Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Knowing, not knowing

To say I've been consumed by anxiety and fear these last two weeks would be a vast understatement. I vacillate wildly between a nearly locked-in feeling that the world external to me has no relation to my inner life (imagine walking through a busy downtown interchange, your ears stuffed with iPod buds, only you're too deafened by your own thoughts to even tolerate music and the noise that's keeping you from connecting to the world around you is your anxiety), which I have affectionately dubbed "head-up-my-butt" syndrome, and an eerie calm that feels false and unsettling (this most recently happened when I shared with someone what I was going through and he listened, mouth agape, brow furrowed with obvious concern, and I heard words coming from my mouth that sounded so devoid of the emotions that should accompany them that I thought for a moment that I had actually reached some kind of plateau of acceptance, but, in reality, my words bespoke a strong sense of denial). I find myself measuring time and events in a kind of knowing/not knowing continuum. (This probably derives from my OCD.) Last night, I had dinner and drinks with J, and as I kissed her goodnight, I thought, this is the last time I'll see her before I Know. The last time I'll step across the threshold of her apartment and into the hallway and press the elevator button and walk through the glass doors and out into the street before I Know. But this has been going on all week. At the gym: this is the last time I'll run on this treadmill before I Know. Riding to work: This is the last time I'll press the seatbelt release in K's car before I Know. Walking into work: This is the last time I'll step on that sewer cover before I Know. This morning: I woke up in a panic thinking that today was the day I would Learn but was relieved to realize I had one more day, one more night to sleep, to toss, to turn, to dream before I Know.

Last night at dinner, J suggested that by even entertaining the idea that I am a carrier I was disrupting the positive energy forces in the universe that decide my fate. She's a big fan of positive visualization and actualization, and I myself am a huge fan of magical thinking (I have OCD after all, which is nothing more than an elaborate framework of bargaining--if I touch the doorknob correctly, I won't be BRCA2 positive--to control the chaos of life), but I had to put my foot down here. Most people I've told have suggested gently I wait until I Know For Sure to start thinking about What I'm Going To Do, but in my defense, I need to prepare, to think through the possibilities, the options, the outcomes. I need to mentally gird myself so that I'm not caught unaware, afraid, uneducated should I face the reality that I am a carrier. And the truth is, this is genetics. There is no bargaining, there is no magic. If I have it Thursday, I have it now, and I've had it my whole life. And if I don't, I didn't have it today or yesterday or any other day of my life. It comes down to the very stuff I'm made of, the blueprint for my being, and, after a lot of struggle with acceptance, I actually kind of like how I've turned out: I'm tall and curvy, I have erratic yet charming curly hair, and my hazel eyes adapt to match my outfit. I can't change the genes that gave me the things you see on the outside anymore than I can change the genes that determine my ability to suppress tumors on the inside. This ultimately will be a journey about accepting myself, for better or BRCA, and I feel about as ready as I'll ever be to Know.

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