A Letter to My Anxious Brain:
You’re doing it again.
The video of the guy with ALS,
It set you off? Didn’t it.
It started out small—
Innocuous. His arm was sore.
Now he’s saying goodbye
To his son.
You’re thinking about my leg and how it’s sore too.
You know I did squats yesterday.
That’s probably it.
But you can’t be sure.
You hate it when you can’t be sure.
I get home from church and wash the dishes.
You tell me to Google “symptoms of ALS.”
I shove down that urge because I know that when I listen it just gives you more power.
I start to think about my leg, and it hurts worse now.
Or at least I think it does.
I don’t know if the pain is real
Or if it’s all in my head.
My therapist tells me it’s all in my head.
Actually, two therapists
And a psychiatrist
And a general practitioner
And a gastroenterologist
And two ultrasounds, an MRI, an endoscopy,
And $10,000 in medical bills.
Still, I don’t know.
BECAUSE IT COULD BE ALS
I’m not sure if that was you or me.
Breaths come more quickly.
I squat down. Then I stretch my leg.
Stretching doesn’t help ALS.
But you told me to do it.
You told me to drink apple juice when you thought I had Ecoli.
You told me to take my temperature five times a day when you thought I had Lupus.
You told me that I had Mediterranean Fever when I didn’t have a fever.
You said to me,
“That cute girl won’t text you back.”
“You won’t get into graduate school.”
“Your Dad had a heart attack in his room while you slept.”
You always have a snide remark,
And nothing can be solely good because you whisper, “You might lose it.”
“He might die.”
“She might run.”
“You might fail.”
I believed you.
I felt my throat (to check for tumors).
I drank the apple juice.
I went to see the infectious disease specialist.
I took my temperature 5 times a day, rectally (to ensure accuracy), at work.
I knocked on the door of my Dad’s room at 5AM.
Each of those times,
I got the reassurance that you wanted.
I felt better for a moment,
But, by lending credence to your voice,
I made it louder
A roar that echoed through every fiber of my being
And reverberated—an endless loop
In my brain.
It sent me scrambling for cover
And made me feel like I was drowning.
Like I had to reach out for a life raft
Or a thermometer.
I couldn’t LEAVE MY HOUSE without the right pills in my pocket
To combat whatever symptoms you might throw my way.
You feasted on each pill. Each check
To make sure that I wasn’t dying
Made you more alive.
But you’re a fucking liar.
You’re not real.
You’re a phantasm.
You’re a film over my eyes
That colors how I perceive the world
And makes me blind each time I try to see.
Today, I didn’t Google “ALS symptoms.”
I walked right by CVS
when you told me to buy a new thermometer.
I got drinks with a cute girl instead,
And, for a few hours, I couldn’t hear you.
Yes, I took my temperature
When I got home,
With my Kinsa digital thermometer
After I washed my hands with scalding water
(so I don’t get the flu),
I won that battle.
You bet your ass that I’m gonna win more.
You’ve had your say for 22 years, but I’m working every day to shut you up.
I may always have to live with you, but I won’t always have to listen.
In a sense,
This is a letter of farewell.
Best Regards (kiss my fucking ass),