Today is our ten-year anniversary. Officially speaking, anyway; you stalked me for years before we finally got together, and boy did you make a spectacle of yourself.
But ten years ago today I heard the words that were so jarring to me: “Jennifer, you have fibromyalgia.” Fibro-wha? What do you mean there’s no cure?
You were triggered by the terrorist attacks the year before, so I hated you as much as I hated them.
I kept you hidden away for years, ashamed to show you to my friends and family; they wouldn’t understand the kind of relationship we had. I didn’t talk about you in polite company.
And then I kind of got used to your companionship. I suppose this is what an arranged marriage is like, no? I was stuck with you, and chose to make the best of it, because you clearly would not give me a divorce.
Sometimes you drive me crazy, and I hate you, and I want to break up, and you make my life a living hell.
But then there are the sweet gifts you give to me. Like discovering how it feels to look into a woman’s eyes and know she gets it, that she has the power to be in charge of her life and her illness. Knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of people who are ready to give up. Knowing that my own life is still in my hands.
The bad days are sometimes really, really bad. You ruined most of my summer. But I wouldn’t trade the bad days for those moments of precious humanity, for they have made me into a person I never thought I would or could be. Those women I talk to? They pull me out of bed in the morning because I don’t want them to spend one day more than necessary feeling bad. Sometimes I almost let you get away with making me feel bad, but then I remember that in this relationship, I wear the pants.
So in the end, dear Fibro, I do thank you for coming into my life. It’s not what I would have chosen in forming the original plan, but then you crossed my path and our lives were forever interwoven.
In the grand scheme of things, I could have done worse. I might have ended life as a spoiled, fairly inhumane, insensitive analyst of humans. Instead, I get to know what it’s like to be a marshmallow on the inside; to be moved by the humanity and strength of others, and be humble enough to be moved by my own.
For this ten years, I thank you.