I went to a specialist shortly after my diagnosis, she prescribed some pills for the pain and some immunosuppressants to try to keep things under control. I took the pain pills like clockwork...the other ones were a bit more sporadically remembered.
It was summer; I had just met a new guy, one who incidentally would play a huge role in shaping the following four years of my life; I felt okay again, a little achy, a little tired, but okay. So I went right along with the drinking, smoking and assorted other illicit indulgences. I got through my senior year with the help of some great teachers. I couldn't walk from class to class; I couldn't sit for long periods of time; I couldn't carry books. I really couldn't go to school. So school came to me. Once a week, at the library, I’d meet with a teacher, take a test or two, give them my work, and get work I'd completed back. I got straight A's that year.
The new guy, let's just call him C., was great, minus some major issues from having abusive alcoholic parents. We broke up twice before we finally moved in together.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...That fall I excitedly started my college career, anxiously anticipating all of the things that had been missing from high school. You see I love to learn, my high school just made it awful. I wanted freedom to work at my own pace, to not be guided through the steps of writing a paper for the eleventh time, to actually learn meaningful…stuff. And that first semester was great. I took a course on the history of math, one on human sexuality, online classes...I was elated that this place actually lived up to the hopes I’d had for it.
My second semester at college, everything came crashing down.
Two weeks into the semester, after a weekend of drinking down the Jersey shore with C. and some other friends (he was just a friend then, we’d broken up the previous month) I noticed a strange pain just below my ribs, which I, of course treated as no big deal and carried right on with the fun. By Monday, however, the pain was stronger and I didn’t have anything better to do so I called my doctor who immediately told me to get my ass to the hospital (in so many words).
Pulmonary Embuli was the diagnosis. Multiple blood clots in both of my lungs. Along with a major flare of my lupus. Inflammation (i.e pain) throughout my whole body.
After a week in the hospital they sent me home, only to have the same thing happen again less than a month later. I was put on blood thinners that Officially Suck and I’ll be on them for the rest of my life. In the blink of an eye, everything had changed. And nothing was ever the same.
I dropped out of school, quit my job, and took up residence on my mother’s couch. I still went out occasionally with my friends, still talked to C. constantly - boyfriend or not, he’d become my best friend - but there was no drinking allowed and I was so sick most of the time that I was interested in little else besides hanging out in a friends apartment and smoking pot.
Six months later I was still sick as hell, still unemployed and feeling like a worthless lump, when C. gave me an ultimatum – I could either be his girlfriend or he couldn’t go on being my friend. He said that it was too hard to love someone so much and not be any more than a friend. I caved, easily. I loved him, well I really, really liked him, despite all of our differences and major issues, and I was in no shape to go and lose my closest friend on top of everything else that I’d lost because I didn’t want to cross that line between being best friends and having sex, which is what it really came down to.
Two months later we moved into our friend’s house – his roommate was moving out and he had a room to fill. Mind you I had no income and C. had a major taste for pot, which he spent nearly half of his considerable income on (for a 19 year old with no education). I think we made rent twice before we had to move out…and into his house, with the alcoholic parents and me, with no car and no job and sick, sick, sick.
I don’t know how we made it last so long. I think we both reeeaaallly wanted it to work, after all we did love each other, in an immature, bizarre, and cruel sort of way. We fought constantly and about everything: from the lack of sex(hard to feel sexy when you throw up everything and your hips feel like they’re on fire), to the lack of money, to his parents, and my inability to go out and party. I thought he was insensitive; he thought I was cold.
Six months later his parents moved out and left us with the house, the rent, and each other. It really was a doomed situation, but it happened at the perfect time. My doctors had finally found a combination of drugs that actually worked and I felt great. I quickly got myself a job and registered for the next semester at school. That was about the same time that C. lost his job that actually paid well and took another that paid about a third of that. That didn’t stop his rate of marijuana consumption or his keg-party lifestyle; he was just doing it on my dime now. I think his mother paid more than half of our rent every single month until I left him, which I admit was not a terribly long time. There just came a point when I got sick of telling him to grow up, packed all of my stuff into my trunk (where some of it still resides) and hauled my ass back to my mother’s.
And for the next nine or ten months things were great, I was loving my job, loving school, getting great grades and having nothing else to worry about. C. moved down to the Jersey shore to supposedly have one huge last party of a summer before he planned to come back and start an intensive 10-month auto body certification program. We talked every other day and I was hopeful that he was actually “getting it out of his system”; that when he came back he would be a more stable, mature person and we could give “us” another shot.
One Sunday morning in September I got a call from one of his roommates. He’d overdosed on cocaine and died of a brain aneurysm.
It blew me out of the water. I was so mad at him. So sad that he was gone, but unable to sit around and cry with my friends because I was just so angry that he’d been so stupid. The funeral was surreal. The weeks afterward I just kind of went ahead with life set on autopilot. A new semester had just started and life just had to go on…
And that’s how things went for a few weeks, and during that time I started having lunch with a group of guys at work. I’ve always had an easier time being friends with men…the problem ended up being that I got very close with one of the guys in our little “lunch group”. The real problem was that this one was married.
To Be Continued…