Illness Visible: On loneliness during invisible illness week

At times I want to say, I’m lost. Not say the words aloud, though, since I am usually alone in my bedroom: the same bed as always. The same pillows. I talk to myself incessantly and inwardly, doing the police in different voices: I am angry, selfish, tender, wondering. Many girls in one girl. 

For years I laughed at the notion of an inner child, what an old-fashioned thing, what a Viennese fancy. As if no part of me could be soft, although I accepted – reluctant but honest – my own ugliness of spirit and body; accepted, because it was always there, my own bittersweet phrasemaking, my fancies, my self-denying. Yet it was risible to me, the thought of a child; even the recollection of myself in childhood was an unstable thing, pictures of her made me feel sick. 

And now that I have her back again, the shimmering and patchy “I” of the past? Many girls in one girl. At the same time, fragments in a mist, like some person only just irretrievably shattered. 

Touch me wrong and I’ll fly apart. I am a thin-skinned, blue-tinged egg of a woman: don’t hold me tight. I am untidy in sorrow. Here alone – yes, really: here, a place – I have such tales to tell, more than a thousand; yet I am pent in my shell and seething, then stilled. My soul takes shape, frosts, glitters in the light of my eyes. I am lonelier than anything, shouting at you, shouting into my empty chest cavity, shouting into the corners of the room where I lie, always. There is nobody like me and this is impossible to tell. 

2 Replies to “Illness Visible: On loneliness during invisible illness week”

  1. My week so far : husband survives heart attack, sister survives surgery / husband avoids ICU , sister admitted to ICU. Friends keep saying ‘look after yourself’ as if I’m to look back over my shoulder at ‘ the shimmering and patchy “I” ‘ of last week (the one who was completely absorbed by the inner workings of a poem) and feel safer. But I don’t. Need more words from the ‘blue-tinged egg of a woman’ please. Their honesty makes reassuring sense to me.

    1. Elaine, what a week – good heavens. That is so much, too much, much too much… I wish that I could really help, not just write this. My heart goes out to you, which I mean as a physical sensation: such wishing that I could be beside you, and somehow bear this for you and with you. What bitter tension and strain. I just want to say, you poor girl (of course I know you’re an adult woman, but to the girl within), and put my hand on your shoulder, and gently guide you into a garden where you can rest a while. I agree that honesty is a core we can hold to in the worst of times. Talk to me any time, say anything. My worst-kept secret is that I’m unshockable: if you need, or just want, an ear (or eye) that will never judge or recoil or be disgusted, I’m your woman. I won’t try to offer any comfort as such – just my love.

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