Defining Myself As Infinite
As always, it’s Jen here.
As is typical for me, I recently caught myself in a highly surreal moment. Generally speaking, I am particularly good at catching myself in a moment I ought to remember for one reason or another. Rarely though, does this moment arrive when I am in a cramped dressing cubicle on a hospital ward struggling to tie the ribbons on the back of my hospital gown.
If you know me, or follow me on Twitter, I am regularly in pain. Now let me assure you that this blog post will not at all be an opportunity for me to moan. Quite the opposite, actually.
To begin with a phrase from the much loved ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ – late in the winter of my seventeenth year I began to feel the most ambiguous type of pain. It was ambiguous not because it was fleeting, but because it was widespread and growing. At the time it was merely my neck and hands which were suffering, but even then I knew something was wrong. Indeed, just a year after these pains began I first felt an inconsistency with my heart. Its a difficult feeling to have empathy or understanding for, but in short it felt as though my heart fell down a few steps of stairs, several times a day and each time my body would have to recover in accordance to this.
As though my symptoms were an army desperately recruiting for a war on my sanity, at this time I also began regularly (three to four times a day) subluxing or partially dislocating my fingers, toes and one knee. Oddly enough, I thought this was a funny body quirk, and didn’t even realise what I was doing until I soon learned that it was painful not to ‘hinge and unhinge myself’.
Don’t worry, I’ll stop with the medical monologue now as I don’t want to bore anyone.
Let’s fast forward four years later and three chronic (life-long) illness diagnoses later, and I am standing in a hospital cubicle wishing I had my mom in there with me to tie the gown’s ridiculous straps.
The light overhead was flicking in the manner that usually upsets my vision and makes me nauseous, so I closed my eyes for a moment. And then, whilst I was blindly wishing my elbows would do their party trick and dislocate so I could finally get this gown on with some decency, it occurred to me that I was in this exact moment around this time two years ago.
If you were to look at my medical chart you would see that technically nothing has changed. Looking in the mirror too, I am still me. All that can be said is that I have fewer freckles and my eyebrows aren’t quite as sparse (I’m working on it). However, in a way a medical professional would never see or a Facebook profile would never reveal; I am an entirely evolved version of myself.
It is true that whether we look it or not, we are aging. You reading this has changed in infinitesimal ways since yesterday, since two years ago or since your first day of school. We are all evolved versions of ourselves, closer to our best selves everyday if we choose to move in the right direction.
‘Infinitesimal’ is a word which entirely depicts who I am at this moment. If you analyse the word in the lovingly creepy way only writers do, it is contains the word ‘infinite’. Thus comes my grand conclusion; there are one thousand infinite changes between the two years I have spent in the time portal that is a hospital dressing room.
In many ways, I chose to speed up my ageing by allowing myself to accept some beautiful home truths about myself. To show you what I mean, let’s play a game of spot-the-difference.
Two years ago, or even one year ago, for me meant an absolute constant and palpable fear that my health would always be this poor and my quality of life would always mean that I could not walk long distances without a weakness lasting several days or that pain would light my bones on fire every minute of the rest of my life. That was the infinite I understood then and it crippled me with a fear more insidious than any illness. I could go on to describe the exhaustion which pulled me under a sea of oblivious sleep at least nineteen hours a day, but such times and memories are meant only for the past.
Now, the only infinite that I choose to accept is the infinite possibilities which I hold within me. Now, I am a writer because I write. I no longer dream of writing. Everyday I adapt my life to the newest available course to achieve my goals with exceptional determination. I have learned that my aim is to be my happiest self, and that only I can get myself to that destination through the decisions and determinations I make with my mind. However, I am a person filled with new and positive habits not because I got better, my health improved and I was given a new value for life. Quite the opposite as I now face turning twenty-two with the exact same problems I had then, many of which are worse. My pain has now spread to all my bones with no exception, but I am more blissful than ever. Perhaps that sentence sounds unbelievable to you, but I have truly harnessed the strength of my mind. And what’s more, I feel no shame in saying this.
I did not choose to be sick, no more than an arthritis patients begs the Fates for pain. However, I can choose my approach to the rest of my life with clarity. The decision was easy, the realisation was even easier. Never having had much skill with maths, I drafted a scale where my level of self-created happiness correlated to how heavily my symptoms registered on my day. The results speak for themselves as I have recently stopped taking one of my more powerful pain killers.
To be clear, I am not saying that any ill person can heal themselves. The pain and discomfort is still present in my body to the same palpable extent but I have simply turned down the dimmer switch on how much it impacts my day and I will never deny the exceptional concentration it takes to do this.
And so, in that dingy cubicle, I opened my eyes and stepped out to waiting area for x-ray, taking a seat next to a woman whose daughter was cautiously holding her hand on her other side. Politely she asked me how my day was, and for once, I didn’t have to think about it.
“Really good, you?” I answered.
And it was. Hospital gown and all.