In the months after my first surgery to treat my endometriosis, I promised myself I’d never be in the same situation again. Now, after three years of chronic illness and a second surgery, I realize how completely naive I was to think of making a commitment like that.
For one thing, in 2009 I was convinced that I would somehow beat the disease. I haven’t. Far from it, my symptoms have gotten worse in the interim. This isn’t to say I’m not optimistic that I will one day live pain-free, but it was a lot to hope for that I’d receive a diagnosis, learn about the condition, get used to what it meant for me, and find the right treatment for my case that quickly.
For another, I promised myself I’d never end up operating in an emergency situation again. While I wasn’t admitted for my surgery last summer through the ER, it wasn’t like I had a whole lot of warning for the procedure either.
And that was another part of my promise: that I wouldn’t be faced with meeting deadlines during my recovery. Well, I’m still struggling to make up for recovery time—or, more accurately, I’m still recovering—and I am, like last time with Subjective, working to finish my upcoming series.
Finally, I swore that I would have enough money to cover my deductible this time. I wanted to be an artist who didn’t need grants to cover my medical bills, and I might have been if I could still work like I used to, but chronic illness doesn’t play out that way.
When I think about the promise I made three years ago, I see a person who values personal responsibility deeply—someone who believes in her own ability to overcome all adversity and to do it on her own. And while I still feel there’s something beautiful about that world view and I still subscribe to it to some degree, since 2009 my illness has purged every last vestige of the myth of self-sufficiency from my life. It is so clear to me that none of us are in this alone and none of us can do anything we do without the support of others.
These days, I recognize and embrace the interdependence of modern life, and, today especially, I do so with gratitude. In 2009 and 2010, Change Inc, Artists’ Fellowship Inc, and Haven Foundation awarded me grants to pay my medical bills. This year, the Haven Foundation has chosen to assist me again.
When I realized how thoroughly I had failed to keep my promise from 2009, I just about promised to not make anymore promises to myself regarding my disease, but I can’t help myself. All this inspires me to make a new promise, one that reflects reality in the best way possible: I promise to ask for help whenever I need it and to offer it whenever I can.