People and animals will come and go in my life. I will move from place to place in this world. Different things will capture my interest and take up my time as I grow. The one thing that I can count on to never leave me, to be my constant companion, to remain present through it all no matter who I am with, where in the world I am, or what I am doing is my life partner–Judas.
Early on in high school, I had this amazing therapist who did a wonderful job of validating all of my feelings and making me feel sane even when my anger or sadness or mania or exhaustion or anxiety or sense of defeat were totally out of control. She helped me find ways to cope with the stresses that piled up on my shoulders from being an overachieving International Baccalaureate student with extra curriculars, a sister who often felt like a third parent, the friend who everyone expected to take care of them despite them being far too broken to be helped by anyone who wasn’t a professional, and a chronically sick kid. This therapist would hand me playdough to fist and model throughout my school day. She would let me spend an hour coloring if that’s what I needed. She listened without judgement. She had a little punching bag that accepted my tiny fists of fury without complaint. She let me yell at an empty chair in her office when I had harsh words that no one actually needed to hear.
All of these things were helpful. So so unbelievably helpful. But one of the best things Mrs. Smith ever gave to me was Judas.
As high school progressed, I was getting sicker and sicker. My pain was intensifying. My exhaustion was never ending. My brain fog was getting harder to wade through. I wasn’t keeping any solid food down. I was so weak. My labs were coming back with bad news. My intestines looked like hamburger meat. And I was pissed off about it. I was desperately angry with no one to yell at or cuss out or hit. So one day Mrs. Smith told me to write a letter to my illness–to personify this horrible thing that was taking away my life little by little and making me so fucking miserable.
I thought it was a really dumb idea. I couldn’t write a letter to something that I couldn’t picture as being able to receive my words like a person. I left her office with her encouragement to just think about it and because I loved and trusted her, I did. As I thought about it, I realized that this sickness that was ravaging my body and ruining my life was a monster. But it was a monster made up of my own systems.
The thing about autoimmune diseases is that they are diseases caused by your immune system, which is the system that is meant to protect your body from foreign invaders (bad things), attacking whichever part of your body the disease is affecting. For example–Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the person’s digestive system anywhere from their mouth to their anus; Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the person’s thyroid gland; Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the person’s joints. It really really sucks when the part of your body that is supposed to protect you from harm is the part of your body that is trying to kill you.
So I was going about my business with these thoughts on my mind, and suddenly it came to me. Judas. My illness–my monster made up of my own white blood cells trying to kill me–would be named Judas in order to personify it enough to write a letter full of all my built up rage. Judas betrayed Jesus, and my body betrays me. Bam. Perfect.
I wrote my letter. It made me feel better. For a while. Then it didn’t anymore. So I wrote another letter. And another. And another. Until I didn’t need the letters anymore because I’m able to just talk to Judas. I’ve accepted him as part of me. Judas is my life partner–my constant companion–and everyone in my life has accepted him too. My friends and family will acknowledge him and refer to him by name when I let out a pained noise or I double over as we’re walking. They ask how Judas is or if Judas is going to let me do something that day. And it’s healthy for me. It works.