Limpet Syndrome

It’s funny. Sadistically speaking.

For a full two months, I was traveling non-stop, navigating time changes and cancellations, suffocating my emotional unrest, and even taming the self-imposed responsibility that I must do justice towards the TSW community. A lot on the shoulders; a lot on the mind.

In all of that, my health barely wavered. Nothing concerning my health yoked me towards a doctor’s office (except for EH, but we can skip that small blip). But now, with my feet on Edinburgh soil and hands free of a camera, my health has other plans.

For the past couple of weeks, my eyes have slowly started to grow more irritated. I wasn’t sure if it was allergy related at first, or Dupixent-related (the life-giving drug I’ve been on for a year). I gave in one day, finally racing over to a drug store and purchasing some eye drops. They seemed to dull the redness and dryness, yet after a week, my right eye severely kicked off.

Currently, I am battling eye inflammation and dryness. It’s no picnic, and it’s catapulted me into an intense deja vu session. It’s unbearable if I’m honest, mostly because I was told to use steroid drops as the solution, and it strangely provides clarity to a question that I didn’t know the answer to only a few days ago.

During a conversation, someone asked me “what is your vice?” We all have one, some more clear than others. I couldn’t quite put a finger on mine.

Sweets“, I replied, knowing full well how a bag of gummy bears with a chocolate bar can easily turn into lunch on occasion. Nevertheless, I wasn’t fully satisfied with my own answer, but at least I offered something true.

However, with my eye sight steadily declining, the triggering trauma hit me like a sledgehammer. It is quite obvious the vice that has been molded into my core over these past eight years. It may not touch anyone else’s life much like drugs, alcohol, pornography, or gambling may, but it impedes on my life in a rather subtle, seedling way.

My vice is attachment. It is that feeling of companionship; of peaceful moments where I can tune out what may come next. I understand that doesn’t sound like a vice, but I think it’s worth noting.

So, a true vice by definition is an immoral or disapproving characteristic. In today’s society, it is more consistent with an undesirable trait. After being alone for so long after my divorce, to health disturbances with my ex, to even a fleeting, heart-leveling goodbye last summer that also circled closely around my health, an innate, literal vice has formed in me. Whenever something good comes along, I suction to it like a limpet. That distinct desire for companionship can be distracting, a sensory overload of thoughts and emotions swirling due to the foreshadow of impending doom that my health will rip it all to shreds.

I sit and worry that my health will always sit shotgun, vying for the front seat. That it will be an affordance too unsteady to negotiate. Even now, negotiating these eyes, even parts of my skin annoyed by the sudden changes in environment (and cat) and re-location, is taxing.

But, this is where I lean hard into my unframed self-worth. That not all of it comes from within, but from these muscles and bones that shape my figure. She is a body that commands attention. And I give her an identity because I feel she is a separate part of myself at times, disconnected from my health woes and worries that feel gross and undesirable. I display her as a shield. She is a flesh that distracts people from everything else. Hands want to touch her, mouths want to kiss her, to taste every chiseled rib and ab, squeeze every glute and hamstring, caress every curve. I hide behind all of this. I allow it to help me obtain the exact thing I fear I can not live without — connection. Physical, tangible connection. I am tactile by nature and sprout like a stalk with pure joy just getting to hold someone’s hand that I adore, or lay my feet atop their lap, or have them explore inches of myself that few get to inhabit.

Then the vice sets in, the limpet syndrome. The fear that my health will send all of this joy tumbling down so I must savor every second I get. So I throw myself into it, never wanting it to end.

Finding a balance in this has been tough. With my medication now, and the stillness that I am cultivating while soothing these weary eyes, I don’t wish to live in this panic anymore. I don’t want to own my body as if she is the gateway to someone loving me as I toil behind the scenes on staying afloat with my health. To always live in the “I’m fine” status when things clearly aren’t.

What keeps me going, knowing I can kick this habit or vice that has rooted within, is the beautiful couples I have met this year while filming Still Preventable. I remember wading through so much grief filming the first documentary, exploring the ruins of other relationships due to illness, but this time, I was touched by the amount of love and perseverance couples showcased. Both male and female caregivers cemented the fact that just because their partner is ill, and even when the road gets dark, they are still worth every ounce of love and commitment. And as I saw this, over and over again, I sat a few nights with one couple and dove deep into their relationship, mining for what it was that kept them close, even perhaps for what my own marriage lacked or could’t tend. They opened up, answering every question and morsel of introspection that was dripping from my curiosity.

At one point, I would caveat questions, knowing full well that I could hurt their relationship if I pried too deep. They never minded. Later that week, after I had left their city, I got a message from the woman (the partner with TSW) stating that my presence actually helped stir more affection in their relationship. That my prying and introspection didn’t hurt them at all, but solidified their love for one another. It was a message I never knew I needed.

Steady love can happen for everyone, even the chronically ill. That what may have occurred before in past relationships — whether abuse, abandonment, or manipulation — isn’t the only course left in the future. I write that more for myself than anyone else.

So, as I settle into Edinburgh, I take special note that having limpet syndrome isn’t exactly all vice (been a handsy, affectionate gal for ages), but to medicate the degree to which it is bonded to health and crisis. The wavering of my health, monstrous or minute, will never be the breaking point for any true connection. That my scars and skin are not to hide behind the bones and breadth of my physical figure. They are one and the same.

Be you. Authentic and fumbling and magical. Because at the end of the day, the father from Juno said it best —

“… the right person is still gunna think the sun shines out of your ass.”

I look forward to finding my own ass full of sunshine.

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