We fray into the future

I don’t remember 2015 very well.

My first impulse is to go through each solitary memory individually, and reflect upon it, as they are sparse enough that I would be able to do so in one writing, but I realized upon attempt that this was simply grasping at random memories trying to make sense of the whole, instead of attempting to look at the whole and make sense of it as it is.

The year 2015 was a year of letting go, and a year of learning hard lessons.

In winter I let go of the kink scene in Chicago. It had become the most toxic thing in my life, and I had clung to it until my body literally would not allow me. I spent the majority of winter recovering from knee surgery, slowly progressing from a wheel chair, to a walker, to a cane, to walking unaided. I surprised even myself by weaning myself off of the narcotic pain medications long before I ran out, and relying only on anti-inflammatory medications throughout the vast majority of my recovery.

In the spring I muddled through my last semester at SAIC. It was complicated, to say the least. As it turns out I had been struggling for the past several years with undiagnosed narcolepsy, and this year I was in a capstone class that I desperately wanted to succeed in. It seemed, to my dismay, that the harder I worked, the more I slept. It became this vicious cycle of working throughout the week and then sleeping through class, or sleeping through the week in order to make it to class. Similar things were happening with my performance class, only in a lot of ways worse on two fronts: the work was physically demanding, and I had my job immediately afterwards. Now, the work being physically demanding actually helped me stay awake during the class, but having my job immediately afterwards made it nearly impossible for me to succeed at both simultaneously. I ended up leaving that job quite suddenly, after having been one of their star employees for four years.

I managed to walk at graduation at SAIC with 3 credits left to complete. This was the plan; I was going to take an additional art history over the summer to complete my credits and then I would receive my BFA. I gladly signed up for an online art history class at my community college, along with an accounting class, my backup plan.

Over the summer one of my closest friends, who would become my boyfriend, moved in with me. He had always challenged me, but now, in close quarters, he seemed to notice everything that wasn’t working, and challenged me to change it. Soon after he moved in, I started on a new medication, which vastly improved my mental health. It was like night and day. I was still tired all the time, but I was motivated, and happy.

As it turned out, SAIC decided to reduce the number of required credit hours, and so I ended up not needing to take the art history class, and I retroactively graduated.

I found a job at Goodwill. I won’t go in-depth about that except that it was a bad experience, and their attitude changed towards me instantly the moment I asked them for an accommodation for my knee injury. I worked there for a total of two weeks, and then was put on a leave of absence.

Soon after I started working at Petco, and while it was hard work, I loved it there. I wasn’t good at it at first, but I learned and I made good friends and I respected everyone who worked there.

In early fall, my boyfriend moved back with his family in Virginia, so he could finish his schoolwork without the pressure of job hunting and rent.

I don’t remember the fall very well at all to be honest. It basically consisted of medical issues and me failing to take care of myself until I absolutely had to. Most of what I do remember is because I wrote it down as it was happening.

I was constantly re-injuring my knee, to the point that popping and sudden pain became familiar parts of my week. I started seeing a pain specialist for my back pain, an issue that had been affecting me for over ten years. I finally had an MRI done, something all my other doctors had refused to do, and they found osteoarthritis and bone spurs in my back. They gave me several injections in my back and hips along with several sessions of radiofrequency ablation to help manage the pain. Usually I’d go straight from a doctor’s appointment where I’d had my nerves literally killed with heat to go work for an 8-hour shift on my feet. My narcolepsy hadn’t gone away either. It was easier because I was active most of the day, but whenever I got really stressed out, I would start to lose my muscle strength, and felt the need to sit down suddenly, like my legs would give out. Sometimes I even felt like I’d fall asleep if I was really stressed. I thought I was on the verge of passing out, but it turns out it was something much more complicated.

My boyfriend was constantly pushing me to take better care of myself. I just never seemed ready to listen, or didn’t think it was possible to both take care of myself and do my job.

I brought my beautiful ferrets into my life, their names are Briar, Larkspur, and Iris. They are a big handful, and I adore them. I treasure every second with them.

Eventually I quit my job at Petco, finding another job quickly in the two weeks that I had given notice. This new job was seated, on the phone, everything I preferred to do about Petco with none of the physical demands that were injuring me constantly. I still work there now, and I still enjoy it.

Over the last few weeks of 2015, I was given a preliminary diagnosis of narcolepsy, with more definitive diagnosis coming up on January 15th. Since then I’ve been doing a lot of research into it and it’s like seeing myself described by someone else when I read the description of narcolepsy.

I haven’t made photographic artwork since I graduated SAIC, and that has been a major source of frustration for me this past year, but I see myself using my experience of health as a major source of inspiration for future work. My main goal for 2016 is to take care of myself, wholly. And that means taking care of my physical health, which is most pressing, but also taking care of my spiritual health by making art, and continuing to maintain my mental health that I’ve worked so hard for these past seven years.

Mara Passio
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