You may have heard the latest “buzz words.” Silent illnesses. “What’s the matter with him?” “She is parked in handicapped and even has a placard, but she’s walking in fine.”
I have dealt with many silent illnesses for most of my life. Abuse came first. But the short sleeved uniform blouse was just long enough to cover the fingernail stabs in my upper arms. High enough that no one would see, but hell, even if they had, back in those days, the nuns never would have called authorities.
That was accompanied by verbal attacks. “You are so stupid.” “You will never amount to anything.” “I can tell you aren’t my blood – never would have happened.”
At this point, knowing that I was adopted gave me hope and filled me with despair. I didn’t fit in anywhere.
As an adoptee, I was much taller than my mom by the third grade. That stopped the half-moon fingernail piercing on my upper arms.
When I was in the first grade, my uncle, who was a priest, was the assistant pastor at my grade school. The nun who had my first grade class seemed to think it would impress my uncle if she found me doing something I shouldn’t do. Little crap, like chewing my pencil in half. Or, being called on in class to answer a question – and you had to stand up to reply – that was the day we were allowed to bring Christmas albums to school and I sat back down on the album. This nun took me on the walk of shame several times that year – leaving the other kids (59 of them) alone, so she could mortify me. I still remember 55 years later standing in front of my uncle’s office door as the nun knocked each time. I never remember what happened after he opened the door.
Grade school was finally over – only other thing of mention was my youngest brother was born between sixth and seventh grade year. I had one year of non-Catholic education and attended public junior high.
We moved the summer before I started 8th grade, so a new school. I was hopeful. But I think I was also cursed. I had zero confidence in myself at this point.
Got through high school. Shit still happened, but nothing to really add here. I went to several different local colleges. I was engaged by 19, so was trying to find something that I could to add income while he went to law school.
That relationship didn’t make it to the altar. And my next life-defining thing happened. I was 22 and raped. Raped on a college campus in rural Nebraska while visiting my brother. It may sound stupid to some, but I was so grateful when the term PTSD came into our vocabulary. I’m 60 and still have remnants of the July of 1977. Silence? Yup. Went back to my motel room and squatted in the shower for four hours. Hot water lasted about 10 minutes.
Fast forward. Did marry for about 7 years – never could commit myself longer than that. Too many ghosts. In that time I had two beautiful children. He was a reservist. His unit was not called up for the first Persian Gulf War, but he volunteered. I felt abandoned yet again. We divorced about a year later.
When I was 18, I ended up with a bleeding ulcer. I lost 4 units of blood, and received 3. The next year was hospitalized again with ulcerative colitis. I still deal with that. If you ever see a person doing a fast walk leaning backwards, give them the right-of-way – they are heading to the Target/Walmart/any bathroom and afraid to death that they will shit their pants.
I move forward to the 2000’s. Think my undoing started in about 2003-4. The great thing was that all IT people at my company were regularly given raises from 1998-2001. My salary grew substantially. Y2K was my friend.
Was in my mid-forties at this point. I was the only female in my group and also the youngest by at least 10 years. My supervisos wanted me to give up some of my regular work (PBX, auto-attendant and programming) to these soon to be retired asses. My spirit was stolen. When all was said and done, by 2004 I was a highly paid billing clerk.
My body ached. My joints hurt. And I was confused. My PTST kicked in even more hard core than ever. I just didn’t understand why my body was betraying me. In Friday, the 13th of July, 2007, I walked out the door of my work. Didn’t tell anyone I was leaving, I just left. It was about 2:00 (normal leaving time for me was 3).
It took many doctors and many appointments to be diagnosed with severe anxiety (silent), fibromyalgia (major silent), depression, etc. I was fortunate then I had a physician who was willing to work my case as a disability and it went through the first time.
I was on a leave of absence from July of 2007 to the end of May 2008. I was granted retirement. My LTD was fought for a year and didn’t succeed, but SSD did.
This brings me to more recent times. Since February/March I have gone to Urgent Care with total dizziness, vertigo and vomiting. Each time they saw water in my ear and prescribed antibiotics. GUESS WHAT??? Silence.
I’ve been diagnosed (dx) with Meniere’s disease. Brings silence to a new level. When I’m in an episode, I often can’t hear anything. The others symptoms vary with the episode, I don’t always have all of them, but even just a few bring my life to a standstill.
My other silence factor? I smoked for 40 years and in the last 10 years was just under 4 packs a week. I stopped smoking 19-Nov-2013, but still suffer from hard core COPD. And that is why I have a disabled placard for my car. SO QUIT F*CKING STARING AT ME when I walk into the gym or the grocery. OK??
SILENCE IS GOLDEN, except when it isn’t.