March 25, 2020
Behind the Zines: Let’s Talk About Vulnerability
A monarch butterfly creeps towards the edge of baby-pink flowersSource: Monarch Butterflies | Penelope Peru Photography
Healing, by nature, is a very delicate topic that required an air of grace on behalf of ourselves and our contributors to hold these discussions.
We’re immensely proud of our community for coming together and letting themselves be vulnerable over the last two months.
However, there’s still one person who’s not entirely on board yet: me, editor burgundy bug.
Don’t get me wrong – this has been one of my favorite zine themes yet. My curiosities are married to health sciences and I’ll take any opportunity I can to blab on about neurochemistry and cognition.
In fact, I’m kinda sad this theme is coming to a close.
My biggest personal regret this zine was not allowing myself to be more vulnerable throughout the last two months. When I initially decided we’d do a health-themed zine, I was drawn to the name “Healing” because I wanted it to focus on health from a more personal perspective.
I’ve been trying to push myself to talk openly and publicly about my chronic gastrointestinal issues since the “Reflections” zine, which was published last August.
To be frank, it’s not that I have trouble talking about my GI issues because they involve more grotesque details. I’ve been asked about my symptoms so many times by complete strangers that I’m numb to it.
The fact that I can’t count every individual who knows that blood comes out both of my ends sometimes on two hands, let alone one hand, is just something I’ve come to accept.
Mind you, I don’t I go around shouting from the rooftops, “IF I EAT SOMETHING THAT I CAN’T DIGEST I MIGHT SPEND HOURS VOMITING UNTIL I BLEED, AND SOMETIMES BLOOD COMES OUT OF MY BUTT, TOO.” Yet somehow, it comes up in conversation.
I guess it’s kind of hard not to talk about something you deal with on a daily basis. Living with GI issues feels like living with the elephant in the room.
Because GI issues are considered an “invisible illness,” I find comfort in the brief anonymity of not being “the sick girl” – regardless of how fleeting the moment is, since my colleagues, friends, and family all end up finding out, anyways.
Still, at a glance, you wouldn’t know I’ve been bedridden by my symptoms in the recent past, and there are still days where I feel like gum on the bottom of a shoe being scraped mercilessly against gritty pavement.
And I like that. Not the gum on the bottom of a shoe part, but getting to be someone else. Not being pitied or told to suck it up by a peanut crowd.
Keeping my emotions under control while telling my story is another huge pitfall for me. Despite being the “mom friend” that everyone goes to for advice or to vent, I’m not one to put my own emotions on blast.
It’s kind of paradoxical, because I’m a very expressive, “extroverted” individual, so it’s plain as day when I’m in a funk – I just don’t like talking about it.
I’d rather use a meme, a gif, draw a comic, or scribble away in my journal than talk it out with a friend.
And my comics I don’t really have a problem sharing, either. There’s something about conveying yourself through cartoon characters that makes it far less intimidating. Perhaps it’s the fact that you’re talking through a character, rather than yourself – the you that goes to job interviews, the you that goes to college, the you that runs a digital magazine.
Comics are also a lot more brief, direct, and punchy. There’s more comedy to it, even if it’s sadistic or satirical.
Writing an entire article or even sharing poems about my experiences is a whole other story, though. It’s not “Tea Hazel C,” “Mid Life Crisis Kid,” or “Clock Guy” talking about puking in a four-panel comic. It’s me divulging the ins-and-outs of my GI issues, paragraph after paragraph.
Every time I’ve sat down to write, “Living With Chronic GI Issues,” I’m overwhelmed by emotion. It’s very hard for me to relive my story, from having MRSA, the hole that was burnt into the back of my neck due to the misdiagnoses, to becoming a walking-talking skeleton, puking blood for the first time, to just trying to manage my symptoms present day.
It’s a very emotionally painful process for me. Even if I were to suck it up and finish the article, the idea that my story will live on in the rabbit hole that is the internet feels very haunting to me.
I want to share my story because I want to help others. I personally find a lot of comfort in reading stories or comics from other creators who struggle with very similar symptoms to my own – and it’s difficult to find individuals who are willing to talk about such a sensitive topic, but it’s incredibly helpful to those in their audience who are going through the same thing.
I’d like to be that person, too, but I also want to move on from the darker parts of my healing journey. I can’t pretend like they didn’t happen, but it’s healthier for me to focus on the part of my journey that I’m at now: to focus on getting better.
I’m not quite there yet, but I’m definitely better off than I was last year, and far better off than I was the year before that.
Maybe once I’m at a place where I feel I have more control over my symptoms, rather than my symptoms controlling me, I’ll be more comfortable sharing my story.
But for now, my story is still ongoing and I don’t know what the end might of it might look like… That sounds ominous, but I promise it’s not.
What I mean is, I don’t know how I’ll overcome my GI issues, and I don’t know if they’ll ever truly go away. But when I reflect on them, I want to be at a place where I can say I’ve grown from my experiences and be that inspiration for someone else.
For now, I’m still that person who needs the inspiration from someone else. I’m still searching for the answers, but when I get there, I’ll be sure to share.
Post-ramble note: Thanks for reading through and I hope you understand. I know it may sound like a cheesy cop-out, and with the amount of effort that went into this post, I could’ve just finished the other article.
But like I said, I’m quite not there yet.
burgundy bug >:^)
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