Onwards and Downwards


I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend of mine the other day. A slightly morbid train of thought or at the very least a scene from a strange black comedy. We were comparing notes on mental illness and trying to decide what body parts we would give up to be free from the burden of our diseases. After some lengthy contemplation, I decided I would be happy to give away my middle, ring and small fingers from my right hand. My friend, who suffers from a more severe disease than I do, and consequently is unable to trust the reality of her thoughts for much of the time, decided she would be happy to trade her whole hand. Obviously (or obvious to us anyway), the toes lovingly referred to as our “pinkies” which are null and void anyway would be happily given away to sweeten the deal.

I have felt broken for some time now as my body has become increasingly tired and noncompliant. My ovaries are on strike, I have developed the rarest type of psoriasis on my hands and feet causing them to crack and bleed, my big toe nail is hanging on by the slightest of attachments (soon to be removed by a professional) and my mind is at times, a parasite, enslaving its inhabitant (me) to wreak havoc on my life.

Despite this, little gems still manage to crop up in front of me. The Toolman and I travelled to a small Australian town, on the border of two states last weekend, in celebration of the Toolman’s birthday. We opted for some cheap accommodation in the main street of the town (our favourite way to travel) and instead of frequenting the surrounding wine region, full of city folk trying to “look country”, decided to make ourselves familiar with the locals.

When travelling, the Toolman and I manage to enter into the strangest situations that only being away from your home town can produce. It has become quite the habit for us to stay in substandard accommodation and prop somewhere, confident that inevitably an interesting local will befriend us. This town did not disappoint.

We sat quietly in an empty bar on Saturday night, after a day that had been spent much in silence. When I am “not well”, I struggle to communicate because of the energy it requires and therefore abuse the intimacy I have with my husband that allows me to stay mainly mute. But within an hour, we had befriended “Rod and Shirles” who wanted us to stay at their place, Geoff the local sheep farmer and Stan the book man. Not only were we acquainted but I had successfully obtained individual stories from each which included a drug affected daughter, a deep disappointment that a son had chosen an academic career instead of a life on the land, and a deeply shameful liaison with a married woman. The next day, people were waving to us in the street and introducing me to the woman at the centre of said affair to “see what I thought of her”. But in all this an interesting this happened. A man unknown to both the Toolman and I said to me, almost completely out of the blue,

I think sometimes we can underestimate the illusionary nature of pain”. And that was it. I was so shocked that I didn’t respond, instead chose to contemplate how this idea had so randomly been presented to me by a total stranger.

And so in contemplating, I wondered whether pain was in fact just an illusion or perhaps even, an hallucination. If an hallucination is the perception of “something” in the “complete absence of anything”, and an illusion is the “incorrect perception” of something that is actually “there”, perhaps my pain is in fact an illusion after all.

You see, I could have it all wrong. And just maybe all those religious types have something to offer. Because what if my mental illness, my psoriasis and even my toe nail are not sources of pain at all? What if I have incorrectly perceived them? Could they be little gifts, little ways of learning and becoming stronger and (shudder)….happier?

Don’t worry, I haven’t lost it, OF COURSE THEY’RE NOT! They’re just crappy and make me feel crappy and unhappy and overwhelmed. But as my Grandpa said to me the other day which resulted in a few tears springing to the corners of my eyes,

“You’re a great jumper. You jump over everything thrown at you. In fact, you should go down to the track and show those horses a thing or two”. I felt something for him when he said that, which I have never felt before. Maybe he has gotten me all along after all?

The next day, I tried something new. I got out my “Thailand-Special” converse runners and an old pair of trackies, threw my long out-of-control curls on top of my head and went for walk because I will not let this get away from me. I want to lose weight, shed the flab and move on, toe nail or no toe nail. And just maybe, I can walk myself out of all this malaise.

So enough of all “that”, it’s do or die and how true that is. Onwards and upwards peeps, back to calorie counting and weighing and all those other clichés synonymous with getting back on track, yoo-hooing, and fighting the good fight!

Maybe with a bit of extra effort, I can delay the inevitable slide down for at least a few months, maybe even years.

But by the way, just so you know, my friend and I drew the line at losing an eye.

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