As my readers know, I have a lot of health issues, both psychiatric and somatic.
In so many ways, I was dealt a great hand when I was born and growing up. Straight White cis- male. Middle-class. Inordinately smart in academic ways (went to college at 15, had a Ph.D. at 24). Tall. Good teeth, good hair. Parents and older siblings who taught me the joys of reading and learning, and moved cross-country to find the right schools. A father who took his disabling illness, acknowledged it, and turned it into an opportunity to enjoy being a full-time dad. A mother who had the skills to keep us at least lower middle-class after he retired. Things that give a lot of advantages and privilege.
By age 11, I was exhibiting psychiatric symptoms, including depression and self-injury. By 14, I had a bad knee and was feeling the results of a spinal disc disorder. As I recently described, I had/have a lot of autism spectrum traits.
By 24, I was married to an abusive, personality-disordered, bipolar woman. By 25, I was a father. I developed anxiety disorders. The depressive symptoms were eventually diagnosed as Bipolar II. My brother was Bipolar I and a full-blown alcoholic married to another, which affects the whole family. By 28, my self-injury escalated to cutting. At 30, I was anorexic. My son was in therapy by 7 — still is. (I count that one a good thing, if expensive). He was arrested on adult felony charges before 18 (eventually dismissed).
Skipping ahead past several surgeries (knee, acid reflux, gall bladder, corrective surgery in both ears, etc.) and other problems, at 43, I manifested Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I also became a heart patient (for life) at 44, with some blockages and a rare congenital defect.
So there’s much of the history. Where am I now?
The bipolar is pretty much completely under control, thanks to years of therapy, an incredibly supportive second wife who understands and helps me cope with my various neurotic needs, the right balance of medications, and a lot of hard work. The anxiety disorder is also pretty much under control for the same reasons. My back only gives me real trouble with spasms 2-3 times per year. The acid reflux is nowhere near as severe as it was pre-surgery. I put on 120lbs after the anorexic days, and have lost 50 of them in the last 2.5 years. I’m now only about 30lbs above ideal, and moving in the right direction. Losing weight helps my back, my heart, my fatigue, and my knee. The arterial blockage has been stented successfully, and there’s time before the defect must be surgically corrected. My hearing isn’t too bad.
But most of all, Jalan. I’d made a lot of progress, especially on the mental health, before we’d met. She was not my first partner in a healthy relationship, even though I was on the rebound when we connected (previously, I’d had a bad case of “White Knight Syndrome” — and as my therapist is fond of saying, the rescuer invariably becomes the victim). Jalan and I had already been play partners and then friends with benefits while I was in my previous open relationship.
Right person, right time. That, and I have broad shoulders and can hold a good conversation — the first two criteria she’d decided on by age 12 :). We’ve been full-time D/s for two and a half years, and eloped nearly two years ago.
The CFS is the remaining big one. It’s also well managed. I’ve done a course of cardiovascular rehab, which helped tremendously. I’m still exercising regularly. My nutrition is good. I’m sleeping when I need to. I’m grateful that my work and life circumstances let me keep up from home, so I can take my 3-hour naps. I’ve vastly reduced the stress in my life. All of these things have nearly eliminated the primary CFS symptoms. While I’m awake.
But there’s the rub, and the frustration. As often as not, I need that 3-hour nap. And there’s no avoiding it when the need hits. And more often than not, I’m sleepy by 8pm, and heading to bed before 9. Occasionally more like 7:30. Even on days with the 3-hour naps. Again, there’s no arresting the progression once it’s started. Jalan is a night owl. But we can’t go out for an evening event without my taking a 5-Hour Energy first. We miss a lot of time together — I’m awake hours before she is, and likewise asleep. It’s tough. We’re both doing what we need to, but that’s our biggest challenge right now. But getting that much sleep is what lets me be functional during my (limited) waking hours. At the peak of the CFS, I didn’t climb the stairs unless I had plans to be upstairs for a lengthy period. I could barely do self-care without exhaustion. Now? I still fatigue easily, but nothing like that. But still the extended sleeping hours.
We’re making it work. Our relationship and partnership are foundational for both of us, and she doesn’t begrudge me anything. But it is frustrating. We’re tinkering around the edges to encourage me to sleep later in the mornings (including sometimes re-securing me after I need to be unrestrained for the bathroom). I’m taking that 5-Hour when we make plans.
But with all of that . . . all of the physical and mental health problems . . . all of the bills from 3 weeks at the Mayo Clinic last year . . . the sleep problems . . . the family struggles . . . Life is good. I’m proud of the young man my son is becoming. My brother is sober, even though he has other severe health problems. I’ve got the first wife mostly out of my life. Jalan and I are homeowners of a pretty nice place. Most of all, we’re building a life together in an ongoing process, around the bumps and obstacles. We’ve never argued. I’m happy.
I used to assume everyone’s life was like this, just with different details. I know many have it worse, some much worse. I’m grateful for the privileges I have. But I realize now I have walked a rough road. But it’s ok. I’m strong. Jalan is strong. We work together.
I’m a happy man, and I’m eternally grateful for that, above anything and everything else.