Burned Out

June 5, 2007 at 3:01 pm (Uncategorized)

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get the bulls-eye off your back,” a friend told me when learning about my latest mishap. Another person jokingly told me that he’d rather not stand next to me, in case he was around when the asteroid that was bound to crash down from of the sky onto me finally landed, claiming him as some sort of collateral damage.

Today is the first day since I was burned on a Memorial Day weekend camping trip that I’ve been out of bed for longer than it takes to use the bathroom, hobble downstairs for a meal, shuffle out to the car to get my daily bandage change at the hospital or have a doctor poke at my wound. I’ve spent a lot of the past week reading (four thick novels, several magazines, and a nonfiction book); watching bees crawling on my bedroom window and calling for my husband Jay to clamber up on my desk to catch them and release them outside (it’s spring here, and I’m relating to the vulnerable among us–even if they do have six legs); talking on the phone (re-telling the story of my third degree burn); and trying to prevent my busy three-year-old from colliding with my giant wound when he pops in to hug me. Mostly, though, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself.

Self-pity takes up a great deal of time and energy. For much of the time I’ve resided in chronic town (the three plus years since I received my diagnosis of sarcoidosis), I’ve done a fairly good job of keeping the “woe is me” line of thinking to a minimum. I’ve accomplished this by being busy. Having a busy and bossy three-year-old does wonders to stave off wallowing. Andrew makes sure I don’t have the opportunity to lay around and feel sorry for myself. Whatever thoughts I have had on the lousiness of my life, I’ve tried to sublimate into this blog, which I consider an effort to build community, spread the message about what it’s like to be sick all the time, vent, and maybe, someday, get a book deal.

Unfortunately, the burn and the doctor’s subsequent orders to stay off the leg until it has started to heal, have meant that I’ve had entire days with nothing to occupy me but my brain. Rather than using this thinking time for something useful, say, to figure out a parenting strategy for Andrew’s bad case of “I’m-almost-three-and-a-half-so-I-don’t-need-to-listen-to-you-anymore,” or to jot down notes for an article, I’ve put my head to work enumerating all the ways my life is tough, my lot is hard, and my luck is bad.

Today I awoke near noon, with a throbbing headache and the realization that I am really, really sick of myself. Since it looks as though the burn is not going to get infected (everyone’s main concern, because the Remicade and prednisone have left me so absurdly immuno-compromised) and since all this thinking in circles has left me dizzy, I decided to rise and, if not shine, then at least rise and hobble around. I swept the kitchen floor, checked my e-mail, and thought that perhaps my on-line friends might like to know that I’m still alive. I am.

When I was horizontal for seven straight days, I spent a lot of time wondering if I am unlucky. At first glance, it does seem as though more lousy things do indeed happen to my family and me. Of all the people in the campground, I’m the one to be burned. Of all the people in the world, I’m the one to come down with the worst form of a weird and incurable disease. Our plumbing floods our house; we’ve had two major car crashes in 18 months; any medical procedure performed on me backfires; and so on. And on.

“You must have been a lousy person in a past life,” a friend told me, in an effort to get me to laugh. “I mean, some kind of horrible Chinese overlord or medieval baron who oppressed the peasants and raped their daughters.” I chuckled dutifully, but, truthfully, similar thoughts have crossed my own mind, in an unfunny way. Am I paying for something? Am I receiving my fair share of troubles? Even Jay, my staunchest advocate of the rational, asked me if I felt like I was being punished for something.

Now that I’ve seen a view of the world beyond that afforded by my bed, I’ve returned to my senses. There is no profit in this type of thinking. I refuse to believe in a world where camping accidents are overseen by forces of history and God. That type of thinking is at its best, magical, and at its worst, solipsistic. I am not unlucky. I am not being punished. I simply had a mishap – one that could have been much worse, especially when you consider that Andrew was sitting on my lap when the pot of boiling water headed our way. The only difference between me (as well as you, other denizens of chronic town, by the way) and the rest of the healthy world is resiliency. The same crap happens to everyone – at least, everyone who dares to venture outside their house. But when you are chronically ill, you spend much of your time dealing with issues of health both major and minor, even on good days. So when the inevitable, picayune traumas of life occur, they feel that much more oppressive. Plus, when you are chronically ill, every accident becomes more potentially complex. Everyone took my burn so much more seriously than they would if I didn’t have a multi-systemic disease that was being treated with hardcore immune suppressants.

It’s time for me to return to bed and elevate my leg again. But for the next few hours, I’m not going to host any pity parties. I’ll meet the next “poor me” thought that passes through my head with a truthful response: I have a doting, kind husband; I have friends calling to help us through this hard time; I have a beautiful, healthy, precocious boy, who tells me loves me at least twice a day; I have a nice home with views of the mountains; I have health insurance and enough money in the bank to pay for medicine; I have extended family offering to fly out from Kentucky or drive out from Billings to help. I am lucky – asteroids be damned.

1 Comment

  1. barb said,

    Rebecca..beyond the doting husband, creative boy, mountain views, fiscal blessing..is the deepest gift.. your choice to aim your mind’s eye toward those gifts and blessings. The ability you find to shift your focus is something that no one can influence. It is the gift that all spiritual practices encourage. I am SO glad for you that you have an open door to your gift and to letting in the love and letting out the stinging captives. Bye bye bees, bye bye unhelpful thoughts, hello peace, hello fruitful thoughts. Peace.

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