I was recently told I probably have Epstein Barr (that’s like mono), and that I’ve likely had it for a very long time. Like since I was in high school. And I’m 40. The unfortunate thing about the Epstein Barr virus is that it never goes away. It goes undercover sometimes, waiting in the shadows to reemerge when the time is right (you get really tired, sick, stressed out), but it never gets the hell out. Which sucks.
I’ve been trying to decide whether I’m glad I know (sort of) or whether I’d rather not know. I’ll be chewing on that question for a while I suspect. There was something wrong years ago – before I had kids and I felt tired all the time, and achy, and foggy, and couldn’t eat anything without dire results for my guts. But I was in denial. I didn’t want to have an auto-immune problem, so I decided I didn’t. That approach got me exactly zero percent better, so it can’t be the answer. But knowing – giving the wrongness a name – isn’t sitting well with me either. Maybe it just has to suck. No getting around it. But I’d like to explore the possibilities of making it suck less. So, how to achieve such a lofty goal? That is the question bouncing around my brain these days.
Obviously, and thankfully, having medical care that comes from a direction of understanding and problem-solving, instead of symptom-masking, can play a big part. And maybe facing the darkness head-on is better than denial. But I hesitate to give in. I know that psychology has much to do with one’s wellness, and positive thinking can save people from a downward spiral at times. My instinct is to white-knuckle all attempts at health. Will I fall into the pit if I admit that something is wrong? Or will it free me, as truth does? It seems the answer is clear. Logically, cerebrally, the answer to my self-questioning is obvious: truth is always better. I believe that. But it’s hard to convince my heart to get on board. When fear is running the show. When the baggage of years of it have piled up in my arms.
My mother had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when I was in high school and college. I’ve written about it before, but the summary is this: she slept, she felt awful, she was absent from Life. And ever since then I have feared that this would happen to me. So when I began feeling bad in a general sense while in college (and really in high school if I use my 20/20 hindsight) I diminished it’s importance. Fought hard to stay above the waves. I never fully fell in. Was that my willpower? Was my illness just not that bad? Was God keeping me from complete submersion? I really do not know. I awaited the results of my blood test three weeks ago with such anticipation. The mystery of why I keep getting sick is nearly as upsetting to me as the sickness itself. But then I got some answers (or, rather, an educated guess) and all was not fixed. Some things were better: no more wondering constantly; the need to search the internet for symptoms/causes/treatments was gone. But do I want to own Epstein Barr? Not a single bit. “You know my mom had Chronic Fatigue when I was younger, right?” I asked my beloved kinesiologist. “Yeah, same thing,” he said, not knowing the weight those words carried on their measly backs. I crumpled inside. Just what I had always feared, had run from in years past, was smack dab in front of my feverish, snotty face. I wanted to cry.
Often in my essays I end with a nice, neat “summary paragraph.” Because writing is my way of working things out, and the summary paragraph seals the working-it-out deal. I typically truly wrestle with the topic enough, before or during the writing, that the last bit can be neat and tidy. But this. This is a big one. A fear, like the virus itself, that has been lingering and quietly waiting for it’s moment – to explode on the scene and get the attention it deserves. My fear demands an audience. Maybe that’s the best thing in the end, though it’s painful and hard and scary. But…it’s painful and hard and scary, and I don’t like any of those things. I haven’t worked this one out to the point of neat and tidy yet; I’m not ready to give. This is a to-be-continued post. Let the wrestling proceed.