When I was small, my mom tucked me into bed as a nightly ritual. I had to choose one of my favorite stuffed animals, hug it close, and listen as she stroked my hair, describing an adventure that I would go on in my dreams. As she wove her tales I waited in anticipation for the magic. She formed a loose fist with one hand, placed it in the center of my forehead, and puffed warm air into it. After taking her fist away, she would say “Seal it with a kiss,” kissing me where my forehead was still warm from her breathe.
Every morning I woke up feeling like I had actually gone on the adventures. It was the special kind of magic that moms have and I will always blame Murder She Wrote for ruining it. The show wasn’t even scary, but there was one episode that snuck into my subconscious mind. I don’t even remember the plot clearly but Jessica Fletcher ended up getting locked in an Irish castle’s ancient dungeon, where it was heavily implied she would be eaten alive by rats if she didn’t get out by the end of the episode.
After, a black door began to appear in all my dreams. There actually was no door: it was just a doorframe filled with absolute darkness. And I never saw it in the beginning of the dream, but I felt it in my gut. I would be jumping on a trampoline of jello with all my stuffed animals and feel its presence. I would be frolicking through fields of flowers, running free, and be weighed down by it. Eventually in the dream I would begin to see it. And even though I told myself not to, I continually glanced in its direction. I was drawn to it in an almost biological way, like monarch butterflies are drawn north on their great migration. Eventually I found myself closer and closer to it. The closer I got, the more everything else in my dream faded, until it was like watching the television on mute. Finally I would walk through the doorframe and that was it. I wouldn’t jerk awake. It was scarier. I had this terrifying feeling that I didn’t exist anymore, that I had been absorbed into the darkness. There were no more dreams after I walked into the darkness. Everything ended and I existed in the state of non-existence until I woke up.
For me ulcerative colitis is like that doorframe of absolute darkness. When I’m completely healthy, I still feel it in my gut, in the back of my mind, and it weighs me down. The feeling of absolute freedom is gone for good. Small declines in health are me drawing closer to the doorframe of darkness. It feels inevitable that I will eventually be absorbed by it. As my health declines more, I feel myself getting closer and closer to that doorframe of absolute darkness, and everything begins to blur together, connected only by pain and fatigue. When I finally pass the threshold, that is when I cease to be me. I’m just a seizing mass of raw nerve endings waiting for the sun to rise. Waiting because I can’t do anything. Not because I’m weak, not because I’m not trying, not because I don’t care but because there is nothing I can do. I just have to wait for healing, for my body to stop attacking itself.