Column | The Burden Of Survival
When you hear of somebody surviving an accident, recovering from an illness or defeating odds there are always the same buzzwords. We say we are blessed or thankful or grateful. Those who enquire get regaled with the story of our hurdles as people earnestly hold our hands and thank God for your still being on Earth. The one word you never hear mentioned is ‘burden’.
When I was born, the doctors immediately knew something was wrong. My body was contorted, my ear was deformed, my foot was clubbed to the extent where they had to immediately cut my hamstring to loosen the tightness. I was operated on as they battled to save me. This deformed boy and his twin sister. My sister recovered quickly from the harshness of a caesarian section but for me, it was just the beginning. My parents sat, solemn, as they were told the boy they dreamed of would not be long on this Earth. He would never walk, talk or crawl. They sat frozen, as they were told I had a two year life expectancy.
Then my third birthday came. And I could crawl, I began to walk and I could talk. My parents, like others, believed it was a miracle. They believed that God had shined a light on their son. They sat, operation after operation, wondering if the miracle would finally run out. Like they were in a pay and display parking bay and the metre was near empty. But I would return. Scarred, sure, but alive. The miracle kept on being a miracle. And so the baby became a child, whose parents were told would never be able to feed himself, began getting good grades in school. My parents looked on in proud amazement with each examination certificate, each award, each monumental step they thought they’d never see. And with this came the burden. To always do more and be more. Their child, their miracle.
My parents never put this pressure on me. Nor did anyone else. But boy do I feel the expectation. You begin to feel invincible. I have been through operations where I have flatlined on the table, where they once intubated me with such force it pushed my teeth forward requiring braces. I have felt the grip of asthma, cruelly squeezing my lungs of their last breath. I have overcome so many hurdles, and it’s hard not to think there’s a reason. I don’t believe in God but how many times does one person get to cheat Death? To defy the odds? But with each time, the burden got greater. The burden to be something that makes a difference in the world.
This ambition has led me down so many paths, has forced so many mistakes. It has seen me desperate for affection and make some poor decisions, just to be noticed. I want to believe that me being alive makes a difference in the world so that, if the miracle runs out, it was all worthwhile. So every misstep hurts that little bit more. Coming out as gay hurt a little bit more because it felt like I was disappointing others. It makes me give things up way too soon because I constantly feel like I’m running the clock. That I have to get to some sort of finish line.
I believe that I have met the true love of my life. He felt like the missing piece, my true second half. But he came with his demons and I tried to stand by him but when it looked like our relationship wasn’t going to be PERFECT, I backed off. I began to grow tired of his low moments, I grew angry that he didn’t have the same ambition I did. He wanted to be happy but he had his own battles to face, so he wasn’t. My need to both be the best boyfriend and HAVE the best boyfriend added pressure. It pushed him away. And now I struggle to even date because I don’t believe anybody could match him in my mind or my heart.
Then, in March, I almost died. It was discovered that I was a insulin dependant Diabetic. My Doctors had confused the symptoms for a stomach virus and my body began shutting down. I was told I was around two days away from death. This has added a whole new aspect to my life. My body is black and blue with the bruises from injections. My fingertips glow red with the endless pricking and drawing of blood I have to do. And I’m exhausted. Mentally and physically. This has broken me. People keep telling me that I’ll get used to it, that it’ll become normal but I implore them to try injecting themselves five times a day and feel normal. I am tired of having to be careful, frightened of what might happen. And then, there’s the burden. That I have been given the freedom to live, as long as I take my medication. Years ago, when Diabetes was unknown, people just died. It killed them fast. Now I have the responsibility of being grateful for the power of modern medicine. So when I feel down and exhausted, I feel ungrateful and selfish too.
Nobody ever talks about the burden of surviving. But I’ve experienced operations and rehab, pain and heartbreak and near-death and recovery. And as I get older, the burden of survival somehow lessens. Because with each new day, life teaches me that I have no control over what’s going to happen. So the burden slowly chips away to reveal that, deep down, the only thing I need to feel is lucky. And all I can do is my best to remember that. To breathe in and feel the air in my lungs because no matter how I feel when I wake up, I must always try to take a moment to feel blessed, to be grateful and to give thanks. Because, the crux of it all is: I’ve survived.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.