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The Fly And I

A Kenyon student’s personal essay on living with chronic illness.

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In. Out. In. Out. You’ve gotten through this before. You will do it again. This storm too shall  pass. 

I am laying on the cold bathroom floor, watching the fly buzz around in front of me. It is flittering around the small room, going from wall to wall, never staying in one place for more  than a few seconds. I have considered catching it, but why make the fly’s night as miserable as  mine? Why not provide it comfort from the storm? And let me be honest, I am in no state to get  off the floor and catch a pesky fly. 

In. Out. In. Out. You’ve gotten through this before. You will do it again. 

You’re likely wondering what I’m doing, laying on my bathroom floor at 11 pm on a Thursday  night. I guess the answer comes down to the fact that my body hates me. It’s like the fly – never  leaving me a moment of peace, always reminding me of its unwanted presence. I had been in this exact same position only a week prior. But even so, I had not been ready for this flareup, for my medical treatment to backfire, and for it to leave me worse off than before. I know it’s always  a possibility, but usually it only happens once a month. Sometimes, I even get a blissful two  months without one. But two weeks in a row? No, I wasn’t ready for this. This was not the way it  was supposed to work. 

I suppose that is the root of my problem. Nothing ever works the way it  should with my body. We have a routine – flush out the colon every night, a severe bowel blockage once a month, joints on fire in the morning, migraine once a week – but as soon as I get used to it, my body switches the routine on me. I constantly wonder what it would be like to not be at war with my body. My body and soul – they don’t live in harmony. The desires of one are always clashing with the other. And as much as I see myself as a fighter, I’ve found that my body usually comes out the winner. 

In. Out. In. Out. You’ve gotten through this before. 

In truth, I had known half an hour before now that my colon would flare up, but in true Morgan  fashion, I had denied it. I knew when I looked up at the purple gravity bag and saw the drip, drip, drip of the medicine had ceased, no longer being pumped into my colon through a small hole in my belly button. I knew when I could feel my colon expanding, blowing up like a balloon and causing my abdomen to stretch. I knew when I looked down, this feeling confirmed by the sight of my swollen stomach, an incessant cause of embarrassment for me. I knew because all the signs were there. And yet, I ignored them because there was nothing I could do to stop it. It was easier to deny the truth of what my evening would hold. I had opted to pretend that everything would be alright. To pretend my body would be kind to me tonight. 

In. Out. In. Out. 

The fly is now resting on the wall, staring at me. What I wouldn’t give to be a simple fly. They only live between 15 and 30 days, did you know that? A short life, but probably one without pain  and suffering. I bet the fly didn’t have to worry each night if it would end up practically lifeless on a bathroom floor. Another wave of pain washes over me, forcing me to tear my eyes away from the fly as I pull my limbs into a fetal position. Maybe it could somehow protect me from the attack coming from within. I knew I just needed to stay calm. Panicking always made things worse. 

The boundaries between physical and mental are constantly blurred. Just last week I succumbed to the anxiety coursing through me, letting panicked breaths distract myself from the destruction happening in my colon. I recall the feeling of dread and the tightening in my throat that came with it. It will only be when I overcome the mental hurdle that I will be able to face the physical one.  If I could just get up from the ground, I could take the tube out of my stomach and unclog it. Unclog it, put it back in, get the medicine to run through. That is all I needed to do. But before I can even move an inch, I am hit again with intense pain, and I withdraw even further into myself. I feel the tears coming. I want them to go away. I beg them to go away. I did not cry when a tube was shoved down my nose once a month. I did not cry after a foot and a half of my colon was removed and I was left weaker than ever before. I did not cry when I was made to get up and walk that very same day. I would not allow it.  But I am alone. If there is no one to see this weakness, what is the point in holding back? My breath quickens and the tears threaten to well over. One escapes and rolls gracefully down my cheek. 

In. Out. 

Focus. Get up. Get off the ground. 


Pull yourself together.

There is no one here. No one is going to get you out of this. No one will ever truly know the pain  you face. No one will know if you fought or if you gave up. You are going to be stuck on this  bathroom floor for the rest of your miserable life. Or worse, you’re going to die on this  bathroom floor, and no one will even notice. Because no one ever notices when you’re missing,  do they? How does it feel, knowing a faulty colon will be the thing that kills you? 

The thoughts stream in, one by one. I won’t actually die from this. I know that deep in my heart. But that knowledge does not erase that most of these thoughts are true and does nothing to stop the feeling of dread I get every time I end up on the bathroom floor clutching my stomach. It does nothing to stop me from considering just ending it all myself. What would always be true is that I am alone. I will always be alone with this pain. Alone and disgusted with myself. No one will ever see what happens behind this bathroom door. No one will ever know because I will never tell them. If I told them, they would never look at me without being repulsed. It would be too revolting for them to bear. So instead I know that tomorrow I’ll force a smile and if they ask how my night was, I will respond with a convincing, “great!” no matter what horrors I’ve endured. No matter how much I’m actually suffering. No one will ever know. 

The fly knows, though. It remains so still, watching me, pitying the lonely person it sees before it.  I take a deep breath and, keeping my eyes steady on the fly, raise a shaking hand and grip it onto the sink counter above me. With a surge of confidence, I pull myself up. A final stream of pain rushes through me and I fall back on the ground, this time on my knees in front of the toilet. All of these bad feelings and all of the pain radiating throughout me rush up my esophagus and spill into the toilet. Fresh tears fall, but I tell myself it is okay because this is the dam breaking. This is all my colon needs to get back on track. I tell myself everything will be alright, even knowing I’ll go through the same thing sooner rather than later. I slump against the wall, surrounded by filth. My body will always be surrounded by my filth. But at this moment, I don’t care. I clear the tears from my eyes and look around the small room, searching for the fly. It is gone. Perhaps to watch someone else in pain. Maybe to search for someplace happier.  


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