I am remembering the first kidney stone that sent me to the hospital today.
I woke up in excruciating pain that morning but managed to type out a few pages of my English thesis. Curled around my laptop and writhing in pain, as I recall, I had my main character fall and split her knee open so I could channel my current state. I dragged myself across campus to turn in my latest, then tried to force myself to eat steamed veggies and some crackers while participating in school traditions.
Later that night, I would find myself on the floor of my friend’s dorm room, throwing up into a trash can and asking to go to the hospital. Sure enough, a stone was on the move.
In many ways, it was a relief–I wasn’t in pain because of something I did (like eat poorly, forget my vitamins, etc.), I was in the throes of it because my body was healing. In fact, it had been healing. What I had mistaken for back cramps causing me to sit out some of my dance classes turned out to be smaller stones making their exit. When I discovered the stones, a month or so before my allergy diagnosis, there were around a dozen split between my two kidneys. That was the summer of 2011. Nine years later, I’ve passed over 20 stones. See, every time I have a run-in with my allergen, my kidneys form a new stone.
I suppose I am thinking about this first hospital stone because I am anxious about what my body is doing right now. I had a very minor run-in with my allergen on Wednesday and today my muscles are still weak and I still have a low-grade fever. Forcing myself to write this post reminds me of the tenacity I had at Hollins, forcing myself to work through extreme pain. Living with a chronic illness is difficult. It is difficult not to feel disappointed in myself when I fall short of my own expectations. Logically I know that pushing myself when I am in pain is not sustainable, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to try and being disappointed when I can’t. I can write through heavy muscles and some mild stomach cramps, but I am praying that another stone won’t take me out a few months from now.
I am still working on being kinder to myself, allowing a break, and forgiving myself when I don’t feel well. This is work that should never really end, because taking care of yourself is important. I miss reminding my students to eat good food, get good sleep, and think kind, good thoughts about themselves. In truth, the reminder wasn’t just for them. Taking care of myself has been one of the most difficult life lessons that I am still working on learning. So, in the spirit of learning that lesson, instead of being disappointed in myself, I choose to be proud. I am proud that I have weathered so much pain and grew more empathetic for it. Proud that I did not allow myself to get addicted to narcotics, even when it meant going cold turkey and enduring kidney stone pain on top of withdrawal symptoms. And I am proud that my health has forced me to forge my own path, start my own business, and work on my own flexible schedule. That being said, tonight when I light my candles I will be praying for a speedy recovery and no more stones.