That person

Yesterday, I had my annual eye test to check for the broken blood vessels and clots that can occur in steroid-induced diabetes. All clear. Today, I’m battered from the car/road vibrations of those two ten-minute trips. It’ll probably be a week or two before the severe and exhausting pain of that dissolves.

This morning, I tweeted this…

I used to do yoga in our roof garden at sunrise. I wish I could be that person again. The thought is making me tearful. #vulnerabletoday

…then I sat to have a think, and here’s what I thought.

I used to be fit and strong, an endurance sportsman, running, swimming and cycling, thrilling at the superhumanity fizzing in my muscles and bloodstream. I wish I was that person again.

At the same time I had a good job and hard-won expertise, and I enjoyed an influential position with responsibility and respect. I released those things from my heart years ago. I no longer wish I could be that person again, but having the health and strength back would be wonderful.

Later, I got badly hurt and caught a virus that developed into myalgic encephalomyelitis, which lost me my enjoyable job and my professional future, and made me so dangerously ill in those first scary months that we thought I was dying. I certainly don’t wish I was that person again.

Later still, I started the long fifteen year climb back from partial paralysis and deathly illness to a sort of regained mobility and chronic illness. I’m glad I’m not that person again.

Still later, I reached the point where my chronic illness was well-managed with medicines and good sense, and where I could enjoy gentle yoga in our roof garden at sunrise. I look back upon that time fondly and wish I could be that person again.

Later again, those good times crashed when the steroids that saved my life in the early days and helped me sustain my fight to recover in the longer term, turned against me with side effects that were, apparently, inevitable, and that would inevitably kill me if I didn’t get off them. Which, it turns out, is similar to getting off heroin. This, now, is the reign of the severe chronic illness, and I wish I didn’t have to be this person.

I wish I was the person doing gentle yoga on the roof at sunrise.

And then I realised, I am. I’m still that person. I’m still all those people. They’re all still in me.

In this respect, I am the sum of my experiences. I am the sum of every person I’ve been.

This is why I can write my people. The people I love. Why I can be a steampunk princess flying a great iron steamship with loyal rebels in my crew. A modern day schoolgirl who inherits her family castle and all the ghosts of her ancestors. A starship engineer battling to save her ship and the thousands of people who live in it. A boy being dragged into a fictional world of his novelist father’s creation. And a chronically ill girl who leaves her illness at the covers of her books when she enters their stories and interacts with their characters, first as an observer and later as a heroine.

I’m all the people I’ve ever been, and I’m all the people of my imagination, and if it weren’t for my circumstances over the past twenty years I wouldn’t be the person I am today.


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8 Responses to That person

  1. Ashe Elton Parker says:

    This is why I do my best never to regret any decision I ever made, or wish that for any moment in the last near-11 years I hadn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I like the characters I write today, the life I live nowadays, and, most importantly, MYSELF as I am today.

    I am, in many ways, a happier, much more rounded and self-accepting person than I ever was before mental illness severely affected my life after the Navy, and I’d go through it again if I could be guaranteed I’d come out of it as the person I am today.

  2. Erin says:

    Thank you for this, David. There are so many times I regret not being the person I used to be physically, not being the person I told myself I could be. And yet, and yet, and yet — I am who I am now, and if not having my accident, say, set me on a different path, I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t write the characters I do, the stories I do.

    Then, too, my daughter tells me on a regular basis that I’m the best mom in the whole world (I keep telling her she doesn’t have a lot to compare me with), so I must be doing something right. Even if she does tell me I’m fat. πŸ˜›

    • David Bridger says:

      You’re welcome, Erin.

      Our lives shape our creative imaginations. And I’m sure you’re a fabulous mom. πŸ™‚

  3. Erin Z. says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post, David. Having battled fibromyalgia, intractable vertigo and now optic neuritis, I mourn the person wrote constantly and took pictures and went to college…but you’re right. Like you, I am all of these people. I think that’s why I write such tough/strong characters. I know what it’s like to be beaten down to nothing and then rise up from the ashes, in some ways better than you were before. πŸ˜€

    • David Bridger says:

      Thank you, Erin. I’m glad you’re stronger. I’m glad we both are. But I wish there could be a more pleasant and gentle way of us getting there. πŸ™‚

  4. Aiona says:

    This is a beautiful post, David. Keep writing, please!

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