The Other Kind of Gone

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Art by Jordan Landerman
There is no repellant quite like chronic illness. Acute crises may reel in those seeking heroism cloaked as compassion, but true efforts to deposit karmic pennies in the piggy bank will surface. When a decade of hospitals doesn’t yield magical cures and you continue to break, those who cushion your existence fade. Not unlike the lingering sticky footprint surrounding your IV, people leave you gradually. They fade away particle by particle until all traces of their adhesion to you are gone.

Then there’s the other kind of gone. The string you up on a flagpole by your PICC line, skip country as you wilt away to jagged angles kind of gone. If it’s not already apparent, I speak from experience. Being abandoned as you die is, well, intangibly visceral. I’ve collected troves of diction on said topic, most of which are of the four-letter variety; you know, the kind of language your mother eschews, but my mom blooms by. (Okay, so maybe her cornflower blue irises don’t exactly replenish beneath the rays of my f-bombs as they did the first fifty times I owned it.) But she still glitters by my passion, in all of its forms. I digress.

A reproachful harangue about those who have ditched me this is not. (Only.) In addition, I propose an inquiry to all of you reading this; at what point does chronic illness replace the human who has it? It has been my experience that being reduced to a medical enigma, a perpetual failure to heal, sucks. Conveniently side-stepping the topic of chronic cruelty churning inside of me, others focus instead on how my illness burdens them.

I am not alone in this; others I’ve connected with echo similar sentiments. The take away message playing through our heads is this: I am not lovable. I am disposable. My illness is all that I am. This is a fairly simplified excerpt of the dialogue me, myself and I exchange. Instead of blaming someone, my aim is to unearth beliefs that put those living with chronic illness in the wrong. Because we exist.

Betrayal by body may be inevitable with Lyme disease. Betrayal by those I love doesn’t have to be. Stay.

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