Today is my birthday, my 24th birthday to be exact. My time on this Earth has felt extensive, but somehow birthdays remind me that my journey has just begun. It's crazy to think that I have so much more to go (or do I?).
It's 5:05 AM. I woke up at 4:27 AM with a need to write, though I am not sure if or when I will post this.
The truth is I hate my birthday. It is the saddest day of the year. It is my least favorite day of the year and is always surprisingly traumatizing. It is usually a day of heart-breaking sadness where I cry for hours in solitude, from a feeling of loneliness. As an introvert, I usually thrive in solitude, but as I tweeted the other day, "There is a fine line between solitude and loneliness". This has been the case for at least the last 7 years. It is a day when I inevitably come back to the realization that no one loves me the way I need and want to be loved, even myself, because perhaps we all don't know how. It's a striking thought to have, but it's the truth. My truth.
For the past few years, I've battled with intense anxiety over the few days leading to my birthday, with the climax being on my birthday, and then subsequently I spend the few days after my birthday quite literally recovering from the emotional trauma of my birthday.
I cry for many things on my birthday, though this year I don't cry (yet). I actually feel totally numb. This is how I have felt about everything, since my dad died. I just feel nothing. Well for a while, I felt pain from the loss of my rock, sure. But everything else has just felt too temporary and fleeting to waste a breath on. I still cry and scream in mourning occasionally. But the tormenting pain has been replaced with something that looks like acceptance, but isn't actually it's acceptance. It's more like a silent despair, caused by the understanding of the impossibility of getting my father back. I digress.
On my birthdays, I inevitably think about the ways I have catered to some people on their birthdays in the past, treating them to lovely meals, buying them gifts (though rarely because I am not really that into gifts- giving or receiving), and of course, being a part of their surprise birthday parties. I can't tell you how melancholic I become when I receive those emails containing plots and plans for a surprise birthday for the person of honor- and the older I get, the more I receive and the more I find myself on the planning committee in the first place. Yes, there are people who occasionally ask enthusiastically what I am doing for my birthday or feign interest in helping me plan one or make promises that they can't keep. And yes I've tried to better my birthday too...I've organized dinners and parties for myself, tried isolating myself so that I can enjoy my own company, have spent the day in church praying, etc. But nothing has felt good. I want to feel celebrated. The melancholy I feel upon reading those surprise party emails, always comes after a smile. Because truthfully, it is a beautiful thing. I literally smile at the people who plan such things and the people they plan them for because it's just lovely- to celebrate the ones we love and to put our effort into organizing something to make them feel that much more special on their most special day . Alas, those thoughts come crashing down like a harsh wave, that inevitably catapults my tears. I think about the way that I have tried to show people how special they are to me, but then think about how people always tell me I'm special but hardly help me feel special....on my birthday. (and yes I know birthdays are a social construction...) The only two people who have made me feel special on my birthday are my parents. God bless them. I know in life we should give without the expectation of receiving or love without the expectation of being loved. I try and give people the benefit of the doubt and try and convince myself that it is wrong to have expectations or to believe that it is other people's responsibility to make me feel things. I know better. No one owes Naika anything. But I'm human.
I see the text messages and tweets that should be phone calls, the routine Facebook messages (which actually bring a temporary smile to my face), sometimes think about the people who forgot to do either of the two and roll my eyes at those who get the date wrong year after year. And I just...sigh.
I find that I spend most of August 30th holding my breath, waiting for August 31st to come so I can let go of expectations, forget my disappointments, and exhale. I wish time away like the sun wishes the stars away when it rises. As if in those 24 hours, this dark secret is revealed to me. Imagine a box opening before your eyes, and seeing that nothing is inside, and having to stare at that box for a whole day. Luckily, the box disappears the next day, but every year is a promise that the box will open itself up again. There is a lesson to be learned in that pandora's box of mine, but in 24 years, I have not learned it.
I don't know how or why this started or even why I chose to write about it. This is by no means a post written with the intent of complaining or of placing blame or of causing self-deprication. I guess, since my dad died in March, and maybe even before, I've been trying to write the truth in an attempt to speak truth to the past, present and future. I feel this need to put it out into the universe that this happened and that this was real. Perhaps it stems from my love of history or my sincere belief in the power of words- art. I need the universe to know- to have it documented in words- that this happened and this was the truth of a 24 year old girl at 5 AM on August 30, 2013.
In the past...and even a little bit right now...I have felt quite silly about this, even though I know it's real....in the way that feelings are always real. I have thought about people who have more important things to worry about things like making ends meet, putting food on the table, and battling illnesses. Well, this year I am one of those people, especially in terms of the latter example- battling illnesses...Here goes...
The night my daddy died, I thought about the line "It was said by black thought that things fall apart" as I watched all the walls around me come crashing down. Granted, I was pretty delirious, if not literally psychotic while on suicide watch, but that's what happened. Within days, I developed some really strange physical symptoms and mental symptoms (mostly depression) that I had never had before. Originally, they came and went but after a week or 2 they just multiplied in intensity. Besides trying to cope with the biggest loss of my life, trying not to fail medical school and trying to have faith, I spent most of the time observing my body....and mind....fail itself.
People had this idea that I was "strong" and I don't know maybe I am, maybe I'm not. But, the truth is that, even though I was able to perform for the exterior world, my internal world was quite literally disintegrating before my eyes. I mean in very tangible ways. Every day was a new symptom and every few weeks was a new diagnosis. In the past 5 months, I have been diagnosed with half a dozen pathologies, all seemingly unrelated, all of which have no cure, and all of which have no physiological cause, which is most disturbing to me. Yet, it validates what I suspected from the moment I received my first diagnosis; this idea that this is happening because of an emotional/mental/psychological trauma resulting from the sudden, absurd, and unexpected death of my daddy.
Since then, I have had a new diagnosis every few weeks. And please take me seriously. It is...so....serious. To put this into context, I was at a doctor's appointment yesterday. She decided to take my vitals right before I left because we were just talking for the first 2 hours and she wanted to make sure to check me out, as per protocol. It was then noted that I had a fever of 101 degrees even though I felt perfectly fine, then things just started to...fall apart. I was rushed to a clinic and after a series of tests, it was determined that I have yet another problem. A problem which almost guaranteed excruciating pain within 48 hours, due to an almost inevitable rupture. What?? The root of the problem was unknown, but the diagnosis was certain and the outcome, well-predicted and almost inevitable. And the only solution would be to rush to the ER to receive pain medication. And all I can say was "Ok, but please, not on my birthday". My doctor and I held hands and cried together for awhile.
This is my new life and what has been happening every few weeks since my dad died. Now, I'd like to take a moment and say to anyone reading this who might be freaking out....none of my pathologies are actually fatal, thank God. Though, who knows what will happen at this rate- and I don't say that as a pessimist. I simply mean that I wouldn't be surprised if I was diagnosed with something fatal soon, given the rate of my disintegration. In fact, I'm quite ready for it. Obviously, I don't want that to happen and I pray it doesn't. But, really who knows. My pathologies just promise chronic discomfort/pain, some really unfortunate internal and external symptoms (most of which are well-hidden), and two of them potentially destroy the one hope that almost every woman on this planet has ever had.
Sometimes you get what you ask for...kind of. When I decided to pursue natural medicine instead of conventional, I told God that I wouldn't go through with it unless I could see it work in my own life. And I did. I've been curing myself and my immediate family of simple acute pathologies for the past 2 years or so, but nothing nearly as intense as what I am going through right now.
That is why naturopathic medicine has exactly one year to cure me or at least drastically help me in my process. I will use no other modalities of medicine unless I am in a position where I am unable to speak for myself and that action is decided by another person on my behalf. It's allot to ask since again, none of my diseases actually have a known cause or cure. If you know me, and you probably don't, you know that I am a person of my word. This medicine has until August 30th, 2014 to cure me to some measurable extent. If it doesn't happen, I will leave this medicine forever. Without doubt or hesitation. And I will never look back. This is a fact. But....somehow, I feel hope...or something like it.
In naturopathic medicine, there is this idea of the "unity of disease"and that there is only one illness, but many manifestations. I totally agree. I know that the cause of my health problems is because of something deeper- whether it be the suppression of my spirit during the spring quarter that I had to literally PUSH through, or the real feeling of neglect I experience from my surroundings, or....a lack of love....true love....not romantic love....but just...love, or something deeply embedded in my past that needs to resurface. But there is something, and it certainly isn't in the physical realm, which is validated by the fact that none of these pathologies actually have a physical cause. They just....happened.
So this birthday is a little different from others. Last year, I was a 23 year old girl with health and a father. One year later, I have neither. It's really crazy. I went from never seeing a doctor and being under no medications, to literally having my calendar flooded with medical appointments and my medicine cabinet filled with dozens of natural medicines and herbs. This birthday will be spent praying for the excruciating pain that is already brewing as I write this to be delayed just a little bit- please not on my birthday. My birthdays are never good, but this would undeniably make it worse.
Every birthday, I blow out candles- physical ones or a metaphorical ones, and I make a wish. Usually, it is to become a better person, to love more so that I can receive more love, to be understood and to understand, and always to have a better birthday the next year, though it has never happened. As I watch the sun rise on my balcony, I say my own prayer:
Open my heart,
and let Your spirit flow through my veins and arteries like a healing water.
Cleanse my mind, body, and spirit so that I may heal from the inside out.
In that healing, allow me to become a beacon of light to others and to myself,
Help me see Your love for me when I gaze at my reflection.
Bless me with a heart of gratitude, a fountain of faith, and pillar of strength.
Allow me to heal and be healed so that I may glorify Your name.
Here's to 24.