By Kristin George
You have never paid me for the hours that you have taken from me. You have demanded that I be at your beck and call 24/7, yet I am never thanked. I have missed parties, trips with my friends, and days with my family, yet you aren’t grateful. Even though you require my time, you won’t even give me a set schedule. I do not know the times you will need me or the times you will leave me at peace. I can’t even prepare for the time you will request of me — I never know when you will show up and need me. Making plans is futile; I often have to break them. My friends think that I am needy, but it is really you who are needy — you need my time. You need my attention. You need me.
I am on edge every day, not knowing if you will show up calling for my attention. You don’t ask; you demand. Knowing you may show up at any time is enough to keep me in bed, praying that you won’t return. I am constantly in fear — that what I eat will cause pain; that if I make plans, you will ruin them; that the pain will return. I can’t quit; believe me, I’ve tried. You won’t let me. I’ve begged and pleaded with you to let me go. But you hold me captive. You are ruthless. You have a hold on me like no other.
There are days that I think you’ve forgotten about me — that you’ve moved on and targeted another unsuspecting victim. Then, without warning, you are back in my life with an even greater fury. It’s almost worse when you leave for a time because hope sets in and I think you may have gone for good. I feel relief that you are finally out of my life and I can return to a life of normalcy. Yet you know this. You prey on my hope and come back when I think I have finally rid myself of you. But I will never rid myself of you.
There is nothing that you don’t demand from me — nothing that you don’t think is yours to take. You demand my appetite, taking it away as you see fit. You demand my energy, leaving me lifeless on the couch or in my bed. You demand my time, stealing every last second of what I have. You demand my finances, taking all that I have and never giving anything in return. You demand my friends, taking them away one by one. You demand my body, capturing it like it is yours to take. You give me guilt, thinking that there was something I did that caused you to enter into my life. You bring me grief as I mourn the loss of myself.
You stole my identity. You stole my ability to be normal. Because of you, I will never be normal. I will never eat the same food, live the same life, or function in the same way as I once did. Because of you, much of my life will be spent in a hospital. While I once was active, I can no longer be, because of you. My energy belongs to you. My time belongs to you. I belong to you.
Others ask what my job is, but they don’t understand that I am a slave to you. You are my employer. All of my time is devoted to you. I am dedicated to you, whether I want to be or not. My job is to please you. Sometimes I think that if I do it right, you may let me be. Yet you never do. Nothing I do will ever satisfy or appease you. You are angry. You are vengeful. You are spiteful. I often wonder what I have done to cause you to take your wrath out on me. Yet each day, I feel your anger through the pain riddling my body.
This was not the job I wanted. You are not the employer I chose. I never sent in my application for this position. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a wife. I never wanted to be a patient. I never wanted to be someone who is chronically ill. I never wanted to work for you. Yet here I am. Every day, I have to show up to work for you, Gastroparesis. You do not give me a break on weekends, on holidays, or for family events. I have spent many birthdays curled up in bed because of you. I’ve wasted many holidays with a bottle of painkillers as I tried to choke back tears. I’ve missed family gatherings because you called on me. You think that you are more important to me than my life. But you are not.
Even though I didn’t choose this, I’m going to fight you. Don’t think that you can ruin my life. While you can take away my ability to eat, sleep, and socialize, you will never take away me. I am a warrior because of you. Thank you for making me stronger, for helping me to endure more than I ever imagined possible. I will never stop fighting. So for that, I thank you. Even though you think you can ruin my life, all you can do is make me realize that I am stronger than you, Gastroparesis. I am stronger than your pain and your demands. And I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.
Kristin George has long harbored a passion for both reading and writing. She has since written Christian fiction, a children’s book intended to be a series, and her blog called Strength in Pain. She has written for FinerMinds, The Mighty, You & Me Medical Magazine, The Manifest Station, Army Press, My Invisible Life, Healthy Life Who, and The Compass.