That familiar old feeling.

I was ridding such a high after my second dose of Pfizer. I thought, ‘that’s it, COVID-19 is officially over for me’. I don’t think I could have been more wrong.

I was sitting in my car this morning, in the usual peak hour traffic, skipping almost every song from my playlist. At first I wondered why I was doing that – then I realised when I stopped at a particular track from Marilyn Manson, then turned it up.

Almost none of the songs on my playlist are angry enough for me right now. I haven’t been this angry since the mid-2000’s.

I’m not sure what it is, the duration the hellscape we refer to as COVID-19, the fact that I just had to pay $50 extra on my land rates when I have none of the privileges I used to on the Gold Coast, or that I literally haven’t had a break from work in 18 months. All I can tell you is that I feel so angry, part of me thinks I will never feel joy again.

What am I complaining about, right? We live in Australia, yada yada yada. Stop right there. I have been told so many times how lucky I am to live here lately that I’m ready to strangle the next person who even hints at it.

Let me tell you a story. Rewind to 2010, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in April (but I’d had it for a lot longer). It was a really hard year for us. We purchased a house and there was no way we were prepared for how that would change our lives. I was diagnosed and my treatment was amounting to about $500 a month, which we couldn’t afford. I was so relentlessly sick and couldn’t take the prescribed dose of medication because we simply couldn’t afford the bill. I was being harassed at work and my best friend at the time, someone who for a brief moment I thought of as a sister, abused be over a decision we made because they were doing it tough as well. I was honestly rock bottom (for that moment in life, I’ve learned ‘rock bottom’ is on a sliding scale) and had to seek the services of a psychiatrist (that we also couldn’t afford – but at the point I’d reached, it was that or my family would need to find the money for a funeral).

2010 sucked. It really, really sucked. In fact, my husband refers to it as ‘the year of hell’, a take off of one of the only palatable Star Trek Voyager episodes. On December 14, 2010, the woman who basically raised me, passed from a cancer related complication. I had never experienced loss before and at the moment I saw her husband standing outside, my world imploded. My memories over the next few days are a blur. The only clear memory from that period was my manager at the time ringing me to tell me that because the woman I mentioned earlier wasn’t biologically related to me, I had no right to take a day off to grieve. Yes, he really said that. Yes, that is one of my most clear and distinct memories from that work place. And yes, after all that, I stayed another 7 years. No, I don’t work there anymore.

In 2010, more specifically in December 2010, I was 28 years old.

In the midst of my grief, I felt like there was a hole in my life. And I thought it might be because I hadn’t had a child. So for a brief moment I seriously considered it. I even had a drunken ramble to my husband about it. He loved me so much (and still does, I think), he was prepared to have a child with me – even though it was never one of his objectives in life.

It would have been January or February in 2011 when we went to see my specialist Dr. E about the subject – together. I had been on Immuran for a few months, as well as steroids as well as… well it was a pretty long list. We started the discussion with Dr. E, and his face dropped. He reminded me that when my more aggressive treatment started, he asked about us having a family. At the time I thought nothing of it, actually I didn’t put any thought into why he was asking that at all.

You see, a lot of what I was taking, messes with your reproductive system, more so that the effects of the illness itself. My illness was so aggressive at that point – I couldn’t come off active treatment and I was still a long way away from considering the surgery he was trying to peddle to me.

His solution was freezing some of my eggs before they’re damaged too much from the chemo and waiting out the clock. The treatment was either going to work and I would go into remission or his surgeon was going to cut out the disease, and I would go into remission.

The subsidised cost of freezing my eggs would have amounted to about $5,000. Additional costs would have fallen due to have them re-inserted with likely IVF style treatment. I had people tell me to ‘take a loan and just do it’, but our lending was maxed out due to the sag in the housing market, to the point our bank at the time was trying to call in some of our deposit to make sure we weren’t a debit leveraged customer. We literally couldn’t do it.

I suppose, I walked out of that room with a firm answer. A child would not fill the hole in my life. It’s kind of a big deal – having choices like that taken away from you. It took me months to process what had happened. I lashed out at a lot of people – but I suppose the high dose steroids messing with my head didn’t help.

In the meantime – my husband got a new job – closer to home and for more money, at the time, MUCH more money. I was able to access subsidised medication from the hospital which reduced my monthly medication to under a hundred dollars and my freelance business was starting to make (some) real money, 3 years on. All the time, we were becoming acclimated to budgeting as home owners. By May that year – we’d gone from eating watered down Spaghetti Bolognese for 10 days straight to being able to integrate a take away meal once a week. Then as the reality of those changes started to really sink in – we booked our first trip in over 18 months and started to plan a wedding we never thought would be able to happen.

All of a sudden, I had plugged the parenthood hole with travel. And I was ok. I wasn’t falling apart anymore. Travel was my answer. As long I was going somewhere, I could handle anything my illness, my workplace and life in general had to throw at me. As long as I had a trip planned, I could manage, my focus wasn’t on all the negative shit going on, instead it was on leaving the country and (usually) sitting in solitude at the top of a mountain, with nothing on my mind, aside from how insignificant I was.

It’s 2021. And the thing that brought not only richness, but balance to my life has been taken away from me. Let me be blunt for readers who aren’t in Australia – I can’t even plan a night away in our capital city, which is an hour away by road, at the moment. No, no, I’m serious. According to our local government ‘we’re on the knifes edge of another lockdown’, over a handful of cases, 18 months on from the start of this mess.

Add the fact I’m highly, highly claustrophobic and can’t wear anything over my face without having a full on panic attack that usually ends with me vomiting on myself, bystanders and just the whole general area – life right now – fucking sucks. I literally can’t leave the house, even though I’m fully immunised and in an area that hasn’t had a case in the community since April.

Any yep, I’ve gone from being depressed about it, to being fucking angry. The thing I have based my life on, has been taken away from me. Regardless of whatever else happened to get me here – it’s that part that sucks.

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