The Nightmare

I had a nightmare last night. I dreamed I was trying to hold some nameless, faceless woman back. I don’t know who it was, and I don’t know why I had to hold her back. But there was a sense of urgency about it — this feeling gnawing at the pit of my stomach that something really terrible would happen if I wasn’t strong enough to keep her there with me. So I pushed her onto the ground and felt the soft earth shift and slide beneath me as she and I struggled with each other. Her long hair flowed around her, whipping and snapping in some unseen wind. I felt the ends of it strike the skin on my face and arms with stinging blows, and she fought me with a strength that was surprising and terrifying. Her nails grew long and needle-sharp, and she clawed at me, leaving gouges on my hands and arms. She growled in anger and frustration as I fought to hold her there, and I glanced up, seeking her face, trying to meet her eyes. Maybe I wanted to make some sort of connection with her, human to human. Maybe I wanted to find a way to tell her that everything would be all right, that I wouldn’t hurt her. But, as her face came into view, I realized she wasn’t human. It was just a skull, with little, pin-point eyes glaring at me with a mad-eyed expression that chilled me to the bone, and a set of fangs that clicked and clacked together as she bucked and pitched against my weight, seeking to sink her teeth into me and finish me, once and for all.

That’s when I woke up, covered in sweat and shaking with fear. It’s not a rational feeling, this kind of fear. It’s an innate, animalistic instinct that triggers the inner caveman we all have lurking deep down inside of us. It’s a slipping and sliding kind of terror that tells us, with a dreadful certainty, that some huge predator lurks just outside the ring of firelight. And so, we draw ourselves closer to the fire, shivering and praying for the dawn to come. Except, somewhere deep down, past the limits of conscious thought, we suspect the dawn will never happen.

This was at around 3 AM this morning. I got up, got a drink of water, and chided myself for being so silly. It was just a dream, I whispered. It wasn’t real. Go back to sleep. And yet, somehow, sleep never returned. I ended up tossing and turning the rest of the night, hearing the echo of those unearthly growls ringing through my ears and seeing the light glint off of the fangs. I felt alone and cold in the small, still hours of the night.

rose with snow

I have PCOS. For anyone who doesn’t know (because I’ve gotten a lot of “what’s that?” reactions since receiving my diagnosis), PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I have, undoubtedly, had this my whole life, but it wasn’t diagnosed until about a month ago. I have been struggling with worsening health problems for quite some time — really, since the birth of my daughter. I come from “tough-it-out” people, and, so, I did my best to do just that. I managed to tough it out for many years. (My daughter just turned 11 this week.) But, eventually, I couldn’t handle things any more. It was too hard, and there was too much pain. And so, I began the rounds, going from doctor to doctor until I was able to put a name to what ails me. Suddenly, things that I never understood about my life fell into place and made sense. Now I know why it took me four years to get pregnant. Now I know why, in the 10+ years after my daughter’s birth, I never got pregnant again. Now I know why I had such a struggle with my pregnancy … why my blood pressure shot up toward the end … why I couldn’t go into labor … why I had to have a c-section. Now I know why my hair keeps falling out. And why I struggle so much (and always have) with keeping weight off. And many other things.

I thought I would feel better once I could put a name onto all of it. I thought getting a diagnosis would let me face down my enemy, that I could say, “All right, PCOS. I know who you are, and I know where you live. And it’s time for you to get the hell outta Dodge.” I thought I would feel relieved.

rose in snow

But you know what? I don’t feel any of those things. I feel sad and angry for the chances I lost, for the things I wanted in my life that, now, I know were never meant to be. I feel cheated. I want to find a mountain, stand on the top of it, and scream at the universe, “Fuck you! Why can’t my body work? Why can’t I be normal?” And, the more I learn about PCOS … the more I feel like there’s a veritable roulette wheel of things lining up to kill me down the line: increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of uterine cancer, increased risk of breast cancer, increased risk of ovarian cancer … And those are just the top contenders. At first, I thought, “Well, that’s all right. It could be worse. At least it’ll go away when I hit menopause, right? Maybe being in my second twenties can work in my favor, for a change.” But no. It never goes away. Ever. And so, on top of all of this, I feel afraid. Afraid, afraid, afraid. And small. And very mortal.

I am struggling with this diagnosis. I think it’s a bit of an understatement to say this, but it’s the only way I know how to put it. I am struggling with what this means for my life. I am struggling with how to put all of this information into place so that I can make the changes I need to make for myself and my family. I am struggling to figure out what this means for my daughter, too. I feel like I’ve failed her, in some way, because the chances she will also have this are very high. I guess, right now, I am grieving and fighting with fate all at the same time. There are so many emotions and feelings whirling around in my brain right now that even sorting out a few is difficult. I feel all of these things and nothing, all at the same time. How can that be possible? I don’t know. But I know it is true. Lately, I’ve just wanted to dig a big hole in the ground, crawl into it, and pull the grass up over my head.

beach and waves

This brings me back to my dream from last night. With the clarity that comes as the shadows fade into daylight, I realized the growling, fanged woman was PCOS. This sounded much less silly in my mind, but bear with me. She was the sum of all my fears and all my frantic feelings and all my uncertainty with this diagnosis. Because I can’t help feeling that PCOS is sucking the life out of me and out of my hopes for the future. Fitting she would be a vampire, then, isn’t it? But here’s the thing: she didn’t win. In my dream, the raging, spitting, clawing woman on the ground didn’t win. I might have felt I was losing strength in the face of her rage, but I still held her there. I still held my own.

This morning, the sun came up. The birds started singing. And my heart felt happy and full. I have a beautiful daughter. I have a husband who loves me and supports me. I have many blessings in my life. I may struggle, but I can find the strength to continue moving forward, no matter where that might take me. I am not alone. And so, I turn my face toward the sun and smile. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

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6 thoughts on “The Nightmare

  1. It sucks that you have this. I am sorry.

    I am glad you have a diagnosis, a name to put to this beast.

    I hope you have a really, really good — technically competent and sympathetic and supportive — group of medical professionals taking care of you. Keep looking if you don’t yet, for a long as you need to. I will put out feelers if you need me to.

    You are not alone.

    Hugs!!!

    • Thanks for your kind words and for your thoughts, Dear Friend. *hugs*

      I think having a diagnosis is better than not having one, although I wondered about this shortly after I got the diagnosis. There was an irrational, childish part of me that couldn’t help thinking it would be better not to know. As if not knowing would make it not real, or something. Silly, but I guess that’s how the mind works sometimes.

      Luckily, since this falls within my gynecologist’s area of expertise, I feel comfortable sticking with him for treatment. I like him very much and trust him, too. He is caring and kind and seems very human, which can be hard to find in a doctor. So that’s a good thing. 🙂

    • Hello! Thanks for stopping by my blog, and for taking the time to read. I appreciate it very much. Thank you, also, for the kind compliment. I am happy you enjoyed this post.

      I am so sorry to hear about your daughter-in-law’s diagnosis. It is a huge struggle, made harder by the fact that there really isn’t much of a treatment for PCOS. I hope she is able to find a course of treatment that helps her symptoms, and, if she is trying to conceive, I wish her many blessings and prayers for success.

      I truly, truly feel blessed to have my healthy, happy, beautiful daughter. It makes me feel that I am one of the “lucky ones”, if anyone with this disease can be considered lucky. I, too, hope that they find a cure for PCOS one day. It would be a great relief to many women.

  2. This was a great post. You dramatically brought us to your pain and by the way—your solution to it in your own way. I am from that same kind of family background of sucking up to pain and mind over matter type lingo. However, life has a way of bringing us to our knees and it is in those moments we find ourselves and have to come to grips with the life circumstances we have been dealt. My heart goes out to you. Alesia

    • Hi! Thanks for the read and for the kind words. I am happy you enjoyed this post. It really is hard to keep on with that innate feeling of “I’m fine … I need to suck it up and deal” when life tosses these huge curve balls. I am still dealing with all of it on a day by day basis, and hoping I’ll manage to come to terms with everything soon. Which probably makes no sense at all. Sorry.

      I hope things are going well for you and for your kiddos!

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