Monday, December 7, 2015

An open letter to my doctors

I want to tell you something.
See, I'm not very good at math. I barely passed high school math class (and by barely I mean scraping by with a 52%) and the very idea of chemistry put knots in my stomach. I never understood numbers and letters combined with numbers and graphs and formulas. I do know that you plug numbers or letters into this formula and do all the right steps and on the other side you're supposed to come out with the right answer.
I've never been good at math, but I do know something about creativity. I'm a writer. I spend hours analyzing conversations, observing people, studying every tiny detail. I pick up on things normal people don't pick up on because I know how to look for them. In fact, I've written poems about the sound of your shoe. I make stories where sometimes there are no stories, but I guess then I would also have to argue that there are stories everywhere if you know where to look for them.
That's the difference between you and me, I think. You spend hours pouring over charts and lab results, plugging numbers into a formula and then graphing a picture of how you think things should be. And I spend hours categorizing each separate emotion and reaction into a different shade of purple, pouring over old stories and new poetry until finally stumbling upon the realization that sometimes you have to make your own stories about how things happen.
Sometimes there is no formula, and I know that's maybe hard for your scientist brains to believe. But I believe there isn't an exact science for anything, only many different shades of grey.
Akira Kurosawa once said "to be an artist means never to avert one's eyes."
I don't get the pleasure of averting my eyes. This pain stretches out before me and you try and plug it in to a formula and analyze it. I, who have been trained to absorb it and internalize it and regurgitate it out in the form of a story, instead turn it into a myth.
The sleepless nights, the cracking of joints upon rolling out of bed in the morning, the anxiety knot that sits in the pit of my stomach without ever fully going away, they all tell a story. They don't tell a story that's in any of the books I've read, so I'm doing what all good creative types do and going off the grid, writing a story of my own.
You are taking my story and plugging it into something I don't fully understand. You speak to me in all your fancy formula words, and they mean little to me because you are speaking a language I don't understand. I am the writer of myths, the house of stories, the mother of pain, and right now I am afraid so I need you to speak to me in words I understand. I know that its easy to avert your eyes from this part, the messy part, the part where all of these plot twists don't fit into that nice, fancy formula of yours, and believe me I wish I could avert my eyes too. I understand you're trying your best to give me answers, but believe it or not sometimes that's not what I need.
I need to not feel like Frankenstein's monster. I need you to put down your analyzing tools and your critical judgement calls for a few minutes to look at the story. I need you to understand that sometimes there are stories that don't follow an outline, patterns that cannot fit into your formulas, and I need you to reassure me that it is not I who failed the treatment, that it is not I who have become Frankenstein's monster. I need you to stand by your man, because that is what you do, even if your man doesn't end up the way you thought he would.
I need you to look at the bigger story, not just the graph of symptoms and problem areas. That's one thing I'm learning here at college, that you can't pick some parts and throw away the rest.
I guess what I'm saying is that I understand your medical brains don't work in terms of stories, but mine does. I am making a story to make all of this make a little more sense to me, seem a little less scary and threatening. It is in the stories you write yourself that you can talk the monster down into becoming a mouse. And I need you to put down your fancy words and charts and realize that you are dealing with a person, not a patient number. I need you to stand by your man. I need you to, at least for a moment, entertain me and my crazy idea of myths because its all I have.
I need you to, for a moment, not avert your eyes. I need you to, for a moment, become an artist. Look up from your charts and see the person on the other end of it all. Maybe for a moment wear the hat of a myth maker, a story teller, a crazy poet who finds details in the sounds of shoes (I can teach you if you want). Let me become your muse.
Because I promise you, there's a lot more story here than what can fit into your formulas.

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