All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's assignment is writing a letter, either to an older me, or to my illness. Since I'm a rebel, I chose to write it to younger me.
Dear 20-year-old Alissa,
PUT DOWN THE CEREAL! Don't give me that look. I know you are elbows deep in some Apple Jacks right now. Or maybe it was Froot Loops. Or Count Chocula. Doesn't matter. I'd bet my meager yearly wages that as you read this, you are nomming on some kid-friendly breakfast fare, even though it's 11 p.m. and you should probably be writing that paper for class. I realize this is the first meal you've had today, since the cafeteria was closed for some mysterious reason and you couldn't stand the thought of a food-court dinner again. But you are killing yourself slowly, darling.
Are you laughing at me? You shouldn't be. I know all about you. I know about your "nervous stomach." I'm very familiar with the B-12 injections you get whenever you're home, the iron pills you have to toss back like TicTacs. I can tell you the tally of Z-Packs you've been on, because I know it takes two hands to count the sinus infections you've had since the beginning of the school year.
Ooh, I struck a nerve, did I? What about the laundry list of symptoms you take with you to the doctor's office? I know every trip you make - at least quarterly - you have a small, folded piece of paper with your complaints stuffed in the pocket of your hoodie. I know that the doctor gently chides you for being a high-strung hypochondriac. I know how even though that hurts to hear, you believe it.
Would you believe me if I told you it was going to get worse before it gets better? Would you believe me if I showed you the bottles and bottles of pills you were taking for illnesses you didn't have? What about the "white" diet you got put on to ease your symptoms? Nothing like dry toast and crackers to soothe what ails you ... except it's only getting worse. I could tell you about your rupturing cysts, but not in great detail - just know that on one June morning in 2010, you are going to feel like you are dying (you aren't). Or maybe about that week in 2011 that you make not one but two trips to the ER for fluids. You'll probably never eat sushi again, but it wasn't the California roll's fault.
Now that I've got your attention, heed my words very carefully: Find a new doctor. You are not okay. This is not in your head. Go on, do it now. I'll wait. You've got some amazing things coming up in your life. I'd hate for you to miss them because you're in the bathroom.
Yours in amaranth,
Older (but not old, dammit) Alissa