Sunday, July 11, 2010

ENTRY # 4 - Art to Mud

Short Description of Mud: An oppressive and murky substance or situation that mostly stinks.

From my best recollection, my first "something is really wrong" moment came during my familiar walk across the parking lot of University of Houston in Clear Lake, on my way to a class. September 2001...I was finishing my degree in Humanities and loved all of my classes. With a concentration in Visual Arts and Design, I looked forward to each class, well, to be honest, I didn't exactly jump for joy at the thought of having to attend Art History. This wasn't your junior, non-art major version. It was the kick-ass, upper art major version.

My day had already been very full. Running a litigation support business of 40-50 hours per week of work; raising two extremely active daughters and dealing with life's ups and downs made taking a full load this semester an extra challenge. But, I was long accustomed to a life constantly full of challenges. A full, crammed life was normal. The first few weeks of classes had already passed so quickly. Everything was going so perfectly, until this afternoon. I had made an awful decision. I had worn new tennis shoes today. Those damn tennis shoes. Little did I know, my "perfect" little life was about to fall to pieces and my new shoes would be completely to blame.

Of course, the parking lot filled to capacity early, so I usually tried to arrive as soon as possible to avoid getting a left-over parking space in the boonies. I pulled into the lot and it was already full. It must have been exam night for a lot of classes. Grabbing a spot near the rear of the lot, I parked and gathered my heavy, ridiculously thick art history book and study guide. Most people in class had already complained about the requirement that we bring them every time, but it was non-negotiable. I figured it was simply another form of academic torture. Out of the car, I focused on making my way toward the distant sidewalk. The sun had reached that pleasant stage - providing warmth, but not oven temperatures. Even so, the parking lot itself was like a Texas BBQ pit, ready for grilling. A gentle breeze was blowing and I enjoyed the beauty of this campus with its surrounding trees and bayous. The day had been a beautiful one indeed. Suddenly, as I walked across the hot surface, without warning, my head felt wavy, as if I were floating for a moment and then my feet again felt the solid ground. The brief sensation took me totally off guard and was powerful enough for me to stop in my tracks and look down at my feet. Yes, the ground was beneath me, even if it felt as if it were about to crack open and swallow me whole.

After my pause to inspect the ground, I looked around at everyone else in the parking lot as they were rushing to their classes. It was the same old scene I'd known for years. I remembered being a child and approaching this same building with my mom on the days I went to her classes with her. But, I had gone on those few occasions as her assistant - before the electric wheelchairs were purchased. I would push my mom as she sat in her wheelchair and we'd take the daunting zig-zagging concrete ramp. She couldn't use both arms, so any efforts she gave to push her wheelchair would have resulted in her going in circles. A push wheelchair needed two good arms and those belonged to me, her daughter. Those must have been the days when she had no power left in her body. I had been glad to be her engine. 

The flashbacks faded, and again, I began my trek toward the Bayou Building and after a few more stable steps, the same thing happened. My head clouded as my legs wobbled and nearly lost their power. I didn't want to fall in public. I don't think I'd ever fallen...ever. Instantly, my mind began to search through plausible reasons for my body going all weird on me. I had been forced, again, to stop because my working parts weren't properly working. This was getting to be embarrassing. Stopping in the parking lot, just a few steps from the sidewalk, I tried to look as if I were busy doing something that actually required me to continuously stop in the middle of the parking lot. This was ridiculous. This had to be a simple case of dehydration. I would go straight to the snack room and buy a bottle of water to take to class.

My books and my purse now seemed to weigh beyond their natural existence. I couldn't have been this weak...I was only 33 years old and went to the YMCA a few times every week. My muscles were powerful. I was not ashamed of being able to bench-press more weight than a normal man could handle. I'd always been strong. Strength was never an issue for me. Maybe it came from having to be my mom's arms and legs so often. Whatever, it had given me a powerful body. So, I found it very disturbing that I now could barely hold onto my books. My bulky books were in danger of slipping out of my hands. They instantly and magically became too much for me to handle. Pushing onward, I approached the curb to the sidewalk and something in my brain shut down. I stopped at the curb and looked at it as if it were a mountain. How would I get these legs of mine to step upward when they wouldn't even cooperate with me in walking across the parking lot? I glanced back at my tiny car and had a terrible urge to hurry back to its confidential comforts. But, no, my stubbornness would not let me go backwards. I never went backwards. Not yet.

Somehow, I managed to get up the curb, but I admit that the process must have looked rather awkward to any onlookers. At this point, I was immersed in my effort and had momentarily forgotten about the other people passing me by. On the sidewalk, I felt relief. Looking around, I felt mesmerized by the rapid movements of other people. This is one particular moment in my Addison's Disease journey that is most painfully memorable for me. For some reason, I stood there and began studying other people as they walked with their books and their rolling book bags toward the building. Deep down, I knew that I didn't belong with those people any longer. Squinting to search for an answer in their faces, I wondered if everyone secretly felt this way and they were also working just as hard to not show evidence of their struggle. Literally, I felt as if my legs and my body were going against mud. The pressure against me kept me from moving; the heaviness upon me increased and the difficulty with each motion made it feel like invisible mud was surrounding me. Perhaps everyone was walking through mud, yet not showing it. As I watched others effortlessly walk pass me, I realized that some of them even had a spring in their step. Where were the springs under my feet?

With horror, it began to fall upon me like a never-ending scream...the springs-beneath-my-feet had been missing for a long time. How long? I wasn't sure exactly. The mud had been accumulating; but it wasn't completely new to me. However, it was now thicker and higher and near impossible to get through. Still, a final moment of denial quieted the screaming questions. Looking down, I stared at my shoes. They were brand new, the kind that were high-tech and designed to help you jump higher and achieve greater athleticism. I decided it had to be the shoes. That was the answer to my mobility problem, my new shoes were somehow faulty and causing me trouble with walking.

Finally, inside the building, with my water in hand and a bag of salty potato chips - I took my seat and replenished my body. Focusing in class was more difficult, especially with my newfound shoe obsession. Late that night, back at home, I took off those betraying shoes and stuck them in a corner, swearing to never wear them again. Problem solved.

In a restless sleep that night, I dreamed of people running past me in a blur and of books falling from the sky. Out of the darkness, behind me were a pair of massive tennis shoes running toward me and the front toe part had big, grotesque teeth chomping to get at me. I couldn't move. I looked down to find my feet had melted into the sidewalk.


  1. The Mud, it's so much like that, isn't it? Moving in and away like the tides. I am still strong, man-strong. But some days I can't walk 5 blocks. Steroids or no steroids, and the Gland Man has no answer for this, Lana. None of them do. Thanks for sharing your experiences, very well told and so easy to relate to. And thanks for the props, Renaissance Man, that has a nice ring to it! :)

  2. Dear Lana, I've been reading your journey & so much of it sounds like mine. I've been writing journals off & on my whole life too ( I am now 44), from somewhere in my mid 30's they are filled with trying to figure out my illness was as I was going to dr after dr with them saying well this is wrong BUT it shouldn't be causing all these problems. offering antidepressants, saying it is all in my head. I too wrote "goodbye" letters to each of my 3 children as well as to my wonderful husband (who was also my high school sweetheart) & my parents & grandmother. as I got sicker & sicker. My husband & I each thought I would die long before they ever figured out what was wrong with me. I had (& still do ) have the days of walking through mud. I feel such a connection to you & your gives me a weird sense of peace knowing I am not alone. I wanted to let you know & maybe you'd get that same peace. I have even signed up for my own blog.not really sure what I am doing yet but maybe the more we reach out to all us Addisionians out there the more we won't feel like the "lone" strange cases our dr's make us out to be. wishing you spoon filled days~ Dannielle

  3. DBeachPeach...I literally have tears in my eyes. Yes, the connection is uncanny and powerful. Keep writing! Let me know when you get your blog going...I am already a follower and eager to know your own story. Your friend...Lana.

  4. After nearly ten years of having this disease and no one to relate to - it's a WOW-moment every time I connect with someone, like you, who is also describing exactly what I am going through.

    Your writing is incredible. You nailed it, the "Gland Man" has no answers for us...his bag of tricks is empty at our turn.

  5. After nearly ten years of having this disease and no one to relate to - it's a WOW-moment every time I connect with someone, like you, who is also describing exactly what I am going through.

    Your writing is incredible. You nailed it, the "Gland Man" has no answers for us...his bag of tricks is empty at our turn.


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