When You Feel Sick and Don't Know Why
I’m 16 years old, sitting in a locked car in a grocery store parking lot. My parents are inside shopping. I stayed here because I’m just too tired, too tired to go in that place with the fluorescent lights and the people and walk through aisle after aisle, waiting for my parents to find what they need. Instead, I sit here and rest, my head tilted back and my eyes closed. I feel sick, and I don’t know why.
I’m a senior in high school. The school day isn’t over yet, but I can’t be there any longer. I am still so tired, like I have been for a long time now – but there’s more to it than that. I can’t explain it, other than that my body just feels wrong somehow. I’ve been put on antidepressants, and they’ve helped some, but there still more to it – I just know. I am frustrated and angry, crying and banging on my steering wheel until my hands hurt. I wait for my tears to subside some before I start to drive home.
I’m at college now. It’s the first day of class. I’m sitting on some concrete steps leading into a parking lot where I was sure I parked my car the night before. I can’t find it anywhere. I’m already late for my first class. I call my friend because I’m upset and don’t know what to do. She comes to get me. We drive around until we find my car in the next parking lot over. I wonder how I can succeed in my classes if I’m so spacey that I can’t even remember where I parked my car.
Still not sure what exactly is wrong with me, I blame my exercise intolerance on asthma. My doctors seem satisfied with this explanation. I’ve spoken with the disabled student services on campus about my concerns with traveling around campus. They set me up with a handicap parking pass that’s only valid on campus. This proves incredibly helpful – invaluable, even. I ignore the people who yell their disapprovals as I get into my car.
I sit in my car outside the campus infirmary eating a granola bar. I’ve just had some blood drawn (again). I have a tendency to pass out after having blood work done, so I’m waiting until I’m less lightheaded before I drive. I might be here a while.
I steel myself for a long drive. My car is packed up with all the things that were once in my dorm. It’s only the middle of the semester, but I am done. This is my second medical withdrawal – I’m starting to get pretty good at the whole process. I’m not planning on coming back next semester. I’m not sure when I’m coming back, but as drive away, I vow that I will.
I park my car and put on my visor. I don’t want to go to work. I’m so tired and work means being more tired, and being in pain, and feeling sick, and smiling and working through all of it. The heat of my car feels so good. It makes things not hurt so much. Every fiber of my body is screaming at me to stay where I am. I turn off my car and step out into the cold.
I frantically scan for a good place to pull over. There – I pull into an empty parking lot. I park and open my door just in time to puke on the pavement instead of my car. I feel a little better now, but not much. I’ve been feeling especially terrible lately, pushing myself through the misery to keep working my fast food job. I’m not even full-time. I don’t understand why I can’t handle this.
I’m sitting in my parked car waiting for someone to pick me up. I’m so tired, and sore, and distracted. I don’t trust myself to drive. I pretend I’m not crying when people walk by.
I’ve just come from my doctor’s office. I finally talked to her about the pain I’ve been experiencing. I’m realizing that this is not normal, that most people don’t experience this much pain this much of the time. This is a new symptom, and one that seems to hold more weight than the fatigue. They can’t attribute this to depression, asthma, or anxiety. I’m in for a whole new round of tests.
I sit in the passenger seat and act as navigator. I’m going to see another doctor. I think I’m finally on the right path. I hope against hope that this doctor will be able to tell me something new. I don’t even care what they say anymore, as long as it’s not the same old “everything looks normal.”
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Getty image by Nobilior