hair these days. She certainly kept up appearances…. She didn't think any one realized how hard it was for her to get through the day, but never having done more than the minimal in the first place except for special occasions and not going out just meant she had one less thing to do to keep people from worrying about her, though why they should she couldn't understand any more.
She had no energy to care about anyone else and so she wondered why anyone would care for her. And so she got ready to go to the doctor. It was her annual check-up. The card arrived asking her to cancel if the time wasn't good and since it was too much work to pick up the phone she'd left the appointment.