Meningitis and the lack of care I’m getting for it, the relentless physical pain, and emotional upheaval has left me lost and barely able to cope. I have made an incredibly loving friend that I always correspond with several times a day each and everyday. We have never met, but I feel like I know more about her and her family than I do any other person in my life.
Over these past several weeks of getting so sick from my stem cell injections, which I now know is having an extreme inflammatory response that inflamed the lining of my brain and spinal cord, she has sent encouraging messages, not a “you’ll get through this”, but more of an “Im so sorry. I hurt for you. I wish things could be easier”.
Today, she sent me a quote from a Japanese book about getting through life by kind of being interrupted by the mundane. It has much bigger philosophical implications, but she was saying she wanted to explain something to me that she had been thinking about how her brain worked, but didn’t want to inundate me with other stuff. I told her a distraction would be welcome. I told her I wanted a real distraction, not a fake distraction like Facebook, and if you know me, I haven’t watched tv in years. Sometimes our messages back and forth get deep and meaningful. Sometimes it’s kind of like this is what happened today.
So in her referencing the Japanese book, it made me think about my trip I took to Thailand in September-October 2018. I haven’t talked much about this trip as I don’t want people to get the idea that Im this millionaire globetrotting healthy person who hasn’t been authentic about my struggles. This trip was born out of tragedy.
When I was thrown out of my trauma resort, I was given a partial refund that I used to restart my life. I had to take care of my son for a few months, while one of his other parents was being investigated for child abuse, part of which we were technically homeless. As I didn’t want my child to truly feel homeless, I spent a lot of that money on us staying in a nice one bedroom hotel as it would have left me heartbroken for my child to have really known homelessness. I needed that money to live on for a long time, but moms sacrifice for their children.
The unfortunate part of life is that there is injustice. At the time I went to Thailand, I had a moment of feeling better, my child was being used a pawn against me, I had $990 left in my savings account that I would have just spent on more useless medical treatments, so I saw it was $775 to go to Bangkok for 2 weeks in a 4 star hotel with a rooftop pool and round trip airfare. It was on my bucket list. I hit reserve and 2 days later, I was off a couple days later. It seemed like a sign.
The rest of this post will be a lot of pictures with a few words. I went to Thailand to get out of being a victim and being a sick person. I remember tonight as an attempt to do the same, although this won’t be the same as I am absolutely miserable without a treatment date in sight.
I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was to see this on the screen on the airplane seat in front of me. San Francisco to Tokyo is a LONG flight, plus I had over 6 more hours to Bangkok. Seeing as I had a near panic attack as the plane pushed back in the US (like what was I thinking going halfway around the world alone without researching it??) and thought about faking a heart attack to not have to go, as the plane descended and the little toddler Japanese boy I made silly faces at for the past 10 hours looked back at me one more time and smiled, I felt peaceful. Joy transcends language.
I can’t remember how this showed up on my phone during my layover in Tokyo, but it seemed extremely apropos for what I was doing. I had made a decision to live even in still being really sick. Antiviral medication had given me an energy boost from Epstein Barr virus.
A friend of mine’s cousin works in Bangkok during the week and always gets a massage weekly from this lady. After Ann, my friends cousin and I got through some cultural barriers that you don’t just get a 1 hour massage in Thailand, you get between 3-5 hours. The Thai people highly value relaxation as a way of life, not a luxury. Thai massage is not a Swedish massage. She would be standing on my back, digging an elbow into my glute, while lifting my leg in the air. It was the most painful thing I ever loved. I was nearly asleep by the end. She didn’t speak a word of English. I didn’t speak a word of Thai, but we were like besties at the end of 3 hours.
All over Bangkok, you will find shrines to Buddha and statues that exemplify the importance of yoga and meditation. It’s when I decided to strongly get back into my yoga practice. People don’t pay big bucks to go to classes there, they just have it going on in the park all day.
Another fun friend I met. “Pong” who kept trying to tell me jokes in English that made no sense. He had me laughing so hard. He’s driving really fast down side alleys with small children running around turning for a picture. He said to me, “you pay more, I drive faster?” I replied, “I pay less, you drive slower!” He thought that was hilarious.
I went to a Buddhist temple even though it was far from my hotel. I didn’t want to venture far. I was happy eating my $1 street food and being in a city of over 10 million people that was so quiet and the power of community was evident all over. Nothing like the United States. I was becoming the rather famous “white lady” traveling alone and many Thai people tried to befriend me, which made me nervous at first, but I finally read that in Thailand, they think it’s sad for people to be alone. So different from thinking in the US where we are all too busy for each other. I’m alone constantly as people are too busy. My Thai friends would be yelling at people for their lack of compassion!
I also had this overwhelming spiritual I don’t know what come over me. A woman was doing her chanting. It was so beautiful. I was grateful for Kleenex as I was moved so much. I didn’t become a Buddhist. I just really became open to the idea of spirituality.
After my Buddhist temple experience, I decided to check out the rooftop pool. I felt different. I felt peaceful. I had achieved what I came to Thailand to do. I wasn’t just a sick person. I wasn’t a victim to just be manipulated. I was strong. I just went to Southeast Asia all alone on a couple days notice and had a complete spiritual transformation in less than 2 weeks!
I was certainly sad to leave, especially with the uncertainty that I might never go back, but this little notebook and reusable shopping bag I bought are always insightful reminders of how to live life.
My friend didn’t mean for me to go down a happy memory lane. There was certainly heartache in that trip. I had sick days where I didn’t leave my hotel and wished I could have done more sightseeing, but I learned insights that being still in a culture totally different than the one I grew up in. Watching people interact was interesting, especially when you don’t know what they are saying. Thailand is plagued by many problems, but people still smile at each other. They smiled at me. I like to smile at others and enjoyed the reciprocation I received in a country that values community.
I’m sick with meningitis. It’s been a very frustrating several days of so many errors so I’m still not clearly scheduled for treatment. I’m usually people’s smiley, optimistic beacon of light that you can get through anything, and I’m honestly not sure how I’ll fare this one. Some people have disappeared. Some have surprisingly showed up.
I couldn’t get my fever down today. My normal calming skills of yoga and meditation make my head hurt worse, but my silly reusable grocery bag from Thailand reminds me, “even if you get lost, you will reach happiness if you trust yourself and go forward”.
I’m not sure happiness feels achievable to me right now, but I can remember such a profound phrase simply meant to carry necessities.