“We all have an expiration date. If we didn’t, nothing would ever get done.”—”The Big C”

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I love entertainment. Pretty much any form of live performance or media is something I am going to enjoy (although I don’t much like sci-fi or action/adventure flicks, and have been known to walk out of a movie theatre or a play if it’s just that bad.), and it even extends to books, magazines, journaling, and of course, social media.

In particular, I love television. I always have. It sounds incredibly lame, but when I was a little kid, I used to pretend the people on my favourite shows were real. They were my friends. I talked about characters on TV sitcoms the same way I’d talk about someone in my kindergarten class. I had an Oscar The Grouch stuffed animal that lived in the laundry hamper in the hallway. I’d pass by and have conversations with him. I slept with an ALF doll, and had nightmares about the Whammies on “Press Your Luck”.

I’ve always felt an affinity for TV, that it was this consistent thing in my life I could always count on to be there for me when everything else in the world was chaotic or falling apart. I may have never moved to Atlanta if it weren’t for the TV show “Frasier”. When I got very ill about a year and a half ago, and wrote letters and journals about fearing I was going to die, I didn’t get through the fear because I thought of my family or friends or all I hadn’t accomplished in my life, or that dying at that point in my life would be a sad and terrible waste of potential. No. I thought, “I need to hang on and make things get better, because I want to see who gets kicked off Big Brother this week”. In a time where virtually nobody could stand to be around me and I thought I might either be losing my mind or my health, and getting out of bed was a challenge, turning on my TV and entering a world populated by strangers in a Big Brother TV studio every night made me feel connected to the world. It made me feel stronger to feel a connection with characters that weren’t even completely real, the same way it always did as a child.

Ironically, many of my past romantic partners have not liked TV, or felt it was a distraction, or felt intellectually above staring at a box with sound and pictures. I think I never quite understood myself well enough to know “Must Love TV” needs to be part of the equation, if someone is the type of soulmate I’m meant to end up sharing the primary part of my life with. Just as I couldn’t relate to someone who didn’t care for music, or thought theatre and art and performance was stupid, or never read books, I’m pretty sure my household will always have TV.

As happens every May, many of the shows I’d been watching ended. Unfortunately, many of them have been canceled for good, which always makes me sad. However, I know that in about a month, there will be new things for me to get slightly obsessed by, and I look forward to that.

In the absence of all my normal shows, I started looking around On Demand for something to watch tonight, and noticed that Showtime had started showing “The Big C” again. It’s on its fourth season, but it’s being advertised as a “limited series event”. Looking at Wikipedia, I see they’ve only made 4 hour-long episodes in Season 4 to wrap up the show. (previously, the show was a 30 minute deal.) The last one is airing May 20th.

“The Big C” is not the kind of show that’s for everyone, but it’s definitely my cup of tea. It’s full of sarcastic, intelligent, black humour. The show starts off with a middle-aged suburban housewife (played by Laura Linney, who is wonderful) being diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma, and given a year to live. It starts off in a way that indicates the end at the beginning; each season goes through a different season of the year. However, they don’t really follow through with that, and it isn’t a foregone conclusion that the show has to end with the main character’s death. There are a lot of plot twists along the way. And, strangely, for most of the show, it’s a dark comedy. A majority of the show is very witty and very funny.

So, I was shocked when I started watching Season 4, and found myself sobbing through most of the episodes. Suddenly, it isn’t funny anymore. It’s dramatic and tragic and all those things you think a show about a terminally ill person would be.

One of the themes the show repeats often is that each and every one of us is dying, every day. For a very long time, my tagline on many of my social profiles is a line from a Cake song that particularly resonated with me: “As soon as you’re born, you start dying, so you might as well have a good time”.

One of the reasons the show is painful is because it doesn’t sugar-coat anything. It reminds you that whether it’s cancer or a heart attack or a car accident or plain old age, at some point, every person you know and have ever known will no longer be here—including yourself. It is a sad thought, and a terrifying thought, but the premise behind the show is “If you knew you only had a year to live, what would you do with your life?”.

It then reminds us that perhaps every single person should live that way, because all the years are precious. Most of us don’t know we have a certain amount of time to tie up loose ends and do everything that matters. We have an expiration date, but for most of us, death comes as a surprise for which we’re unprepared. As I get older, I notice that not only just in myself but in those around me, the process of aging becomes a surprise for which we’re unprepared. Visits to the doctor start to feel a little more serious. We start to have a few more wrinkles. Sometimes, we pass by a mirror, and no longer see the child, the adolescent, the carefree young person. Instead, we start to see our mother, our father. There’s a realisation that time is not infinite and the clock keeps on ticking—and that’s if you’re lucky.

In the show, there’s a scene where Laura Linney’s character is in the hospital, and her son pieces together a collage of photographs from her life, so it’s the first thing she sees every day. I wonder if I am, on some subconscious level, more acutely aware of how short life is. I’ve lived in a room with a wall that has been collaged with my favourite memories since I was 26. It’s been a pain to take the wall down and reassemble it whenever I move. But it’s also really important to me to always feel like I’m surrounded by moments when I was happy and young and vibrant, and to see the faces of the people I love—even if they don’t always remember I love them, or how much I care. I think I’ve always thought, “If I don’t wake up tomorrow, I want the last thing in my head to be that wall.”

I think about being a thing that has an expiration date a little too much, and it scares me sometimes. My grandmother passed away when she was 50. I was a little over two years old, and it is one of my earliest childhood memories, being in a dimly-lit, sepia-coloured room with a tiny little woman with her head wrapped in bandages. Above her bed was a cross, making everything seem very somber and austere. My mother tells me I could not remember this; children don’t remember scenes in detail at that age. But I do. That is the only memory I have of my grandmother. She died when my mother was only 33. I spent most of my life thinking I was adopted, because I don’t physically resemble anyone in my family. When I was older, I saw a picture of my grandmother, and realised how much I looked like her. I think it’s why my mother always criticised me for being too small, too pale, too thin, too fragile-looking….things I could do nothing about. I always thought she was just being my mother, the type of person for whom even the smallest flaw is worth noting and compliments are rare. As I get older, I realise I must remind my mother of the mother she lost so early in life, and that she’s always been afraid that my small frame and fragile health meant she’d lose me early, too.

For what it’s worth, it turns out I’m a survivor, at least so far. I’ve been in a car accident where the driver was killed, another where my entire family was injured but me, and a third where my head literally went through the windshield, leaving an Alayna-shaped headprint. I’ve had tubes put in my ears, suffered a ruptured appendix at 9, and then developed an infection requiring another surgery. I had my knee completely reconstructed at 15. I need surgery again for a torn ACL. I have virtually no sweat glands and am prone to both hyper-and-hypothermia without feeling it. I get flu-like symptoms when I get rained on. I went to the beach and came back with 2nd degree sunburn on 60% of my body, and an infection that turned into a rare inner ear disorder. I’ve had enough “female troubles” to last a lifetime, and apparently, my heart beats too fast. I’m pretty much a walking medical disorder.

Yet, all things considered, I grew up to be a relatively strong person. I’d like to think even though I am not the healthiest person around, emotionally or physically, I’ve always been a fighter in my own small way.

If there’s one thing that scares the hell out of me, though, it’s death. I have had dreams in which I see my death—not the scary kind, where someone is chasing you, the building explodes, the car crashes, or the murderer pops out from the closet—but the kind in which I am almost able to experience the process of dying. It is never frightening, but almost calm and surreal. The thing always notice most about death is that I feel sad about leaving.

I had one dream in which I saw my death in that same way I see many of my “psychic dreams”, and that of course threw me for a loop when I woke up. It shocked me to see me as someone who was very old, and very small. I was surrounded by people I didn’t really know or recognise, but they were my family (apparently, in my dream, I have a daughter and two grandchildren and a very unruly great-grandchild, which is almost as shocking as the idea of me living to be very, very old.) My daughter doesn’t look like me, or what I imagine I’ll look like at that age. She is taller and stronger and more imposing, and has olive skin and black hair that is starting to show streaks of grey. I can’t imagine her being related to me, because she seems very strong, and I am old and tiny and look very fragile. The nurse tells me it is a few days after my birthday, and there are icicles on the tree outside the hospital room window. (which we have in the Northeast, but rarely here in Atlanta.) I ask her if New Year’s Eve has happened yet. New Year’s Eve is one of my favourite holidays, even though it seems to be a rather cursed day for me.

I do not believe my dream is truly a “psychic dream”, although numerous psychics and palm readers and whatnot have told me I will live an exceptionally long time. The hereditary factors in my family—people either die relatively young or live to be exceptionally old in my family—as well as my history of health problems, and my natural constitution, do not point to a long and robust life. For the longest time, I was convinced I wouldn’t live past 30, and I was OK with that. Now I am older and wiser and know how important it is to stay healthy and keep living and creating and sharing my life with those who matter for as long as I can, I am suddenly terrified of the idea that I might die.

It is not helped by the fact that I’ve lost many friends and acquaintances who passed away suddenly, at relatively young ages. I have to visit the doctor on Monday, and I am filled with dread about doing so. I feel so sorry I spent a lot of my life taking health and the gift of being alive for granted, and instead made many stupid choices, some of which *should* have killed me. I suppose that’s everyone when they’re young, but there’s an age where you stop feeling invincible. There’s an age where you realise you never were, and the fact that you’re still here and took that for granted all along isn’t something that should continue.

“The Big C” turned devastatingly sad because it stopped being about characters on TV, and started being about everyone. We may seem so different, but the one thing we all have in common is that one day, we will die…and hopefully, there will be people who are terribly sad that has happened. No amount of preparation, money, lifestyle choices, or prayer will change the fact that we all begin life and end life in a way where the timing isn’t run by us for our approval.

I suppose it’s everything in the middle that matters. That is why all I’ve ever wanted, really, is for my “everything else” to have mattered to someone, somewhere.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
Tomorrow will be dying.”

~ Robert Herrick

I’m feeling a little melancholy tonight, something that hit me pretty suddenly during an otherwise positive week. The reason for this is that after I got home from our usual Tuesday night trivia, I checked my Facebook as I always do, and saw a post that shocked me.

It was a post announcing the sudden and unexpected death of someone in my relatively wide circle of friends and acquaintances. I did not know her very well, but people to whom I’ve grown close over the years did have that opportunity to share a genuine friendship with her. She was someone who I’d enjoy reading commentary from on Facebook, who was unfailingly loving and supportive to her friends, and really left a positive mark on the lives of those around her.

I think what hit me hard was not the passing of someone that so many people in my life knew and loved— I only wish such incidents were isolated, but the past three months have been filled with such shocking announcements and loss and close calls involving impetuous decisions— but that this person was someone to whom I could relate. She was an ordinary girl, around my age, who didn’t pass away due to any prolonged illness or a drawn-out battle with self-destructive behavior or because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was just an ordinary girl whose heart decided to stop working properly, and by the time help arrived, she had been deprived of oxygen for too long.

It is selfish, but I want to cry because I see how easily that could be me. I too am just an ordinary girl who happened to become ill, to have a scary period in life where her heart didn’t work the way it should. I take medication to keep that problem from recurring, but for a majority of a year, I was terrified of dying alone. My world is not one that involves me being surrounded by other people much of the time. If my heart stops, I will die. I’ve learned from experience that it takes 15 minutes to get an ambulance when you call 911. By that point in time, there is nothing anyone can do.

I feel sad because of how easily that girl might be me, and because I don’t want it to. I feel sad because of the loss of someone who made the world a better place is not fair, and it is a loss that so many will feel for such a long time. There’s something shocking about death when it happens to someone young and vibrant, someone who assumes they have a lifetime to chase dreams, to follow passions, to love others. It is shocking because it’s a reminder that it can happen to any of us, or anyone we love, at any time. There is not always a warning.

There is not always another day to tell someone how you feel about them, or to make things right, or to make the changes you need to be brave enough and strong enough in life in order to be a happy and fulfilled individual.

There is always the possibility that every conversation, or e-mail, or Facebook status, or night out could be the last one you’ll share with someone—or others with you.

There is no guarantee that tomorrow exists, for anyone, at any age.

When you’re 10, you don’t focus on anything too far beyond tomorrow, but you assume there will always be another one . When you’re 20, you think the number of tomorrows you have are limitless, and you take stupid chances and procrastinate and self-destruct, and still come out OK most of the time. By the time you’re 30, you start to have an awareness that not only is tomorrow not a guarantee, that every single being on this Earth, however wonderful and unique, is temporary.

I can only imagine how much more importance that knowledge takes on at 40, or 50, or 60.

I hope I am around to find out. It’s odd that I should wish that more than anything, coming from the girl who never planned to live past 30, who thought dying young never meant having to disappoint anyone or hurt anyone or fail to do anything remarkable in life.

The oddest thing happened. I passed that point in my life, and all of the sudden, life became valuable. Death became less glamourous, and far more frightening, and real. I didn’t want the story to end the way I’d always planned. Now, I can’t stand the idea that I’m not going to be here forever, because however much time I have, it will never be enough.

In “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World”, Keira Knightley remarks to Steve Carell that she wishes they had been able to have more time together. He responds by telling her no amount of time ever would have been enough to erase the need for that wish.

I feel terribly sad because the relatively small part of the Universe I inhabit lost another special piece, and it doesn’t seem fair that there wasn’t enough time for her to truly live the life she loved. I am also sad because I know there will never be enough time, for any of us.

People often accuse me of being too straightforward. I say what I feel. I yell when I am angry. When I absolutely adore someone, I always let them know. I cry when I am hurt. I want every disagreement with a friend to be over quickly, and result in us still being friends. I follow my heart, even if it isn’t logical, even if it accidentally hurts others. Yet, I wish I had still more courage than I do to put myself out there, to take chances, to say what I feel, and do seems right for me. I wish I had more meaningful connections in my life than I do, because at the end of the day, that’s far more important than nearly anything else.

I realise that part of the reason I am this way is because I’ve spent so much of my life approaching it with a focus on the present, not the future. I didn’t want to be the person who endlessly planned for a future that might never happen, at the expense of experience and life that might happen today. In some ways, that’s irresponsible. That is not how we, as adults, are meant to live. Yet, in other ways, it’s realistic and showing respect and value to life, to the idea that the past can’t be altered and the future can’t be determined—but you can change your life, and touch the lives of others, with what you say and do today.

I know that when the day comes that I am not here anymore, it will ultimately be a surprise for me, and I will recognise that I still didn’t have enough time for all the living I wanted to do. I know that if I’m lucky, I’ll have more time than most people. I also know that perhaps I won’t be that lucky, and if I am, it will mean losing a lot of special people along the way.

Sometimes, I want everything life is planning to throw my way right now, because I don’t know what it has in store for me—and there never is going to be enough time. There is not enough time that I should feel I have the luxury of hitting the “pause” button, and thinking I’ll get around to dealing with life tomorrow.

I have seen bits and pieces of my future, in the form of various psychic dreams and visions. I don’t know how much I believe in all that, but I am not discounting the power of my intuition, a gift that’s served me very well throughout my life. If any of that is to be believed, though, life has unplanned surprises and twists and turns for me, and none of them involve dwelling on the idea of mortality.

Yet, life is so fragile and so temporary, it’s hard not to. Why should I, or anyone I love, be an exception?

When I think about it, there are a few people in my world I simply can’t imagine living without. They are very few and far between, but the world without those few special individuals would seem to stop for me, and I don’t know how it would restart itself in the same way ever again.

Every time someone in my circle of friends and acquaintances passes away, I remember there are a handful of people in the world who feel that exact same way about someone who is no longer around, and that sense of grief touches me immensely. I don’t know how or why, since it is not my own personal grief, but I have a tendency to feel emotions on behalf of others, and it’s not always a positive or endearing trait. I have to detach myself from focusing on many of the world’s greater problems and tragedies because I don’t have enough emotion to feel for every person who is suffering, and I inevitably end up trying.

Nobody is permanent, and that is perhaps the most frightening bit of knowledge I’ve ever come across in my life.

So, yes, today—I am sad, and cried for the loss of someone I didn’t know well at all. Perhaps I cried for me, and all the people I have lost, and all the people I will someday lose, and all the people who will turn out to represent a path not taken in life, a person who might have made a huge difference but never did. Perhaps I cried because I understand the magnitude the loss of this person has left on people in my life, and I do not wish that type of sadness on anyone. Perhaps I cried because I just don’t think it’s fair that we all search so hard for love and family and friendship and connection and romance, only to find out that every single one of us is a temporary fixture.

Reality is harsh, and sometimes it makes me cry, because the little romantic idealist inside of me has never been quite ready to handle such harsh truths.

I’d like to go on pretending there are endless tomorrows for as long as I possibly can. Yet, I think I passed that point in my life a long time ago.

I hope there is a tomorrow, and that it is just a little happier.

Today honestly couldn’t get any worse if I actively tried to have a bad day. I hate to say that, because I’m well aware that it can always get worse…and for me, it usually will…but today was a pretty rough day. The weight of the world crushed me, and turning to people for help only to have them respond in a way that was more frustrated and freaked out than I was feeling…well, it only made it feel as if there were two worlds on my shoulders instead of one. I came the closest to having a full-on breakdown that I’ve had in quite some time, sobbing for about two hours and drawing random X patterns with the sharp end of scissors on my chest in hopes that some of the unbearable weight of the world would just go away.

As I’ve blogged about recently, I’ve had recent relapses with my health that have scared me. I’ve started to think the doctors were simply not right in the diagnosis they came up with, and I simply ran out of money and energy to keep subjecting myself to doctors who told me nothing was wrong, and I just needed therapy and anxiety pills. Yet, I know something is wrong. I find myself still having rushes of dizziness that travel at lightning speed from my stomach to just under my ear, and feel like I’m having a heart attack. I still have spasms under that same ear that are uncontrollable, and feel like something connecting my head to my chest is about to explode. I still gain weight by looking at food, and this hasn’t been something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. Yesterday, a walk in the sun followed by a short exercise video sent my pulse rate up to the level at which I should start to get concerned, and my BP remained in the “slightly unhealthy” range all night. Worse yet, getting up to make dinner, I felt like my legs were going to buckle under me. There is something inside me that’s not right, and I know all too well they haven’t done most of the tests necessary to rule out cardiac or digestive tract issues, because my co-pay is so high and my doctors know I can’t afford the tests. If I had money, I’m fairly certain my lifespan would be double what I expect it to be.

On top of it, I mailed a check to pay my insurance premium that was never received, and because my roommate left me with more than a few financial difficulties when he abruptly left, I didn’t exactly hurry to correct the problem. When I spoke to a representative from Aetna at the beginning of May, she said as long as I paid the back balance owed plus a $70 fee, I could re-activate my insurance. I found out today, when I finally had the cash to do so, that what she told me was false. If your policy is cancelled, just as if you should decide to change your plan, you have to go through the application process all over again. I now have no insurance, my doctor won’t refill my prescription without an office visit (it’s apparently against the law to do such things with certain medications.), and I have less that a week’s worth of pills left. So I have to pay for cab fare to the doctor, the cost of the office visit, cab fare home, and the cost of the pills I need. I’m guessing the $16 I have currently won’t cover things.

This afternoon, I got an e-mail from someone saying “Aetna needs more info from you about your medical history”, and I had to spend an HOUR on the phone with this lady explaining why I saw 13 doctors and was diagnosed with 8 different conditions and put on 10 different medications in the span of a year.

Of course, it was all “Yes” or “No”, so I couldn’t just say “I have one problem and take 2 medicines for it. Everyone else was just wrong.” It was all extraordinarily tedious, and I still don’t know if I’m getting insurance. She said I should hear from Aetna in 5 days.

At least she was nice about it, but still…I feel like when I was sitting in the street with next to nothing to cling to in terms of hope and a better future, and the ability to enjoy my present should the future not be something too extensive for me, someone randomly came around and hit me with a baseball bat.

Ironically, last night, I wrote these thoughts in my private journal, after having an episode of dizziness and rush of blood to my heart that made me almost grab the ground for balance. Whenever I realise that despite treatment, and being seen by numerous doctors, my health is not improving, I start contemplating the inevitability of mortality…the “when” and “how” my death will occur, and most frighteningly, whether or not I will be alone and scared and wishing for just one more day of being around.

I was going to post that entry, about love and death and the battle between appreciating each moment and completely self-destructing because, for some of us, life without freedom, life with restrictions, isn’t so easy to appreciate…no matter how much love happens to be around you. I realised that over the past year, the more my body seems to fall apart and limit and betray me, the more I have the kind of love and friendship and support and appreciation and admiration I’ve wanted my whole life, yet could never seem to hold on to when I seemingly had so much more going for me, so much more life to which I could look forward. It’s a cruel irony, or a lesson, and I’m not so sure which.

On second thought, perhaps I won’t post it. I’ve already sent some letters to people in my life that matter to me. I’ve already written some letters so that, if something happens to me, those who are left behind will remember how much they were cared about.

I’ll just let everyone watch the last episode of House instead. It deals with fear and mortality and self-destruction and regret far better than I ever could.

But it doesn’t make this particular day any better for me.

For those who don’t follow me on Facebook, it’s been a particularly tough two days for me. I’m trying to be as strong as I can, to tough things out, but honestly, I realise I’m not a strong or tough person in a lot of ways. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve survived some dark times, but I always had a sense that ultimately, my survival and how I navigated through the world following those dark times was up to me.

When it comes to illness, it’s not up to me. It’s up to science, up to medicine, up to God, up to the sheer luck of getting the right doctor who might prescribe the right thing, make the right diagnosis, order the right test. I do not always feel confident that I am going to be able to pull through this particular time in my life, I do not always feel confident that I received the correct diagnosis from the correct doctor. I waver back and forth from agreeing that it’s all a simple psychological problem, it’s all “in my head”, to feeling that the unexplained symptoms that doctors try to hide with pills or dismiss as unimportant because they don’t fit with any logical, simple diagnosis are important, and that I am in fact a very ill person that isn’t being heard.

Over the weekend, I made the resolution that on Monday, I was going to start dropping the amount of beta-blocker, a particularly side-effect-laden pill called Atenolol, I’ve been taking for about 6 months. A quick search on the Internet turned up countless message boards from people on this drug, wondering how to deal with the side effects. I made it through the initial phase of feeling to exhausted to move and actually became functional on Atenolol. However, I gained 25 pounds in 6 months, and when doing a Google search on this, found numerous medical studies that suggest a link between beta-blockers, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. I learned one in 5 adults today is currently on a beta-blocker; they slow down your heart rate and your BP, they treat anxiety, and are essential to people suffering from certain heart conditions.

The problem is, they are overprescribed, and once you’re on them, it’s very tough to get off of them. The withdrawal symptoms are so unpleasant that it hardly seems worth it to get off a drug whose major side effect is making you fat and sleepy, when the alternatives include heart palpitations, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, and a host of other “rebound effects”.

I was prescribed a beta-blocker because I had a pulse of 120 for an extended period of time, and my body was releasing adrenaline constantly, causing me to have sometimes as many as 8 panic attacks a day. I do not know if this was a result of the infection I had that doctors claimed led to the development of my vestibular disorder, or due to an anxiety-related condition. My blood pressure was only slightly elevated, and since being on the beta-blocker, my panic attacks have ceased, but my blood pressure has become exceptionally low. Meanwhile, weight gain and being tired all the time are making it more likely I’ll develop heart problems.

A while back, two different doctors had given me the OK to cut my Atenolol dose in half, to see if this decreased the side effects. I’d never done this, because I was scared to mess with what was working. I’d been able to function like a normal person much of the time lately, stopped feeling convinced I was going to die, but hated myself for feeling fat, lifeless, and dependent on pills. Yet, I was afraid to make a change because I didn’t want a huge setback. I never found out why I mysteriously had heart problems when I’d always been active, energetic, and at the time of my illness, walked miles every day. I was at a relatively healthy weight, didn’t have the best dietary habits, but also didn’t have any significant health issues—mental or physical.

There was no explanation for why my heart should suddenly go out of control, not even the vestibular and panic issues the last doctor diagnosed me with, and it causes me a lot of anxiety to think that it might happen again…or, worse yet, suddenly stop.

Yet, reading about other people going through stories like mine, how a drug that helped them feel better was actually destroying their health and quality of life and ability to live life fully…it was enough for me to decide that I had options. One was to cut down on this pill to see if I really needed it, and if I do, why? What’s wrong with me that I need a heart-related medication to feel well and function properly? A visit to the cardiologist yielded no answers back at the beginning; he didn’t examine me, and ran a test to see if there were any physical abnormalities within the structure of my heart, and dismissed me with “You have anxiety. Go to a psychiatrist.”

I am still anxious, still scared. I’ve made it through two days on half a dose of this drug, and nothing about it has been easy. Every hour feels like three. Just moving makes me feel exhausted. I wonder if I’m going to wake up in the morning when I go to sleep, or my heart is just going to get tired and stop. I am afraid I won’t have enough time left to do everything in life I want and need to do.

I am afraid I am dying, and unlike those who suffer from something that is sometimes actually fatal, I have nothing to base that on except an internal feeling, and the fact some scary medical problems happened to me that countless tests and doctors couldn’t adequately explain.

I feel like there are too many things left for me to do in this world to die now. There are too many loose ends, things (good and bad) I never said to people that I’d want them to know, things I never took the chance on because I believed in myself too little, mistakes I never recovered from and others won’t let go.

I want a second chance. I want to be healthy, mentally and physically. I want to do more and be more and share more and touch the lives of others more. I want to make a difference, to be here for a reason, to be loved.

People my age, and far younger, die every day. Nobody is immune. But there are phases where I become convinced I need to get my affairs in order, that I won’t be here for as long as I need to…and maybe I won’t be healthy enough to make the most of those days during the time I’m here.

I worry that one day I won’t wake up, and all these people will never know how much I loved them, or respected them, or thought the world of them, but never said so, because people just don’t say things like that…and when they do, it is so often misinterpreted. I worry that people will say things like “She was a girl who had so much potential”, meaning I never actually accomplished anything of note with my life. I wasn’t all the things our society values; a rich, hot girl busy climbing the corporate ladder, or a loving wife and mother who took care of everything and everyone.

Instead, I lived my life like it was a never-ending 1920′s salon, full of art and witty people and intelligent conversation and food and cocktails and music and sex and life. Someone once told me my best quality was my joie de vivre, the ability to enjoy life when the world around me is going to pieces. In retrospect, that seems a little shallow to be one’s best quality. I don’t think I ever had it in me to be the kindest, the smartest, the prettiest, the most talented and accomplished girl in the room, but I think I have something rare I should have made better use of, but didn’t. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t know what to do, or was afraid of rejection,of being ridiculed and used and gossiped about, or because I just didn’t believe I was special.

Looking back, that seems silly to me. Once upon a time, I had health and energy and youth and vitality, and could have taken a world full of chances I didn’t. Now, I don’t know if I have enough energy to get out of bed, or I can make it to dinner without falling to pieces.

Sometimes, I’m really scared. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately…just scared, and alone, and like nobody understands. Yet, I don’t want to be alone. That’s my greatest fear in the world, dying alone when there’s still so much more I want from the world. When you’re ill, everyone seems to disappear, save those few close friends and family that will always be there, and most friendships seem remarkably shallow.

I wish I’d been the kind of person in my life that bothered to connect more; not just to know people or to be recognised or admired at parties, but to get to know people on a level that really matters. It took me three decades to figure out that being the most popular girl in the world didn’t mean being the most well-liked, and it doesn’t mean feeling the most loved and supported. It just means you’ve met a lot of people. I wish more people had known me, the real, authentic person who always felt too much and loved too much and cared too much about everything.

I wish I hadn’t made so many mistakes and acted as if life is a party destined to go on forever. Inevitably, it won’t.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, or how to fix myself, or how to find peace when every day is a struggle. All I know is that if life is a party, it’s still early, and I’m not ready to go home yet.