I know how this is supposed to go.

I call the ambulance. The hunky ambulance drivers hop out. They shout exciting and dramatic-sounding phrases like “go go go!” and “this woman needs a doctor, STAT!” The ambulance flashes lights as the paramedics drive me to the hospital. I am swiftly diagnosed by doctors who look like they’ve just strolled off the set of Grey’s Anatomy. I go in for surgery before the commercial break, and when I wake up, my parents greet me with tears in their eyes.

What happened to me was somewhat different.

I went to the ER twice before getting a correct diagnosis. I was afraid to go in to see my primary care physician during that time, because she had a tendency to talk to me endlessly about my weight and ignore my digestive problems, or worse, blame me for them. On the day of my surgery, those hunky paramedics insisted I was wrong and didn’t need to go to the hospital. I drove myself. Turned out I needed emergency surgery.

I was told the surgery would barely hurt. It hurt tremendously. The surgeon set a limit on my pain medication that did not adequately take the pain away. I was scheduled to have a second surgery the next day, but I was in so much pain that I insisted the hospital push the surgery back until after the weekend. Because of this rather sensible step towards self-care, I was yelled at by three separate doctors, including my surgeon, because my agency had dared to interrupt their schedules.

My mother visited me in the hospital. She decided to bring up my abuse history while I lay in bed the day after surgery. She tried to use my weakened state to browbeat me into insisting I was lying about the abuse.

This is my life. These are the conditions of my life. The objective facts.

It would be easier if American pop culture hadn’t taught me to expect better. For some of us, better is not coming. There is no one coming to save the day. There is no best friend or lover who shows up just as we are dying from cancer. We are sick, which means we are bloated or fat and bald and gross and panicky and we say things that are not cute or sweet or insightful.

We are sick for real. In the real world. And trust me, it’s not a fun place to be.

Writes all the things. Photographs the light. Smiles at odd moments. Reads in the shower. Sings to the trees. Hopes a lot.

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