Stuck With a Fixer Upper
Since I got my driver’s license every car I have owned has been used; all fixer uppers. Part of me has liked it; I like learning how things work by taking them apart and putting them back together. Motorcycles, cars, computers, plumbing, electrical wiring, software, and anything else that ticks. I like to fix things on my own especially when I figure out how they work and why they break by myself. But sometimes it gets old, sometimes I don’t want to have to fix everything, I just want things to work. I finally have a newer car that (so far) does not need constant tinkering. There is, however, still one major machine in my life that I cannot fix; my body. It drives me mad.
I have been without any form of treatment for my Multiple Sclerosis since the beginning of November 2014 and it’s definitely showing. I have felt like I have been walking on egg shells for weeks and my health has finally taken a turn towards the worse. I had been feeling dizzy for a while, only when I moved, so I tried to take it easy. The other day though, I woke up feeling really dizzy, even as I sat at the edge of my bed not moving my head, the world felt as though it was spinning. As the day progressed it only got worse.
It’s been so long since I have relapsed like this; I almost forgot what it is like… I couldn’t walk straight by the end of the day so I laid down and fell asleep for a while waking up to my favorite sound; the sound of rain. I looked out the window and saw it was drizzling so I made my way downstairs because I wanted to be outside and just watch the rain. I could hardly see straight and it was so hard to keep myself oriented. I went into the garage and opened the door to just watch the rain.
Across the street was an elderly woman standing in front of the mailbox. She was slowly swaying left to right and this went on for at least 15 minutes. She was not well; Alzheimer’s I suspected. No one was home and I don’t know my neighbors so there was no one I could alert to this woman. She was just across the street but it felt so far. I looked to the corner of the garage where I kept all my “storage stuff” and saw my canes… all wrapped together with packaging tape. I pulled the tape apart and grabbed one; it felt… odd… it had been so long since I last held it. I made my way back to the driveway where I saw the woman walking down the sidewalk; maybe she did know where she was? Than she started walking into the street, wandering, drifting in the dark. The rain had pretty much stopped and I walked to the edge of the driveway to try to see where she was going. Into the cul-de-sac at the end of the street, then back towards me stopping at a lamppost at the entrance to our neighborhood, then she continues towards the exit where I could no longer see her.
Why could she not have stepped into one of the many houses along that street? I started to pursue her as the world continued to spin. I couldn’t feel my legs but despite feeling like I would trip over them I continued. Once you leave the neighborhood you are surrounded by two busy streets that are poorly lit and if she wandered into the street she would surely be hit by a car. I found myself feeling a sense of helplessness that I had not felt in years. Since I got out of the hospital in 2012 I have never been the same; I learned to walk again but have never been able to run. My legs just won’t do it. Now I could hardly walk or even see! How can I ever protect the ones I love if I can’t even help a stranger? Hell, I can’t protect myself! This angered me.
I made it to the corner where she disappeared and she was gone… I heard something behind me; shuffling feet. I turned around and there she was, about 50 feet away in the middle of the street. A van pulled up to her and she got in. They drove away and I slowly made my way back to my house; my head was full of so many thoughts. I stood there in the driveway, in the dark, thinking about my life, what I have been through, what I am going through and what I will go through for the rest of my life. What does the future hold for me? I tried to sit down in the driveways but I lost my balance and slowly fell. I let myself sit on the wet concrete, I let my cane fall and I looked up. I looked up at the bright moon and the thought crossed my mind. How is it that we can build a machine that can take us all the way to the moon and back yet we can’t fix the machine known as our body? I have a “fixer upper” and the best we can do is patch it up with steroids and various prescriptions. My body is no different than the cars I have owned over the years only instead of a piston not firing I have a synapse not firing.
Now I know, the human brain is so much more complex than a rocket or a car, but the thought still crossed my mind. I think I am angry because there is no electrical schematic out there to explain the connections between the 100 billion neurons in our brains, which means I can’t fix this machine. Still sitting in the driveway I looked at my car; how I wish I could get rid of my “fixer upper” and just buy a new machine that is not all broke down. “Why can’t it be that simple?” I thought to myself. I hate feeling helpless and even as depression started to creep on me I knew it would pass. I have been through this cycle so many times.
People often say there are different stages of grief you go through after being diagnosed with a chronic disease such as MS. I have definitely gone through them all but what I have come to believe is that even after you have finally accepted everything you must accept after being diagnosed, you can still go through periods of these various stages. Anger. Depression. Grief. It was hard for me to go through it all over the span of a few years but it’s such a roller coaster to go through all those emotions in just a few days. I suppose you just have to hold on tight; “keep on keep’n on” and wait for the bumpy parts of the ride we call life to pass.
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