To My Best Friend Who Told Me It's OK to Be Negative Sometimes
Dear Best Friend:
My body had betrayed me once again.
Just six months ago, I was in the ICU begging for my life. Then recently, another treatment that was supposed to save my life (IVIG) was apparently declared an enemy by the evil dictator known as my immune system, and I went into a full-blown allergic reaction.
Time seemed to drag on forever and pass by in an instant. I was whisked into a seemingly never-ending nightmare of struggled breathing and doting nurses, feeling like a cobra was slowly wrapping around my throat. I needed endless Benadryl, two shots of epinephrine, a plethora of medicine to get my heart and lungs in check, an ambulance ride, and to end it all, a stay in the MICU.
And once again, because of the COVID-19 restrictions, I was completely and utterly alone.
I tried to explain to my family what was going on, but I barely had enough air in my lungs to finish a sentence. When I stabilized a bit, I tried to explain the situation further, as my heart rate soared in the 150s and the whole medical team anxiously watched my very long QT, ready to hit whatever curve ball my body threw at me next.
I tried to tell my family I was OK when I wasn’t. I tried to joke with the medical staff, and hide the fear and pain I was feeling when I needed help just to get to the bedside commode that was four steps away.
I tried to tell you I was OK when I wasn’t.
And you were the first person to see through my act.
You said, “You don’t have to be positive right now. Call me and tell me every negative thing that has happened today.”
You gave me the permission I needed to finally process all the intense emotions I was feeling.
You let me be angry. Upset. Honestly traumatized. Not inspirational. Not strong like I often feel pressured to be. I probably expressed my feelings with more curse words than you have ever heard me say in the years we have known each other.
And you loved me anyway.
You saw my cracks. All of them. And tried to make me believe they were and always will be full of gold. Even if I didn’t believe you.
You let me know that it is OK to swear, to cry, to be upset, to just simply exist and not force myself to be happy when I’m facing a traumatic situation. For the first time that day, talking to you, I didn’t feel guilty about being “broken.” I didn’t feel like a burden.
I felt like I had someone, and still have someone fighting this battle besides me. In a culture full of “toxic positivity” that often says “choose joy” when you feel like breaking down, you encouraged me to share my truth. Our society often measures a person’s strength when they are sick or sad or struggling by how often they smile and seemingly pulverize any depression that could be in their path. Fear, sadness and pain are treated as plagues that need to be removed from this earth instead of necessary emotions to express.
When you struggle with chronic illness like I do, you need that person who will let you absolutely crumble, and be there to help you put the pieces back when you are ready.
You are that person for me. And after years of pushing people away and you staying by my side anyway, I know you will always be that person.
So thank you for the late-night phone calls, daily check-in texts, and for showing up, even when you can’t come in person. Thank you for making me laugh, for being in the moment with me even when the only contact we can have is through a screen.
Thank you for constantly letting me know I still have infinite worth, even when I’m not OK and might not be for a while.
With all the ups, downs and uncertainties that come with living with a chronic illness,
I’m so grateful I can depend on you. I don’t express it enough, but am so lucky to have you in my life.
Love – Me