He kisses my forehead, and the fairy lights in my body quietly hum to life, dimming in and out of focus as I paw for my heating pad’s cord. I slur an “I love you” without consonants, and my husband bounds out our bedroom door with more energy than I’ll have all day. My dog burrows into my armpit, and I pull the blankets around us tighter, shuddering from my toes to my fingertips with the ache that mornings bring me.
It’s at that moment I realize the pulsing in my left side wasn’t part of a dream, and I scrunch up my eyebrows and chin and let out a soft whimper. In fact, it’s now radiating backward from my outer hip to my spine, and my body’s string of twinkling matchsticks starts to fizzle with this realization. The pup picks up on my pain and licks my cheek before scooting herself closer to me, as if sharing our warmth will ease my discomfort, as if anything will.
Flop to one side. Flop to the other. Fuck. It still hurts. Flop to my back. Give up.
That’s enough movement for 6 a.m., my body decides, and its motherboard finally clicks off, dragging me back to a fitful sleep. Endometriosis consumes my waking hours while PTSD continues its new and intermittent relationship with my sub-conscience. A confusing blur of tableau nightmares and timeworn emotions skip past my closed eyes for an hour and a half, until my alarm for work finally sounds.
The fairy lights of my conscious mind barely blink on, our synchronized yawns reawakening the smoldering coals in my side. In the gray light seeping in from heavy bedroom curtains, my dog sits up and stretches. For a while, her morning routine involved gently nipping at my hands and hair, trying to wake me for work and her first bathroom break. But now, even she has given up on my body, and after an encouraging bleat, she lays back down and waits for me to come to terms with the world.
Already, I feel like I’m on a sea made sick by a slow-churning storm, a hot, sticky sweater of salted air, a thick haze that never evaporates. The nausea mingles with my pain, making bets on how much longer the embers of my mind will keep me awake. The fire seems to have relocated to my left ovary, currently the most alert part of my body.
I bargain with myself. I add together numbers and wonder if it’s too early for pills. Fuck. I’m going to have to skip a shower.
I drag out this daily debate with pain and fatigue until literally the last minute. I have just enough time to feed myself coffee and toast and take out the dog before I need to work.
I step into the backyard in my embarrassing pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt, thinking about all the friends who say it must be “so nice” to be able to work from home. My dog pulls me away from the deck and toward the edge of our property, and I cringe with shame. Middle-class moms running with strollers look me up and down from the bike trail, trying to determine what living situation allows me to wake up so late. I avoid making eye contact with my neighbor’s gardener — as if ignoring everyone would keep them from seeing the pseudo-adult in a shut-in’s clothing.
“It must be so nice to have the ability to walk so early,” I frown. “God, if I could move a muscle at 6 a.m…”
Today will be another battle in this war against my body that I am destined to never win. My incurable illness hangs over me like a cloud of locusts, biting at each and every one of the nerves in my body’s lower half at a rate that no painkiller can keep up with. The happy endings in my books sit bitterly in my mouth, knowing there’s no end in sight for the constant torment from my rebellious body.
I will take four pills before noon. I will forego eating lunch for a nap. I will get all of my work done long before deadlines, but still fear being outed as the sick person I am. I will sleep again as soon as I’m off the clock. My husband will try to rouse me to eat dinner. I will finally eat at 7 p.m. I will crumble into a ball as pain clutches my entire uterus in its metal claws. My husband will hold my hand as I cry. I will fall into the tepid lull of sleep — my only solace robbed by an abusive relationship from college.
I’m 26 years old. What the fuck. What the fuck.
Hours later, I’ll repeat this routine.
Days like these have become more frequent, and I gnash my teeth and shake my chains at what fate has dealt me. My body’s exhausted agony has worn into disintegration — a constant state of dim cognizance, searing numbness and foggy memory.
Please don’t find me out. I’ll fix it, I promise. Just one more test, one more medication.
I try so hard to deny endometriosis its victory. But how can you fight what exists to consume?