The doctors trips began early.
“Where does it hurt and how?”
“Here, here, and here,” I would say.
I got sick regularly and often. I knew what a fever felt like, and I remember going multiple times a school day to the nurses office. The aches and pains and chills in my bones were always. That’s what a fever felt like to me then, a specific sort of bone-coldness that you can’t shake.
The thermometer always read 97.7, and the nurse would send me back to class with a smile.
I eventually stopped going.
My mother believed me that I hurt. She took me to many doctors to find the underlying cause of my always-sick self. The treatment. The fix to make me right. But even she got sick of hearing the story.
She had pain too. And she couldn’t stop. Neither could I.
“I hurt too! I’m in pain right now, and I have to keep cleaning. I have to keep working. Why do you get to complain?”
So I learned to stop paying attention. I learned to ignore my body, to avoid others ignoring me. I learned to push my pain aside.
They taught me to white out my body to get through the day.
Now, I cannot remember how I feel. I do not know. I cannot remember what it was like. I remember others telling me how I was so in tune with my body a decade and a half ago. Now, when the doctors ask me how I feel, what the symptoms are, when they began… I cannot remember. My pain is still with me, but I cannot differentiate it from the rest. I cannot remember. Pain has been erased from my vocabulary. There is only that which I cannot do—am I faking? Am I lying? I cannot remember. Neither the doctor nor I can tell. We have diagnoses, but the memory, the pain, the symptoms… They are the proof I can no longer identify or remember.
I try to say it loud. I annoy my partner, every three seconds “I’m tired,” an external reminder for a memory I cannot keep.
My body and I play a game of telephone. The messages are fleeting, passed through two decades of gaslighting and trauma. I cannot be sure of the garbled words and I have no book to write them in. But maybe you can. If you sit by my side, collecting clues as they come, perhaps we can identify what is happening on the other side of this veil. If you come with me to the doctor’s, maybe they will believe you. Lord knows they never believed me.