This is your brain on drugs, or maybe not.

Sometimes this is how I feel after a flare is over. Well, without the sweet, sweet eyebrows and little black dress. As the constant pain dwindles and disappears, I usually get a rising heightened awareness and appreciation for the world, for everything around me. It’s very much akin to what Tim Kreider talks about in We Learn Nothing. I am completely without anxiety, or worries about the thoughts or negative opinions of others. The beginning of his book reminds me of that, although his near-death experience was a stab to the throat and mine is slow, almost arrested one that lingers on and on until the medication drags me up and out. He discusses that difference:

“Maybe people who have lived with the reality of their own mortality for months or years are permanently changed by it, but getting stabbed was more like getting struck by lightning, over almost as soon as it happened, and the illumination didn’t last. You can’t feel crazily grateful to be alive your whole life any more than you can stay passionately in love forever–or grieve forever for that matter. Time makes us all betray ourselves and get back to the busywork of living.”

If I was writing this post immediately after a flare, I’d be deep in the throes of that heightened awareness, that illumination, and I’d be able to formulate a support for permanent change in outlook, for a daily appreciation of life. But I have learned that despite the repetition of my experiences, my illumination doesn’t last, either. In fact, I find my periods of delirious, ravenous gratitude to be shorter and shorter with each fresh flare. More and more they’re like lightning, rather than…I don’t know, unscheduled, recurring shock treatments? (Keeping with the electrical metaphor is hurting my brain, I think.) It certainly doesn’t help that I know–on an intellectual level–that some of the ethereal delight I’m feeling after a flare is likely a physical side effect of Prednisone, if a the flare was bad enough for a required course of Devil Pred.

So I’m not sure what it all means. Is gratitude ever sustainable? Once again I’m torn between those two states of post-flare being: the almost painful awareness of and delight in the world, and the one that follows swiftly after, the even more blissful descent into remission, where I have the tendency to forget I’m sick. What is sweeter, the awareness or the forgetting? Neither lasts.

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