I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down

I feel weak. I’ve been in bed almost exclusively for three days. I’m finally a man of my word. But it hasn’t been out of volition. This weekend was beautiful and I had to witness it out my window like the invalid child in The Velveteen Rabbit. Lucky for me I had a kitchen stocked with food, a host of things to watch on streaming and calls and texts from friends all over the world.

I’m in a lot of pain. I messed my feet up in May wearing Birkenstocks up and down staircases. And my feet haven’t healed because they require blood stimulation. Basically, it feels like Kathy Bates is sledgehammering the bottoms of my feet. There are times it’s so bad, I question getting out of bed at all.

And then there’s the tooth. The root of the problem is a root that needs a canal. I broke my tooth, I shit you not, the first night I moved here back in May on a slice of pizza. It has hurt so bad at times that I resorted to shoving raw garlic in the cavity as an analgesic. It’s finally getting taken care of this week. And I will finally stop looking like a meth head.

If you’ve ever wondered how vain I am, the answer is very but within reason. When I was nine, I broke my two front teeth running into a window at the Anaheim Marriott. A dentist fixed my teeth with epoxy, but from time to time, it came off and I looked awful. I got my braces off at 15 and I was so excited to have a nice smile. Until my retainer broke off the epoxy on both teeth right before I had to walk in a show. I was home alone and terrified of having to model with broken teeth. I almost didn’t go. But I did. I walked the show with my mouth closed. I was so embarrassed I barely talked to anyone that night. And I refused to go to school the next day until it was handled. Not too bad for a teenager. I could have shrieked for days. But I didn’t.

I’ve never been able to rely on my health. I was sick a lot as a kid and incredibly sensitive. Ear inflections, asthma, pneumonia, anemia, bronchitis. Always something. But I was never coddled. Not even that night when I broke my teeth.

I remember sitting in the back of a van as we rode down the freeway in the middle of the night. The windows were down and my raw nerves were exposed to the air currents. I couldn’t close my mouth because I’d managed to bite through my bottom lip and my mouth had swollen. It was excruciating. Neither of my parents hugged me that night. My dad was annoyed that we were dealing with this in the first place and my mom was preoccupied with making sure Marriott paid for it. So, as usual, I sucked it up and was brave for everybody.

It doesn’t matter how physically healthy I am anyway. I am extremely sensitive to stress hormones. If I’m watching a movie and the doorbell goes off in it, I get a surge of cortisol through my body. It feels like being electrocuted. If the sun is at the wrong angle, I’ll feel it. If I wake up suddenly, the physical shock can be cringe-inducing. And I don’t know how to combat it. I sleep with Pooh Bear and a mask. I play music all night long and NPR all throughout the morning total the edge off. My sleep problems date back to childhood too.

So today is day three of staying in bed. I’m writing this on my phone between bouts of exhaustion and naps. My ribs hurt from laying down. I feel endlessly tired and sore. I can feel the cortisol. Not enough to sting, but just enough to make me all sorts of uncomfortable.

I need a hug. And by that I don’t mean I need someone to care. I need very specific physical touch that will trigger my brain into healing itself. I got massages every week for two years when I was going through the divorce. It wasn’t indulgent. I was so traumatized that I felt on the verge of a heart attack and physical collapse. I merely existed. I think I might have saved my own life. In fact, I know it. I didn’t value it at the time, but I thought it might come in handy one day. But at the time, I was sure I would drop dead from the pain.

There’s a quote attributed to Frida Kahlo. “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think.” I know her pain. And I’m intimately aware of mine. If you could feel it, the burden would be overwhelming. But every day that I choose life over the alternative is a day I have fought for and won.

I feel weak. But the fact that I feel anything at all after all I’ve been through tells me that I can endure so much more than I thought possible. And on the good days, I am so very grateful to sick Vene for having endured. She doesn’t know how strong she is.

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