I left work before lunch three days ago to avoid train delays from a nor'easter that dropped over 8 inches of snow on New York, but today felt like spring. I was almost too warm in my dad's old leather jacket as I walked down Central Park West with my boyfriend Tom and hundreds of other people marching to protest for gun control.
Today was the first day in too long that I felt at all capable of acknowledging—much less doing—something about the horrible things that had been going on in the world around me for some time. It may sound like an excuse, but when my own world came to a quiet but absolute halt when I was diagnosed with SIBO in the winter of 2016, I felt it necessary to completely shut out the outside world right as it became more important than ever to be an active participant in it. I knew there were scary, awful things going on around me that were more important than even an intense, painful gastrointestinal condition, but I just could not face them. At my worst, it was all I could do just to get through the day.
This is the second spring in a row where I've felt noticeably better than the previous months, like I was starting to return to my former lively and vibrant self along with the physical world and weather around me. In the first days of April last year, as I went for the daily walk outside that was part of my naturopath's SIBO treatment protocol (the fact that I needed an "assignment" to leave work to go outside every day is an issue for another day), I couldn't help but feel, as too neat as it sounds, that like the pink and purple buds poking their heads from the greening ground around me, I too was coming alive again. And I was given a few months of feeling almost like myself before my SIBO relapsed.
I know now I could relapse again, but I couldn't help but feel my hope stirring along with the season today. Today I was able to march in the sun like a normal person who had the brain space to think about something bigger than herself—something finally more urgent than the bacteria in her gut—and the physical energy to walk for hours and stand for something.
The last time I marched, it was at the Women's March on Washington in January of last year. I almost didn't make it. As I waited for my train from Penn Station to DC, I was in so much pain I could barely stand. I sat on the floor of the station sobbing, unthinking of the hordes of strangers swirling around me, weighed down by bags of food I couldn't eat because I no longer knew what was safe and what would hurt me. I felt totally hopeless and like there was no end or solution in sight to the pain I had been experiencing in ever increasing frequency for years.
I went to DC that night, and I marched because it was important and bigger than me, bigger than my physical pain. But the days after that triumphant weekend of fighting for what was right were the first days of the darkest winter of my life.
But spring came then, and spring appears to be on its way back now. I can only hope that it will last a bit longer this year, and that this will be the first day of many that I am able to see beyond my own small, still fairly complicated world, and fight for more than my health.