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I’m (not) ready to make nice

I wake gently at precisely 5:51 am, the rain pounding on the windows as I slowly allow my eyes to flutter open. It’s a cold and dreary day in Los Angeles, as it has been for several weeks now, and my cats are sleeping soundly by my side whilst the storm rages on. Quietly sitting up, I swing my legs over the side of the bed to sit, my hands resting on my legs, my brain finally coming to attention.

It is January 20, 2017. In just a little over 3 hours, Donald Trump will be ascending to the highest position available within our government. His ideas and promises are extreme and frightening to most and as I rise to begin my day, I am forced to reflect on everything from the last year of both my personal journey and the journey of the nation and world as a whole.

The last year has been…odd, to say the least. I started a new job in Los Angeles that I love and appreciate and respect beyond anything I had thought possible. I got engaged to a man that I knew from the depths of the online world who I only actually got to meet in person because of a blizzard 9 years ago. I lost my grandfather who had inspired me to write and dream and think and act and speak, who had helped me become me.

And above it all I was struggling to find my footing again as I fought to regain control of my body, as I fought desperately to make it back to the one year mark of remission.

I was discharged from Hialeah Hospital on February 3, 2016 at around 12pm; I caught a flight back to Los Angeles 5 hours later, my body begging to get as far away from there as possible. I returned to work wearing sweatpants and pajamas as a shirt, more thankful than ever to be in a position to have that option. I began my routine of going to bed by 9pm, falling asleep each night exhausted as if I’d run a marathon. I drank Ensures to get my weight back to normalcy and when I suddenly had and then some, began to spiral into a bout of self-doubt and dejection that I didn’t understand.

As all this was occurring within my personal sphere of reality, a man who I had never given much thought to began to rise within the political ranks. Never mind that he hadn’t any experience in public service (unless you count his television show) or that everything he said was doused with fear, fried with bigotry and served with a side of homophobia. He was, and still is, a confirmed sexual predator who believes women are the lesser sex, a confirmed xenophobe who miserably fails in his attempts to disguise his proposed refugee ban as “safeguarding the borders”, a confirmed racist hellbent on dividing the country and keeping it concealed from all others outside of it.

In the end, he turns out to be what the government wants and there really wasn’t going to be much in terms of an argument about it.

Except there has been an argument about it. There have been dozens of arguments about it, especially when he was handed the job over a far more qualified candidate. The arguments were presented as marches and rallies and protests because for some odd reason, it was the only way to get anyone to listen (the United States not listening to its women, minorities or LGBTQ+ community? Blasphemy!). We sure didn’t want it this way.

I’ll be frank here – I’m a self proclaimed modest liberal and I know this. I believe in equal rights for all races and genders, I believe in a womans right to choose what they do to their own bodies and I believe that those in love should be able to marry whomever their heart tells them to. I also know that my views are my own and I acknowledge that completely.

So what does any of this have to do with my supposed recovery from a medical crisis? Everything.

We’ve elected a man who has forced me to face things that have happened within my life I never thought I would have to because I have never wanted to. My weight, my looks, my miscarriages, my abortion, my sexual assault, my domestic abuse, my goddamn self esteem.

My struggle to make it through a Monday without collapsing at 3 pm from fatigue after spending a weekend doing nothing because of a medical condition I will never fully have control of.

My inner voice telling me I will never be a writer, that every word I ever put into a sentence will never make it to print,that I will never see my name on the front of a book I poured my ideas and heart into.

My unspoken fear that, when the time is right and my partner and I decide we want children, I may not be able to provide that for him, and what that could mean for us as a couple.

To the United States president, all of these mean I’m just a whiny female with a bad attitude, a worthless liberal who knows nothing, another speck in California who means nothing to his agenda and administration.

Except that’s bullshit and I am finally, FINALLY seeing that. I am finally overcoming my conflicts and battles and with that, I am understanding my place within this world.

So as I woke on that morning just over 2 weeks ago, I began to accept the reality of the world I am now in, as well as accept the terms of this life I have been chosen to live. A two-fer, shall we say, a sudden realization that I’m worth the fight. I battled really hard to regain my mind and health, a quest that included a few extra pounds which have taken me quite a while to adjust to, a quest that required a reset of body and spirit to accept and challenge everything happening within my personal bubble as well as the world as a whole.

In the end, it’s been a quest that helped me realize I was ready to make nice with myself as a human being and embrace the future as it unfolds. I am perfect as is because this is how I am meant to be, how we ALL are meant to be. My condition does not define me, nor does my age or religion or sexual orientation or past.

The man sitting in the White House sure as fuck does not define me either. And goddamn if you think I’m ready to make nice with him.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

“We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the 20th of January will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!”

Today is a dark day for not just Americans, but for all humanity. More soon, I just need more time to fully process.

We don’t need another mountain

Lord, we don’t need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last ’till the end of time

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

This Means War

We are about 5 minutes from Miami-Dade International when everything begins to go to absolute shit.

Rix and Wakey are chatting in the backseat about the last 5 days and suddenly, out of nowhere, it happens: the uncontrollable nausea followed by the lump in my throat. My body temp shoots up, causing my cheeks to turn flame red and sweat to form on my forehead. I’m unable to move and the world halts to a slow motion drive-by.

I’m going to fucking throw up in the passenger seat of an Uber.

Saying nothing, I lean back and focus on re-learning how to breathe while the guys babble on. The car somehow makes it to my terminal and I jump out, more eager for the fresh air than I’ve ever been before. My suitcase is loaded out and I hear the back window roll down.

“Bridge, we’ll just meet you back here in a bit, after we check in.” Wakey’s no more than 3 feet from me but he may as well already be back in England. They’re on a separate flight and need to go check their bags with their airline; Harry’s already gone home.

I don’t remember the car driving off, nor walking into the terminal. The next thing I do remember is the sudden fact that I have been in the same bathroom stall by the American Airlines check in counter for over 45 minutes and everything I had eaten barely 2 hours before was gone.

My mom calls once or twice and I vaguely recall speaking to her. Chris calls too, and its then the situation at hand fully hits me: I’m having a flare up. A bad one. A massive, fuck-my-life, where is a doctor and when can I eat food again flare up.

If I’m being honest about it, this isn’t a sudden onset. I know I’ve been having a flare up since the 2nd day of the cruise I’ve just returned from; in my efforts to avoid questions & concerns, I blamed seasickness the entire time. At every meal, I had tricked the guys into believing I was eating, and would even force down a few bites here and there, just to chase down a toilet 15 minutes later to choke it all back up.

“This whole thing is fucked up,” I think to myself. All I had wanted was the option to be able to get on a ship and go off on an insane adventure with 3 of my closest friends. But no, shit had to get all kinds of terrible at the absolute worst time. Typical.

Rix and Wakey find me about an hour after we had separated and clue in pretty quick to the scene they’ve come across. I try to keep up the pretense I’ve spent the whole holiday building up.

“I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” I say every time they start to ask.

Each time I make the statement, Ricky stares at me, knowing I’m full of shit as I sway back and forth, clearly ill. The way his eyes narrow quickly clue me in to his brain processing how seriously he should be taking me. Finally, in an effort to deflect his gaze, I grab the water bottle he’s holding and throw the cap off, drinking the remainder liquid within seconds flat.

It does nothing for me and I can tell I’m in more trouble than I had initially acknowledged.

“You look like crap,” he says, with no sugar coating in sight. All my makeup has come completely off and my hair looks like I just ran a marathon. Sweat has soaked through my top and fully glistened my face.

The process of me throwing up, trudging back to sit down and lean my head over the check in chairs with the guys trying to cheer me up repeats itself at least half a dozen times over the next 2 hours.

It’s decided, by my obnoxiously stubborn self, that I’ll go through security, get on my flight and head straight to an ER/A&E when I land.

“You sure?” Rix asks

“Promise. I just need rest.”

He thinks for a second before accepting my lie with a worried smile and turns to Wakey to nod.

“Alright, safe flight, woman. We love you.” They both hug me and I’m suddenly in line for security. I somehow manage to not faint and make it through to find my terminal. I ask the customer service agent in my boarding area if there are any upgrades and, when told the flight is completely full, am asked if I’m “feeling ok.”

Fucking great, I think. Apparently I now look as bad as I feel.

Replying that I was alright, I ask if theres a First Aid center anywhere. There’s not, of course, and they offer to call me an ambulance, asking again if I feel ok and what exactly may be wrong. I tell them I have Crohn’s and one of the reps becomes immediately concerned, saying he knows of it and tells the other reps how “debilitating” it can be. He seems to already know how today is going to end for me.

I find the nearest toilet to restart my routine of being ill in a new various area of the Miami International Airport. By this time, theres nothing left and I know that if this keeps up for even just another 30 minutes, I’m screwed.

Turns out, it doesn’t take that long. Like he knows I need him at that exact time, my dad calls. I’m not sure why, but thats when I break.

“Dad,” I say, with a cracking voice. “I am not ok. Something is very wrong.”

And as I sink to the floor in front of one of the bathroom sinks, I slowly begin to cry.

I don’t want this, I’ve never wanted this. I’m tired, exhausted actually, of fighting a battle that I will never, ever win. Worst so, fighting a battle thats a recurring nightmare of déjà vu: get sick, vomit for days on end, lose weight, enter remission, repeat.

Crohn’s brings such a gloom over its sufferers that slowly, no matter who you are, no matter how positive of a person you are, at some point, you will eventually spiral into a horrendous depression. It will be severe and sudden and you will not be able to shake it, though you’ll lie to everyone saying you’re good. And everyone will believe you, which actually just makes it all the worse.

A 5 day excursion from Florida to Mexico to the Cayman Islands and back again, with no reception anywhere and very little communication to the outside world, should end with me feeling like a mermaid, sun-kissed and relaxed. Instead, I’m forced to accept that I need to start taking this Crohn’s thing a bit more seriously.

My airport stay ends with me NOT getting on my flight. Instead, after managing to actually become physically ill all over the customer service counter, American Airlines is forced to call an ambulance to its departures terminal; when they arrive, they have to pick me up off the tile floor of the handicap stall. A TSA agent accompanies them and I’m forced to endure a casual 350+ eyes on me as I continuously vomit up what feels like quarts of stomach bile. To add to it, I’m administered an IV into my hand and arm, with the one in my hand missing at first. Blood spouts from it, down my arm and all over my clothes, which, by the way, are the only clothes I have since I’ve checked my luggage.

As I soon discover, when an ambulance is forced to take a patient from an airport to a hospital, you’re transported from point A via the physical runway. Ask me about it today and I’ll tell you its hilarious, but day of, literally forcing commercial airplanes to wait as I’m hauled away is probably the most humiliating thing that I’ve ever endured.

I spend 2 days at Hialeah Hospital (which, in my record book, is among the least amount of time admitted) in Miami and am unable to eat for about 5 more days. Legally I am not allowed to board a flight until I have strict permission from a doctor that has been communicated to the airline; my luggage has already been forwarded to LAX and I pick it up once I land.

The final diagnosis comes back as norovirus with a side order of diverticulitis, which I’ve dealt with before. For the second time in my life I had to hear from several members of the medical personnel how they had never seen “diverticulitis in someone so young before, let alone under 50.”

Rix and Wakey had a bit of a flip out when they find out whats happened, but in all honesty, what could they have done? They are 2 of my best friends and a couple of the best guys I know; they did enough by entertaining my delusions of not being sick the entire time we were on holiday.

So here I am, 2 months later. My food intake list has been depleted, yet again, and my exercise regimen has drastically increased. I don’t go out anymore, and the rare time I have to myself is spent sleeping because I’m exhausted from doing the simplest thing.

I wish I could relive the cruise. I wish I hadn’t been ill the whole time. I wish I wasn’t facing over $6k in medical bills from a mere 48 hours of medical care. I wish I wasn’t this and that things could be different. I wish a lot of things.

In the end, I can wish all I want, but some things can’t change, no matter how much I want them to. I’m going to keep bouncing around the globe. I’m going to see Vancouver and London and Stockholm and Munich and Dublin again and I’ll do so whenever I please. If I want to grab that last minute flight out of town for a weekend, then thats what I’m going to. I still have a life to live.

C’est la vie. At this point, the only thing that’s going to stop me is me. And that is not something I will ever let happen.

It’s a good life

“We sat out there in silence for a minute and then Gus said, ” I wish we had that swing set sometimes.”

“The one from my backyard?”

“Yeah. My nostalgia is so extreme that I am capable of missing a swing my butt never actually touched.”

“Nostalgia is a side effect of cancer,” I told him.
“Nah, nostalgia is a side effect of dying,” he answered.

Above us, the wind blew and the branching shadows rearranged themselves on our skin. Gus squeezed my hand. “It is a good life, Hazel Grace.”

Truth. So live it.

A letter from an American

Dear ISIS,

Hello. My name is Bridget and while you do not know me, I can assure you, I know you.

Allow me to explain. You see, I’m an American citizen, one of the millions living here in the USA. Due to this seemingly trivial fact, you have decided that I am officially on an invisible list you have created that states I, along with millions of other nations citizens, must be eradicated.

But thats just the thing: its becoming more and more clear your reasonings for every movement you have ever made lack justification. When I said I knew you, I wasn’t kidding.

You’re brash and it shows in your actions. You have this constant need to kill and terrorize in the name of a religion that does not teach such evil. You believe in murder and poison and pain and tearing families apart. You get off on forcing hundreds of thousands from their homelands and specialize in instilling intense fear into our modern society.

However, as mentioned, you don’t know me. On that point, you don’t truly know humanity, no matter how much you try and claim that “we deserve all the attacks”. Every time you attempt to crush us, we remember who we are, what we are: united. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhist, Atheists, we stand with Paris. And Beirut, and Kenya, and every other country and city who has sadly been forced to experience such horror over the last few decades.

So to you, ISIS, on behalf of the citizens of the world, I say this: we are done being afraid of you. When you are defeated (and trust me, you will be) and forced to slip away, your cowardice will be self evident and we will remember that your actions had the opposite effect that you intended.

And for the record, this letter extends beyond just ISIS; its a message for all the so-called terror groups existing in 2015. You cannot and will not break us. Unlike you, we believe in love and the immense power it has to heal. We are undivided because race, religion, gender or sexual orientation mean nothing when we stand together.

So good luck with your agenda. It will fail, of course, and you will come to realize that all of us are one support system that operates on the one thing you will never know: love.

Sincerely,
Bridget C.
Citizen of the UNITED States of America

“You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

I am equipped with nothing but our fading memories

Oil and water,
they don’t mix like we do.
We are a perfect synergy
of alternative symmetry,
I’d hate to dissolve from you.

Our skin pressed together,
and nerves intertwined.
I felt familiar
for the first time in my life.

Our walls fought
for a balance on equal arms.
Time forever against us,
we relaxed our embrace
and let a certain darkness through.

Oil and water,
they don’t mix like we do.
We are a perfect synergy
of alternative symmetry,
I regret the day I dissolved from you.

-Jonathan Anthony Wolfe

TwentyEight

Hello, 28, nice to make your acquaintance.

The amusing part about getting older is you view everything with increased detail and observation. You notice time moving quicker, the world spinning at a more rapid pace than you previously recall. The days blur into weeks, weeks into months, and suddenly…

For my birthday last year I decided to voice how I really felt about living with an intestinal disease. “It’s kind of a funny story: 10 years with Crohn’s” was a creative production that was something I needed to do to properly explain what it really felt like to be a prisoner within my own body – and my mind.

The truth is, “IKOAFS” was meant to be a letting go exercise for me, a way to withdrawal my body image issues out from my head and into reality so I could release them from my conscience. And at first, thats exactly what it did. I got a small taste of freedom, what it really meant to love me for me, even if it was simply for a month or so.

But some things change and some sensations don’t last forever, allowing other feelings that you thought were gone to creep back into the deepest parts of your psyche. Every inch of progress I swore I had made seemed gone and my new attitude on life looked like it was just a front I had engineered to make myself pretend I was a new person.

What the hell went wrong?

How could I allow this to occur? I thought I was doing so well and now, just a few weeks after I poured my soul out onto the internet, I felt like a complete fraud. I’m a liar, an absolute cheat who had just told the world “hey, I feel fucking fabulous!” when really, I felt like a flabby lump of flesh who couldn’t even eat a piece of cheese without puking everywhere. Everything was bullshit again.

Until something happened – I stepped on a Norwegian flight bound for the UK. More specifically, for London.

I’ve been rambling about my experiences overseas for months now. It’s annoying at this point. But the truth is, the traveling I’ve been doing, the places I’ve been, the adventures I’ve had, they’ve saved me. More so than that, they’ve reminded me to just stop and live for a second. The people I’ve come across and met and let into my life have continuously emphasized and encouraged my right to indulge in happiness. It’s a pretty incredible life – why do I continue to not revel in that?

So, quick reset and immediate observation: I’m ridiculous and the world does not spin around me simply because I have to hang around the toilet more often than others. Things could be so much more difficult and one day, they most likely will be. For now, though, lets take it day to day and appreciate the world.

I can’t say I won’t have my moments, or hours, or even weeks where I won’t be discouraged. At least now I know it’s ok to be honest about it.

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Thank you to Wakey, Kav, Stubber, Roo, Harry, Ricky and Fenton for reminding me to slow down whilst simultaneously never forgetting to live. You 7 have done more for me than you may ever realize and I am forever in your debt.

And thank you to Chris for patiently staying by my side and never letting me hit the bottom. You’re my strength and guardian and I couldn’t do this without you.

“Heaven take my soul and England keep my bones.” -Shakespeare

Photos by Anna Demarco at Anna Demarco Photography

Here I Am Alive

I don’t feel that this is my responsibility.

It’s not really my place to explain my conduct or life choices to those who continue to make assumptions based upon false facts they have created within their mind because of things they see on social media. This is 2015 and we aren’t teenagers; we are adults in this world and it causes a slight shiver to coarse through my body when we fail to act as such.

My life is my life. My actions, decisions and subsequent consequences? Those are mine as well.

I don’t view my passions as anyones problem but my own, however, I do admit I find it necessary to remark and clarify when people decide to view me as something I am not. Again, I strongly feel it’s not my duty to help others clear up the fiction they have construed, especially when those who have done so don’t know ME.

Sadly, though, this is something that has to be done. I will tell you this post and my “explanation of my actions” is not meant to be harsh or personal, it’s simply the truth.

I am not Instagram, I am not Facebook, I am not Twitter, no more than I am Crohn’s. I don’t believe in letting those things define me and it’s unfortunate that others have let it define their impression of my individual character.

What am I then?

I’m an almost 28 year old who is proud of her body, even after the (literal) shit it’s been put through. To me, that means participating at times in photoshoots with outcomes that others may deem uncomfortable. I understand that you may not endorse these photos and quite frankly, I don’t expect you to. But while you may not accept “it”, I do expect you to accept me.

It means focusing my time and energy on traveling whenever and wherever I can, as often as I have the opportunity. This burn and drive I have to see it all comes from the my life experiences that most may not fully comprehend, and that’s alright. For my part, however, I don’t want to miss a thing in this world and the experiences it has to offer.

It means taking the time to write about the things I love and places I’ve seen and putting characters and stories to paper that have been in my head for years. Whether or not others read them or anything gets published isn’t the point; so long as I get it down and never doubt my truth or myself, then for me, that’s the important part.

It means altering my mentality to be the type of person who has fully accepted themselves enough to know that not all is as it seems; there is always the truth and until that has manifested itself to me, than my mind shall remain open, always. My relationships with my parents, my significant other, my friends, my family and even those I have just met are known to me and so long as that respect and love is returned and known to all parties involved, then there is no excuse for others to meddle.

In the end, what matters is knowing who you are and whether you are secure enough to love not just the other incredible souls you meet in this universe but yourself as well. Don’t judge those you don’t know simply because you don’t understand.

We are all more than these trivial things that play a part in our lives – we are humans. Live the positive and exhale the illusions you allow to control you. Get to know someone, REALLY know them. Don’t ask them about what band they like or food the enjoy, ask them about their drive and passions, fears and loves. Change the status quo and search inside them and yourself before you make a final decision on them and their character.

Only then will you truly understand life and the world we are in.

The third age of Bridget Black

I’m fairly certain I’m a cat, what with the nine lives and all.

The evening of March 30, 2015 marks 1 year since my release from hospital for diverticulitis and its subsequent complications, thus resulting in me slowly entering a bout of Crohn’s remission.

1 year of remission. That’s not to say this past year hasn’t gone off without a hitch. Anyone with Crohn’s or Colitis or otherwise will tell you remission is a laughable term. It’s simply a phrase used to state that I haven’t been hospitalized for more than 48 hours in approximately 365 days.

This last year was somewhat difficult, as far as my health has been concerned. I’ve had to alter what I can eat, can’t eat, what I can drink, how often I exercise, when I can travel, when I must sleep, how often I nap. It’s a complete overhaul, but not one I am unused to.

I believe I have made amazing improvements in my fight again Crohn’s, not just within the last year, but within the last decade. Compared to where I was even 5 years ago I have to admit, I am proud of my accomplishments. They may be few and they may be meager, but to me, they are substantial steps in the right direction.

That being said, this post and the few photos are not meant to be viewed in a “oh whoa is me” type manner. For me, this is a “this happened but this is progress.” My body and it’s various shapes are a result of several years of Crohn’s and it’s side effects, but I am not ashamed. I have been scarily thin, yes, but I have always pulled through.

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Remember, this is just a journey. And mine isn’t over.