I bless the rains down in Africa…

Okay, that has nothing to do with this post. But it’s raining outside, and I’ve been listening to that song on a loop because it’s the only CD i have in my car that I can tolerate.

Anyway.

So. A story for this rainy evening.

There once was a girl. Rather average looking, rather smart, short hair, lovely smile and pretty eyes. Grey, like the sea. And she wanted, more than anything else in the world, to act. Oh, to be on stage. To play the greatest queens and lowest peasants–to fall in love again and again and again, every time it different and unique–to have a lifetime of listening to orchestras warming up, waiting for the curtain—yes, it would seem that acting was the life for her. And yet, she had another love–writing. Oh, the stories she would tell. Tales of Great Adventures and pirates and dragons and princes and kings and forbidden loves–her mind constantly swirled with people and worlds, and it was all she could do to get them on the page. She would be a writer, she was determined.

She had such hope for this life, and believed more in the power of hope, perhaps, than the power of acting or writing combined. Hope, it seemed served as that constant reminder that things would always turn out right in the end.

It is funny how so often our passions lead to our demise. Take, for example, Shakespeare. Never mind, that is a different tale entirely. But yes, this girl–her passion was acting, and it would lead, literally, to her downfall.

It came to pass that she was chosen to play, per her usual fantasy, a great queen. How happy this girl was! Finally, a chance to shine–and then one day, during a particularly difficult rehearsal, the girl tripped, fell and landed on her back. It hurt, as most falls do, but she thought nothing of it.

The next morning she awoke quite early, with searing pain down her spine. What was this? An injury? Probably just something silly from rehearsal. She thought nothing of it and went about her day. That night, as she lay in bed, she began, quite suddenly, to shake. How odd. Just as quickly as the shaking began, it began to grow in intensity until she was wracked with spasms that caused her quite a lot of pain. And so, like most people do when they have odd things happen to them, she went to the hospital.

At the hospital, the doctor looked her over, determined her injury a “sports related hurt” and gave her some vicodin and a pat on the head. She went home, and still her spasms remained.

The next morning she awoke (still shaking) and went to go see her family doctor. He, too, declared her injury “sports related” and sent her on her way. She went home, and still her spasms remained.

For three days she shook like this, every day hiding them as best she could in order to save herself from embarrassment. She would attend her rehearsals–by day, a great queen, and by night, a pathetic wretch, sobbing on the floor in agony as her helpless boyfriend watched on, but still she hoped.

Finally, her boyfriend had had enough of this and took her to his doctor, hoping for more answers. Again she was told it was just a “sports injury” and sent on her way, this time with an x-ray bill to boot.

For another week she shook, the same story being repeated every morning. She went to three chiropractors and an allergy doctor and even a witch doctor straight out of a hippie film–and no one knew what to make of these strange spasms that still caused her to shake and twitch, but still she hoped that soon, soon everything would be okay.

During that same week, the girl found that her hands began to freeze into stiff claws that would last for sometimes hours at a time. The girl was horrified and embarrassed, and became exceptionally adept at hiding them. However there was one who could spot them and sometimes fix them, and so the girl found herself relying on her boyfriend even more, this time to massage her ugly hands back to normal. It was awful–but still, she hoped.

Next her journey took her to her neurologist’s office, where he poked and prodded and signed her up for still more tests–but still she shook. The next week she returned to take the tests, most of which were very unpleasant. EEG’s, MRI’s, CAT-Scans…it seemed that every letter of the alphabet was being used to treat her, but still she had no answers.

She returned to the first doctors she had seen, twice more each, and neither could offer her any answers–only medication that dulled her senses and put her to sleep for hours on end, only to awaken again to more pain and more twitching. Her pillows (and, dare I say, her boyfriend’s pajamas, grew suspiciously wet with tears every night, but the girl would not admit how desperately frightened and scared she was for all the world, for she still clung desperately to that little bit of hope.

There was one glorious evening when the girl stopped twitching for almost 7 minutes on the ride home from rehearsal. She bounded in the door and jumped in the shower, only to begin twitching again. She emerged, soaking wet and shaking and fell into her boyfriend’s arms, sobbing harder than she ever had before. She had had such hope.

Because it seemed that doctors in town weren’t getting any closer,the girl decided to go to the famed Neurology Clinic at the University of Iowa. She drove through the sunrise and arrived, hoping for answers. Instead, she was seen by yet another doctor, poked, prodded and questioned–and told that she would have to return later, to see another doctor, who was a renowned specialist and would be able to tell her what was wrong.

Still more time went by, and still the girl shook and twitched. Her show went up perfectly without a hitch, and the last good thing the girl had to hold onto ended. Now it was just her and her pain and her stubborn refusal to appear needy. No matter how bad the pain got, she vowed, she would not show it. No one needed to know how bad she felt, for the world was ugly enough already, complaining wasn’t needed. Besides, she was going to beat this. Despite everything–despite the pain and shaking and embarrassment and stress–she was going to get better. She still had hope.

All week she looked forward to her appointment at Iowa City, for this was going to be the day that she finally found out what was wrong with her and began to find ways to treat it. She had been shaking continuously for nigh on two months now, and she was getting awfully tired of it, but still she hoped.

Every so often she would get a brief reprieve, no more than a few minutes, just enough to garner hope enough that maybe, this time, it would finally stop for good. It never did.

There had even been a girl in the newspaper, locally, who had exhibited some similar symptoms to the girls. The girl eagerly contacted her, only to jealously discover that the girl in the newspaper’s symptoms were much lesser and far less life-altering than what our subject was experiencing.

Finally the day of her next appointment arrived and again she drove through the sunrise to Iowa City, this time to be poked and prodded and questioned by yet another doctor. He drew blood and berated her with questions…and then sent her on her way, only to return later, in order to do more testing. He didn’t know.

It seemed now that no one knew. She had seen the top doctors and they were clueless.  She was given little more than a reassurance that the doctors would “probably be able to figure it out, someday”.

So now, not only was the girl still in constant pain, but now she had failed out of a semester of college and become a practical recluse, forced to abandon her  dream of becoming an actress—for who was going to hire an actress who couldn’t even stand up straight? She was content with this, for she still had her writing, but her useless hands often made it difficult to write, slowing her enough to frustrate and infuriate her at the doctors, the hospitals, her body that so defied every move she made and even at herself, for not being able to just stop.

There is a sense of guilt there, too. She feels awful having to ask for help, even worse complaining to people about how bad she feels, so instead she takes it out on her helpless website. She has a wonderful life, great friends and family and a man she is madly in love with, even a budding career as a writer. Some might say that if it were not for the shaking, her life would be perfect.

For now, the girl sits, still shaking, waiting for July, when the doctor’s office so generously managed to “squeeze her in” for a 6 hour test that may or may not determine what it is, and whether or not they can do anything about it. The pain is normal now, the hands an annoyance, and the spasms a part of daily life. Every morning the girl wakes up and takes a shower, and then falls back into bed, too exhausted to move. Slowly she gets up her energy and manages to paste a smile on and get through four or five hours before she collapses back into bed. The longer she waits, the more she shakes, until she can barely stand. Sometimes she falls, or trips, or spills her drinks, but still she refuses to ask for help from anyone but her most trusted of friends, for she is proud and awfully stubborn. Most nights she can’t sleep, so she stays up listening to the rain and staring out the window, thinking of the great stories she’d like to and adventures she wants to go on, but for now it would seem she is stuck here, shaking, instead.

For the first time in her life, it would seem that the girl has given up hope.

Not that I have any personal connection to this story.

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