My husband, Chris, fidgets while sitting on the couch. “Honey, are you okay?”
His voice jostles me out of my reverie, and I jump. “Yeah, I'm fine, why?”
“You're breathing heavy and loud. I think you're holding your breath again.”
Waving his concern away, I exhale, allowing the captured air a way to escape.
“See, you’re doing it again.”
“I didn't even realize it. I’m in some pain, and you know I tend to hold my breath when I hurt.”
He looks at me, and I can see the worry in his eyes. “Why don't you go lie down if you're in so much pain?”
“Fine! I get it; I'm interrupting your precious TV time.” Feeling like a burden, I stomp off to the bedroom and slam the door.
Sobs wrack my body as I collapse on the bed. “It’s like Chris can't stand to be in the same room as me. How could anyone love a useless lump like me? Oh, God, I need you. Are you here?” I turn up the TV to drown out my cries. My body aches to be held. I desperately want to return to the time when my pain didn't define me.
Shocks shoot down my spine, and my skin breaks out in tiny blisters. Though I've never had anyone sprinkle acid on me, I imagine this must be what it feels like. Closing my eyes, I feel my body tremble. My lungs begin to burn, and I realize I've been holding my breath again.
I look around the dingy bedroom that has been mine alone since Chris started sleeping on the couch. Cobwebs hang in the corner, out of reach from my shaky body. The blinds are pulled tight and blankets cover the window, so the sunlight doesn't hurt my sensitive eyes. During the night, I used to thrash about, keeping him awake, and bruising his body. I can't blame Chris for wanting to sleep peacefully. I’m not sure when it happened, but the room holds no trace of him anymore. Knowing I need my rest, Chris keeps his clothes in the other room so it won’t bother me when he dresses for work.
For twenty-five years, I've been battling this illness, and somewhere along the way it has managed to swallow me up. I glance in the mirror, barely recognizing the bride my husband married over twenty years ago. I remember questioning him before the wedding. “Are you sure you want to be with someone who is sick?”
Smiling, I remember how his eyes sparkled when he answered, “I love you, and nothing will keep us apart.”
Neither of us realized how my illness would progress. Embarrassed because inactivity has caused my weight to double, I barely leave the house anymore. The pain torments my body until sweat drips off me as I battle the agony. My limbs tremble. I don't want to embarrass anyone, so I stay hidden.
As the door opens, I turn to see Chris looking at me with glistening eyes. “I’m sorry; I didn't mean to hurt you. I worry when I hear you breathing like that. I wish I could take away your pain. You know I love you, right?”
I nod my head. I do know he loves me. Chris has stuck with me through many hospitalizations, surgeries, and even a year of deep depression when I attempted suicide too many times to count. He has to do the laundry because walking down the basement steps is too dangerous for me now. I easily could fall and hurt myself even more. He also does the shopping and other chores. It’s not his fault that his eyes don't see the cobwebs.
He leans over and kisses me.
I look into his eyes. “I’m sorry I overreacted. Go back and watch your show.”
As he leaves the room, I hear God whisper in my ear. “You may not be able to do everything you want to do, but it’s your choice to stay holed up alone in your room. Not only do you hold your breath when you're in pain, but you have forgotten to breathe the breath of life. You no longer enjoy living. That’s your choice; you shouldn't blame that on your illness.”
I take a deep breath in through my nose, and blow it out of my mouth. I wipe my tears away, brush my hair, get dressed in something other than pajamas, and open the door. It’s time to remember to breathe again.
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