Back into normal routine, so glad to be here,
Free at last, but not so fast, still taking pills for the next few years,
Meditating, contemplating, reviewing the situation like Fagin,
A few hits, some misses, better think it out again,
I done come a long way and now things are looking up,
Gone through the conveyor belt but still no finished product,
Never gonna give up, I’m on the way out,
Obstacles be damned, gonna see this battle out.
All Souls Day rolled around on the first Saturday of November, a day on the Christian calendar during which worshippers would take time to remember their deceased relatives. For my family it meant going to mass at the cemetery before sitting at the resting place of my late grandmother, waiting for a priest to bless her headstone. It would be the longest amount of time I’d spend away from home since the road trip a few months ago.
Sounds all well and good but there was a catch – there was nary a restroom in sight at this place. Yes, I felt healthy again and could go out and about with confidence but attending an event that would last for most of the day with no visible restrooms? Yeah, innocuous as it might have seemed it was going to be a challenge of sorts for yours truly and I’ll admit that the anxiety that came with the fear of another flare-up and a possible ‘accident’ instantly reared its ugly head, clinging onto me for the better part of the morning like a creepy ex-partner that refused to accept the fact that the relationship had crashed and burned like the Hindenburg
Fortunately, the angry, profane drill sergeant within who had previously pushed me towards resuming ‘normal life’ intervened and gave me the mental bollocking that I sorely needed at the time.
Boy, you kicked Colitis’ ass like a BOSS!!! You haven’t had any relapses or accidents, all this negativity is all in your fucking head!!! Stop thinking like a fucking weakling and get out there!! You’re a motherfucking BEAST!!!!!
It wasn’t exactly John Hartigan from the film Sin City willing himself to soldier on in order to save Nancy Callaghan from the yellow bastard despite facing certain death from the noose around his neck but it was the type of pep talk that I needed to pull myself together. The anxiety might have been there but that didn’t mean I had to let it overrun and beat me down and once the drill sergeant had his say I was back to my normal self.
Anyway, I woke up on the morning of All Souls Day and had breakfast with my parents before returning to my room to engage in a bit of reading, an activity that I credit for helping me during my recovery and which I still engage in to this day to ward off stress and anxiety. It felt good to open up a book and embark on a half-hour adventure in my mind following a nice morning meal and it helped to ease some of the nerves that, at the time, were still swimming through my mind like Michael Phelps on steroids.
Just a metaphor, folks, not accusing him of anything!
I kept the blinds rolled up and the window open, allowing the spring air and sun to seep through. Man that felt so good! The book I was reading was set in a small town in the Arizona desert so I felt like some sort free-spirited adventure, riding on horseback across that desert without a care in the world as the wind blew through my hair. It was only me and the elements, my trusty steed and various rocks and cacti that framed the unsealed road under the blue sky that was tinted a slight pink from the earthy dust.
But before I knew it, half an hour passed.
Having rested sufficiently, and following the foul-mouthed motivational speech from my inner drill sergeant, I gathered my clothes for the day before heading to the bathroom to shower and dress.
Alright, let’s do this.
Later during the day, following a one-hour service, my family and I camped around the resting place of my late grandmother, waiting for one of the many priests that led the service to make their way towards us to pray for her soul. My grandmother’s resting place was overlooked by a line of trees that blocked off a steel fence that separated the cemetery from a residential area, providing some shelter from the sun. The only seating available was a small stone wall that the line of trees was situated on, surrounded by some flowers that framed a pebble stream. Sitting atop that wall for a long period of time was a literal pain in the backside. Luckily I had trained myself a long time ago to be able to stand for long periods of time.
My grandmother’s resting place was one of many spread out through a vast green field and as I gazed throughout the area I had noticed that some families had set up picnic spreads and some even erected small tents and covers to ward off the sun.
A priest arrived after just a little over half an hour of waiting and we quickly said a prayer for my late grandmother before he blessed her headstone. My parents and I then bade my aunt and uncle good bye before driving out of the cemetery and heading to the nearest grocery store for some afternoon shopping before driving back home.
Mission accomplished without incident. You were sweating bullets for nothing again!
I guess I was. That inner voice wasn’t done chastising me just yet.
Stop selling yourself short, Boy! You’ve proven time and time again that you can handle all the shit that life throws at you yet you still refuse to believe in yourself. What the fuck kind of bitch-ass shit is that!?
Color me humbled, that foul-mouthed son of a gun was totally in the right.
If there’s anything that this particular day had taught me it was that while I had all but won the physical battle (I won’t call it a true victory until the day I am well enough to cease medical treatment but I am well on my way), the mental battle continued. Truthfully, and not to sound clichéd, this turned out to be the hardest part. I could take all the medication in the world and live as cleanly as possible but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have horrible thoughts and paranoid feelings that one day I’d relapse badly, that my body will find a way to reject the treatment and that the disease would undergo some form of deadly metamorphosis.
You’re probably thinking, “Just don’t think about it” and “think positively” and believe me, I tell myself that over and over again whenever I find myself caught in that funk and while I’m always able to snap out of it, some days are harder than others.
I’ve suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety since I was young. It’s never crippled me to the point where I’ve become a danger to myself and others and I have ways of keeping them at bay, but there have definitely been days where I found myself not giving a fuck about anything anymore and others where I cared too much about stupid shit that won’t matter in the long term or fearing the worst about everything. Did either one of those fuckers spring up during the height of my colitis war? Damn straight it did! You bet your last dime that I was depressed over the next few days after receiving my diagnosis and there were definitely times where I’d silently freak out over whether or not I’d ever be ‘normal’ again, scaring myself stupid whenever I felt the slightest hint of pain or discomfort.
But I am fortunate to have good people in my life, both near and far, to keep me in check and remind me that it wasn’t all bad. I also had my coping methods that included, but were not limited to, reading, writing, music, working out (though that was limited during the thick of my recovery) and just standing or sitting outside staring at the sky, whether it was watching the puffy white clouds floating through the endless blue like cotton balls during the daytime or watching ghostly apparitions hovering past the moon in the hypnotic noir at night.
Staring at the sky is quite a soothing, meditative experience. Go ahead, step outside now and try it out for the next ten minutes. It’ll be time well spent.
All up, they all helped to pull me out of the abyss and back into the light, as well as remind me that I was a true fighter, possessed more strength than I thought and that I never folded.
I’ll never fold.
I got through that day in one piece without any problems. I am still on the right track. I just have to keep on fighting.