This will not be a discussion on how this year has changed me. It seems to me, that you may have heard a fair bit about this year already, regardless of how little I posted. The word on the street has been that no one has been able to pass through this year unscathed. The extraordinary thing about this, is that some of the most amazingly wonderful things have happened this year. I have heard incredible stories about travels through Europe, cruises through vistas of tropical islands, engagements, deposits on land and new houses. Not to mention weddings and new friends and new babies. Yet, I still feel like 2017 hit me where it hurts, hard and often. I said good bye to so many people I think I have almost become immune to funerals. I still have Turvy, and that is special enough for me I think. So what changed enough for me to want to talk about it?
Losing my innocence
You may not know this, especially if you are in Lake Grace, but my change began early on. I was diagnosed with my Lupus earlier than people would know. In high school I struggled with quite a severe case of Ross River Virus. This mosquito-borne virus, took most of my energy, replacing it with pain and ‘rusty joints’. It was so bad my parents were forever taking me around the lower part of the state to be treated with natural remedies and well as pain-medications. Only a 12 months later, as that illness was treated and coming good, there was another bodily upset, a seemingly inexplicable blood disease. This illness was Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura and it was ultimately my body destroying my own platelets. Idiopathic means ‘of an unknown source’ but we all can see now this was the first disruption of my autoimmune disease, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. I was ashamed that I was not able to finish high school with the full-bodied energy and care-free nature of my peers. When the phrase ‘You Only Live Once’ (or YOLO) was nowhere near reaching the mouths of babes, I had lost my innocence and seen the dark side of the world decades before my time. This was the first part of me to change.
Fool me twice, Shame on me
When I left school, it was with the feeling that I had recovered, that I was well. Within months of graduating I was taking The Big Step that many young adults in country towns take. I moved away from my family home in Lake Grace and moved with my elder brother and his friend. We had a rental property, earning some money and studying. With fondness, I still recall the first big ‘Big Girl’ purchase I made, a two seat sofa covered in tangerine felt. In my attempts to ‘fit in’ I took to life as an adult how I had always imagined it. My growing-up felt like I was making a positive impression on my hometown to all I met and I carried pride with me from Day One. When I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus so soon into adulthood, I was ashamed. I felt I had let Lake Grace down. Worse, I felt I had let me family down. I ordered and begged my parents not to tell anyone. “I don’t want anyone to know,” I said. The idea of returning home as ‘That Poor Sick Jessie’ shamed me and, as weak as I was, I gave in to that feeling. It was stupid and weak and the cause of pain. It is a fool that doesn’t want help when you have already changed so much so young.
Ashamed of my shame
Over the next ten years I returned home only a fistful of time. Recently I wrote about my town. I made comments about how hard it was to be there with my health. The truth may be that I don’t know too much about being in a town like that with poor health. For the last five years I have mostly not had a licence. This meant I was not able to go home often. I was not always healthy enough even to walk moderate to far distances around my suburb. The need for assistance, specific medication, regular specific medical appointments/ tests/ scans was so high that it was not worth it. Nor was the risk of being away from immediate medical treatment during those times when we didn’t know what I was allergic to, whether I was having strokes or seizures. I was so scared I really didn’t want to go to university and should not have undertaken any of my practicums in the way that I did. Worse than being ashamed of failing at being a ‘Big Girl in the Big City’, I had made myself into ‘That Poor Sick Jessie Who Won’t Accept Help and Holds Everyone at Arm’s Length’. If you think that title is hard to say, trying putting up with me!
I have never been one to aspire to some grand dream. I have just wanted to be average. Just one of the crowd. In my opinion my parents must be some of the more respectable people in their community. It appears to me as though they are diligent, trustworthy, reliable and honest. They are loyal to local businesses, clear spoken and always happy to offer a hand to help. All I have ever wanted to be was someone like them. And yet, the first thing I did, when necessity called for it, was to build up walls and dig down into my fortress. This is not how they would have handled things. Yes, I see this was a maturity thing and no true failing for me. But if I could have my time again, I would like to think I would have turned to Lake Grace with open arms and asked for guidance. Maybe. In every way I have changed over the last decade or so, it is because I did not let people in.
How this has changed me
I do not know innately how to open myself now. It feels as though this break down I have just lived through was the stripping away of all my layers built up since I first became ill. This is both good and bad. Now I am incredibly lonely in my heart and find dating difficult. I am a complete package with so much baggage we may need a 40-foot container to cram it all in. My character is wisened and harsh My wit is sharp. And my humour is so black and twisted you may think it was painted in the dark by M.C. Escher. There is no room for the kind of ‘easy-going’ that you need to flirt and enjoy the simple things in early dating days. I have been broken back emotionally to the age I was when this has started. My reliance on my parents for assistance, help and happiness is as it was at the end of my teenage years. You may say that I am a jolly mess. You wouldn’t be wrong. But at least everything is in the open now.
My hopes for the new year are to become an adult emotionally. I have already started to make ‘adult’ friends and take steps into the ‘adult’ realm. There are a few opportunities for me coming up to help me grow some more. I will walk into these with open arms and hope that I stay an adult when I am there. There is no limit to how much I can change, given how much I have changed already.
I promise I will not disappoint you again Lake Grace.