Living illness, whether psychiatric or physical, is like living around miles of parklands. There’s no such thing as a shortcut. If you want to get to the other side of the estuary, you have to walk around it. There are no bridges to take you that half a skip and a jump away from where you’re standing. Nope. You have to walk 50 000 kilometres even though home is approximately a millimetre away from the other side.
There are no exaggerations in the previous paragraph. Truly.
Out in the city (which I’ll conveniently call “Healthtown”) there are shortcuts everywhere, and getting to your next destination is easy. Out in Sick Country, you have to do it all the long way. There’s no shortcut to finding the perfect therapist, no textbook that lists every medication that will make you turn purple and crave pickles. You must spend a million weeks trying Drug X and Therapist Y to find out if they’re The Ones.
Just as you can’t see the end of the estuary until you get there, illness gives you no high-ground-view of how long you have to go before things become tolerable again. If it did, being sick would be a hundred times easier. Nobody is standing on the side of the road waving a flag indicating you’re on your last kilometre. You might have one k left, but then again, you might have 2000. Hell, it might rain halfway home and someone might start walking next to you playing house music on his tinny mobile phone.
There are also ticks around the estuary, by the way. Did I mention those? Now you’re walking all that way with five hundred and eleventy bitey things in your path. You can’t hop onto the next taxi that drives by because there are no taxis.
It’s hard to see things as they really are when you have depression or chronic illness. The journey isn’t five kilometres. It’s 50, 000. There isn’t one tick in the grass. There are hundreds.
And every one of them bites you.
And you get tick bite fever.
In the rain.
Now you’re drowning in the tears of a self-made catastrophe purely because your fear created nightmares that never even happened.
Today, my doctor said something I’ve not heard in 20 years: “You’re on the mend.” It’s hard to believe, after two decades of fighting through all the wrong epilepsy treatments, that I’m reaching the end of the estuary, but I had to have faith that there would one day be a lasting remission anyway. Otherwise I would have given up.
I’m an expert at two other ways of not giving up:
-1) Spending the entire walk whining about the tinny house music.
-2) Starting a conversation with Phone Guy about how many candles I’m going to light for my bubble bath when I get home.
In Africa, there’s always a Phone Guy nearby playing crappy music who nonetheless makes for excellent company if you’ll just bother making conversation. Do that last part, and before you know it, you’ve reached the end. You’ve done it.