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Dialogue with Doubters

Some folks who have never been ill do not have much patience with anyone whose illness is outside the bounds of what they expect.

The dialogue below is what went on in my head during a virulent headache while on a visit to some gloriously never-been-ill friends. My head felt as though it was shattering, my stomach was roiled by nausea which alternated with waves of outright pain—as if a small animal were trying to claw its way out of me.

Dialogue with Doubters

by Joan Leotta

Me. (Aloud as I try to explain why I have to go back upstairs and lay down instead of going shopping with them) “I see lights others cannot see. My skull feels like it is cracking. Behind my eyes, men with spears stab at me. My stomach rebels, as if I have abused it, although all I’ve eaten was some toast."

Them. (Also aloud) “You don’t look sick.”

Me. (to myself)You must love green skin and hollow eyes.

Them. (Aloud) “You only get sick when you come to visit us.”

Me. (to myself, as I grab the stair railing to pull myself back upstairs to bed, feel my body shutting down.) You haven’t been there for the times I was rushed upstairs to bed by my father and mother—or the days I lay half-conscious but crying because I had to miss some important event in our children’s lives.

Them. ( Having returned from shopping, now another family group has joined them for the planned evening dinner. Aloud, standing at the door of my room) “Why won’t you come down to see everyone—it’s so rude of you to stay upstairs.”

Me. (Aloud, but in a whisper.) “Lifting my head means throwing up—even that one drop of water I tried to drink.”

Them. (Aloud to my husband, as if I am not even there.) “It’s all in her head.”

Me. (To myself as I drift off) Where were you when he had to call the ambulance to the hospital because I lost the ability to speak, and could not use my legs.

Them. (Aloud, as I am moaning on couch or throwing up, or in the hall next to the room where I am laying down, to my husband as if I were not there) “She needs to just get over it. Why doesn’t she take a pill. Pills can fix it. I saw them advertised on television.”

Me. (To myself because no one is listening for my whisper. I once asked my doctor, after we talked about the pills which are all contraindicated in my case)“Now that I am older, how will I tell if one of these attacks, especially one that robs me of the ability to speak or walk, how will I tell if it is a stroke or a migraine.”

Doctor replied, “An interesting question.”

Me. (to myself as I drift off) Maybe I will, next time, try simply ignore the pain and maybe it will go away.

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