Women is...: I am

I am

"The Imagining Ourselves project has been one of the most empowering experiences of my life. Diagnosed with MS in 1994, I cannot stand on my own two feet. Holding someone’s hand makes all the difference. I remember when this project was a simple Call for Submissions. I watched it transpire. I am amazed at what it has become—a global conglomerate of women holding hands. It’s beautiful and I am blessed to be a part of it."

I am

I remember it well—the black hole that was my life. I was too young to know that I needed to climb out of it. I was too naïve to know that I could. It swallowed me whole in a moment, in a sentence. The diagnosis was clinically definite. My doctor said it like it was nothing. I had never heard of it, so how bad could it be? My mother was beside me crying… what was she crying about? I remember it all so well.

The words pierced me as I read what it could do to me, how it could rob me of the ability to think, to speak, to walk, to move. I didn’t understand. How could one thing take so much away? This couldn’t be happening! My life was just beginning… and now it was ending. I had to know, so I kept reading… but it hurt and the words, they pierced me.

My eyes welled with tears as I turned the page. There, alone in my room, they poured out of me. I could not stop them. I was supposed to get married. I was going to have children—two boys and two girls. I was going to be a good mother. My husband would love me so much. I would be the perfect wife. Who would want me now? I turned another page, but I could barely see through the tears.

I let them all go… the dreams, the hopes. I was foolish to think they were mine, foolish to think I deserved them. Surely, this was my penalty. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much to let them all go.

Is this it? The brochure said the heat would make everything worse, but I was fine last summer. It’s getting so hot now, and the colours are all bleeding together. I could see everything a few minutes ago. It doesn’t make sense. I can’t get up either. What's going on? What am I going to do? Is this it?

They're staring at me. Can they see it? I don’t want them to. I’ll stare back. What are they looking at? Why are they staring at me?

I want to die. My doctor wants me to start using a cane. I’m 21 years old. I don’t want a cane. I want to die.

I haven’t been out in days. It’s too hard. I get dirty looks for taking the handicapped spot. They're right—I shouldn't be here. I can’t climb the stairs. The slopes of the ramps mock me. Someone's changing in the accessible stall and the automatic door is disabled. Maybe I’ll get that cane. I don’t want to, but this is ridiculous. I haven’t been out in days.

I should smile a little more. I don't have to be so rude. They only stare because they don’t understand what’s happened to me. Perhaps they haven’t heard of it either. Perhaps I’ll smile a little more.

It’s addictive. People are smiling back. They see the cane. They ask about it. They tell me I’m beautiful. They say I’m inspiring. They say they’ll pray for me and they hope I get better. They tell me to keep smiling. I think I will. It’s so much fun… and so addictive!

I’m speechless. Did he just say what I think he said? Did I hear him right? “I’m sorry to see you that way.” Did he just say that to me? But he’s homeless... why would he care about me? I don’t know what to say. I am utterly speechless.

These four walls, they alone have seen my tears. They closed in on me once. The darkness was never black enough to conceal my pain. It glowed from within me, burning me, constantly reminding me of what I was and what I could never be. I thought I would die here—here, within these four walls.

I lifted the curtains today. I want the sun to shine in on me. I want to see its light, to feel its love. I am so happy! Strangers seem to care. They want to help and they’re not afraid of me. They look past my disease and see me! I am in awe. I was so mistaken about everything and it all looks so different now, now that I have lifted the curtains.

He’s a good man and he loves me… but I had to turn him down. I just have to do this without him. I have to find my place in this world. It’s waiting for me. It needs me. I will find it and I will fill it with my love, my hope, my sincerity… the sincerity of a homeless man. I will bring it to life and lift the curtains that darken it. He’s a good man, but I...