Mild. Nothing to worry about.
‘Common at women your age.’
There is nothing common about feeling unwell all day. Every day.
Nothing common about continual exhaustion and overwhelming fatigue.
And there certainly nothing common bleeding all day. Every day.
I’m too tired to argue and I’m not even sure that if I could, I’d have the right words to say.
Menopause came early, like a demented cockerel, singing at midnight, thinking it was morning. Three weeks after my 28th birthday, two weeks after, I just said, ‘yes to the dress’ and a week after my promotion.
The bleeding started, slowly at first. Drip, drip, drip. And then it kept coming birthday, weddings, Christmas.
The business suits were replaced with comfortable ‘dark’ trousers and loose tops. Heels were exchanged for flats and the neat leather laptop case, my promotion gift, lay untouched on the wardrobe floor — a large loose rucksack, my daily companion.
I glance in the mirror as I leave my sterile surroundings and am shocked by the person who stares back at me. Her eyes are sunken with dark shadows holding them up. Her skin is dry and pallid, the melanin turned from copper to ash. There are frown lines tap dancing in the middle of her forehead and waltzing around the corners of her mouth. She spies stray hairs on her chin. Her hair is dull, lifeless, and dry.
‘Dear God,’ I whisper audibly, ‘what has happened to me?’
I step out into the cool of the February afternoon. The south-westerly breeze is momentarily refreshing before the onslaught of the Sahara’s hot flushes envelope my being. I feel the clamminess of my raging hormones first on the back of my neck, then my chest. The beads of sweat that now race down my face skate through the long-lasting makeup and setting spray like a hot knife through ice.
But my appearance is the least of my worries. It’s that time again. That time when the body expels its life force and paralyses me with fear of discovery.
I need a bathroom. There are many in the gentrified coffee shops that I pass, but most won’t be big enough for my needs.
I panic. I need to go home. NOW.
The cab drops my home 15 minutes later.
‘You okay, love,’ I hear a voice in the distance, ‘you don’t look well’. I stuff a twenty in his hand and rush to my door. My gait is awkward as my need for the bathroom is pressing.
Thirty minutes and a long shower later, my breathing returns to normal and the panic starts to subside.
I breathe in the scent of lavender, jasmine and cedarwood as I pop pill after pill into my mouth with small gulps of water and sigh for the second time that day.
Health insurance doesn’t cover existing conditions. Conventional medication is costly not only financially but have unpleasant side effects and there is no evidence of success for the array of alternatives that I have tried.
From beauty to ashes.
From health to sickness.
From energy to helplessness.
The tears run freely. They stain my cleansed skin but wash my soiled soul. They reveal the hope trapped inside my humanness waiting to escape. They unmask my future dreams that are dwarfed by the rage of my hormones.
As the tears flow as does the blood and my physical and mental wellbeing collide in a rainbow of grief and sadness and hope for healing. The world spins and I find myself on the floor, wet all over.
In this moment, I hear the words, ‘there’s healing for your sorrow, healing for you pain, healing for your sickness…’ and I curl up in the foetal position for comfort.
The water is now cold and uninviting but needed. The icy droplets return a sense of calm to the hysteria.
I rush out and wrap a large dark towel around me, drying myself quickly.
‘Jesus – healing for your sickness’.
I look around. There is no-one here. But the voice is clear.
‘Jesus – healing for your pain’.
‘Jesus – healing for your sorrow’.
That name is familiar. Vaguely.
I scramble through the brain fog to recall where I’d heard that name.
The rumours were that He was a teacher and a preacher, and some even said that He is God.
But I remember Anna’s brother’s second cousin’s daughter’s nephew had prostate cancer and he swore blindly that on meeting this Jesus, the cancer disappeared.
The wind is restless outside, although the sun shines. I hear this Jesus is in the local park. I’ve been out once today. And, in my world, that’s once too many.
But I’m sick of being sick. I’m tired of being tired. And who wants to bleed and stain sheets daily? Who wants to suffer the embarrassment of soiling clothes and chairs on a regular basis. Will I ever have a social life again? Intimate moments with the man, I used to call hubby? The man who no longer comes home early or shares a room with me?
‘It’s for the best’.
I need to go and find Jesus.
The park is packed. A festival of some kind. I can feel the blood flowing despite all packing and padding. My body screams ‘Go home’. My mind answers, ‘To what?’
I see him now. He’s within stretching distance, but the crowds are thick. He looks in my direction but seems to see past me. The crowds push him along. He’ll be gone soon. I need healing. Now.
‘Down’ says the voice.
I look around. It’s too noisy. It could be anyone.
I go down on my hands and knees. Maybe, I could crawl through the crowds to him. A booted-foot steps on my right hand. A sandled foot accidentally kicks me in the face. I feel feeble and foolish, but I’m here now and need to keep going.
I hear a voice and look up. I’m at his feet but I can’t stand, there are too many people around me. Maybe, I could kneel, and he’d notice me. But the crowd thickens. I’m so close, but yet so far.
If only I could just touch Him. He is so very close.
In that moment, I lose all my fear. The hopes of 12 years culminate into action, and I try to touch his feet but he moves on and my fingers touch the fringes on his leather coat.
Something changes. Something’s different. Something happens.
[Based on Luke 8:43-48]
Catherine Anthony Boldeau is a professional communicator and educator.