I’ve never been good with things that are pending. In recovery, and the more functional life that comes with it, there are usually many things in process, and they aren’t going to be resolved by one day or one action. Instead of the single-minded drive of an active addict, my mind contains a hundred worries, a hundred dreams, and a hundred tasks that need to be rated in importance and broken down into smaller steps. The learning curve can be exhausting, and it’s one reason it is so important for me to recenter myself with meetings or other times focused specifically on recovery.
Last week, I was diagnosed with a Probably Nothing. You know, when the doctor says. “It’s probably nothing, but…” and they send you to someone else to Take a Look. Like many who have been in similar situations, I’m supposed to go on with my normal life until the specialist appointment. Only a week to go now.
Logic dictates that I not spend too much energy on this until I know more. Yeah, my brain is all about logic. The truth is, a situation like this wakes up that negative, critical, doomsaying voice I recently featured in Intervention. “Aha, told you so,” it tries to say. “Told you there was no point in trying to change. Everything you’ve been doing is pointless; you were wrong to hope and this is the proof.”
“Do you think being in a phase of change makes you immune to the random cruelty of the universe?” it goes on. “Remember the woman who spent nine years becoming a Jungian analyst and was diagnosed with terminal cancer two weeks after graduation? In three months she was dead; all her work wasted. That’s what happens.”
It’s good that I am fairly quick to identify that voice these days. Naming and describing it helps to remove some of its power, and I can talk back to it: Oh, you again. Yeah, yeah, heard it before. And by the way, even if the worst happens, it was all worth it, because how I die matters, and how that woman spent the last years of her life matters too, so fuck off.
But there’s a new flavor added to the anxiety I feel. It’s not as if it’s the first time I have been faced with a potential, or actual, medical problem. So what is different about this time? Since I’ll need to live with this feeling for a while yet, I’ve been trying to get familiar with it.
Does the thought of serious illness scare me more now because I have more to lose? Do I fear the regret of having to leave this level just as I begin to experience it more fully? Or is it just that I’m more conscious and aware of my feelings and fears?
Both of these are probably at play, but there is something else. I think it has to do with the fact that, possibly for the first time in my life, I am actually taking care of myself physically. Not perfectly, but I am not engaging in any self-destructive behavior or any forms of dangerous self-neglect. I’m not pouring toxic drugs into my system. I’m not a heart attack or stroke or organ failure waiting to happen because of sky-high cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugars. I’m not ignoring the important medications I need to take.
Why would this make me more worried? It’s paradoxical, but I think I get it. In the past, if something was wrong, it tended to be at least partly my fault. Or, at the very least, there was something I was supposed to be doing to make it better that I wasn’t doing. So, in a weird way, I had control. Now I don’t–if this Probably Nothing isn’t, then it is truly not in my control. It’s not a punishment or a consequence of my neglect; it just falls into the category of Shit Happens, and it’s happened to me because it can happen to anyone.
That makes me feel vulnerable. Guess it’s lesson #8,323 in my remedial, accelerated curriculum on being a human.
What time is recess again?