They’ve been playing the long game

And now that they’ve nearly arrived, will there be room for the rest of us?

I was there for the massive pro-choice march on DC in 1992 before the Planned Parenthood v Casey decision. What a beautiful day. What a utopia of strong women.

But it didn’t last, of course.

Returning from that awesome display of sisterhood to a college campus full of conservative evangelicals in a southern state full of same—that was reality.

Arguing with would-be patriarchs in my college philosophy classes (I was often the only woman in the room) and getting anonymous bible tracts in my mailbox—that was reality.

Walking through protest lines with friends to access healthcare at clinics in town—that was reality.

Because after all, a woman’s right to full healthcare without question has never been a settled issue, especially here in the South.

I know how good they are at playing the long game. After all, they believe they have everything to gain and everything to lose.

As Dylan said, “…you never ask questions when God’s on your side.” Everyone knows you can’t argue with a zealot.

I’ve known for a long time that they’ve been encouraging fundamentalist families to be fruitful and multiply.

I’ve known for a long time that homeschool curricula steeped in fundamentalist Christian theology have increased in popularity, even outside of the home.

I’ve known for a long time that they are teaching their kids to deny science and Enlightenment values.

I’ve known for a long time that they’ve been educating ideologues in their universities and law schools so they can stack the courts.

I’ve known for a long time that they’ve been educating ideologues in these same universities so they can fill the legislatures.

I’ve known for a long time that they have been accumulating capital and investing wisely in lobbyists and PACs.

I’ve known for a long time that they’ve been pushing anti-abortion candidates from pulpits.

I’ve known for a long time that they represent a block of committed single-issue Republican voters, and that all a candidate need do to win their votes is to list “pro-life” credentials.

I know that sometimes they experiment with power in third-world countries by supporting and helping draft draconian legislation that punishes and even kills women and LGBTQ+ persons.

I know that they’ve been setting anchors in the U.S. by passing “religious freedom” laws.

Laws that favor their right to not be morally offended when providing public services like basic healthcare and medication.

They’ve spent at least the past decade lying about and tearing down the services of Planned Parenthood and chipping away at its status as a trusted neighborhood healthcare source for poor (often minority) women.

And I’ve known for a long time that restricting abortion and “saving babies” isn’t the true goal of their long game.

Their actual goal is nothing short of a “supernatural transformation of America” and an utter transformation of American culture.

They want to stuff the revolutions of the last century (as well as contraception, mouthy women, and uppity people of color) back into the bottle.

They want to shove LGBTQ+ people back into the closet.

They want to ship all the non-white and non-Christian people elsewhere.

And in the past week, they’ve rolled back domestic violence protections and redefined sexual assault to cover only the most visible of crimes against women and abused partners.

They want to return the United States to that wonderful time that never was—a time that exists only in their fantasies . In other words, they want to “make American great again.”

Even knowing these things and living through these times, I’m still amazed at the rapidity of the onslaught and coordination of this attack on women, LGBTQ folks, and persons of color. It’s beyond terrifying.

I am so angry. And this time resistance is starting to seem futile. I despair.

Embodiment

I am sick.

I have lupus and fibromyalgia. Or maybe fibromyalgia and some other autoimmune disease. Definitely fibromyalgia, though—whether it’s a sidecar or its own thing. The diagnostic process for these diseases is maddeningly lengthy, and I’m only beginning year four.

Before this haggard beast fell to its wasteful dinner, I was crazy. I had my first child in my early 40s, after which my lifelong struggle with melancholy, anxiety, and depression crested my psychic levee and nearly drowned me in the madness of postpartum depression and anxiety.

I then learned that I am a BRCA2 gene carrier, which has necessitated preventive surgery to lower my risk for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as constant monitoring of the parts that remain.

The overlap of physical and mental symptoms meant, of course, that I initially blamed my madness for my increasing pain and disability, and that treatment was delayed.

But fortunately, chronic pain and disability doesn’t impact mental illness. Otherwise, I’d be in trouble.

I am fat.

As my physical symptoms increase in duration and intensity, I move less. Many of the medications I now must take also have a side effect of weight gain.

I’ve never been obese, so this is new territory for me. When I was younger, athletic and lean, my body didn’t merit much thought. It got me from point A to point B without much trouble. Now it demands near constant attention. Being fat is a matter of constantly checking to see what’s bulging that ought not, what’s chafing that ought not, what’s not quite covered that ought to be, what’s popping out of bounds or trying to escape its confines. My breasts are melons—watermelons—heavy and matronly. I’ve never been feminine, and as an obese woman, am oppressed by these bulges and curves, constantly reminded of my gender, and literally weighed down by womanhood/motherhood.

Exercise and healthy diet can positively impact fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as depression. These have been recommended by my rheumatologist. However, my diseases ensure that each attempt to exercise is met by longer and longer recovery times. “Recovery” means bone-crushing fatigue that demands immobility, sometimes for days.

As for diet, I must eat what is prepared for me, as I often do not have the energy to cook after a full day of work. Food is fuel. I do not consume thoughtfully, but from necessity. I’ve begun to associate sweets with pleasure—when I’m eating, say, a Kit-Kat, I can feel my weary brain stretching, smoothing, and enjoying the nanoseconds of vacation from my general malaise.

I do not receive the same reinforcement from, say, a salad.

And so I grow ever larger and long for the day I can extract my neural network and plop it into an android body.

I am stupid.

My intellectual ability is my identity. At least it has been. Now, my mind is obscured by the fog of pain or fatigue or medication, every minute of every day. I ramble, I sputter, I search for the right words.

I’ve always struggled with self-doubt, but I’ve also managed to excel in academics and work. These days, I’m a sinking stone. I hear myself talking in circles, questioning the obvious, making cranky/critical observations from a place of pain. This isn’t me… and yet, it is.

I search constantly for ways to escape my inner dullness. Minecraft is good. Science fiction is good. Delving ever deeper into sound/music is good.

I’ve started drawing more, which is a lovely creative outlet, but an inconsistent one given my periodic inability to use my hands. I doubt I will improve in my discipline much beyond the occasional interesting sketch.

I am homebound.

Once I was spontaneous and daring. I started a business. I lived to attend performances—art, theatre, music. I made pottery. I sought out unusual and challenging experiences. I fell in love. I broke hearts. I drank too much. I altered my perception so I could suck in all perspectives. I laid in the grass on sunny days. I ran through the streets at night.

My life goes inward now, not outward. I’m glad for those experiences in my past, but I long to hike in the mountains with my son and not spend the next three days immobilized. I long to show him new cities and art museums, to take him to see recitals and plays, to study creatures in the woods behind our home. Instead, I watch television with him and point out interesting connections, teach him the play of language and humor, help him solve puzzles in video games, and provide lengthy diatribes on most any topic.

From my recliner.

I am sad.

This should come as no surprise—I’m depressed. But I struggled with mood and existence since I was a young teenager, long before my body broke. I’ve been skeptical of the mental health industry most of my life, and was treatment-resistant up to the point of a self-caused crisis in my early 30s. At that time, talk therapy saved my bacon.

Aside from brief flirtations with medications to hold severe depression (late teens) and a burgeoning anxiety disorder (early to mid-twenties) at bay, I’ve mostly self-medicated. Increasing frequency of deep depression in my mid-thirties had me give sanctioned meds a chance, but I didn’t adapt well, so I quit. PPD and what I sensed as movement toward post-partum psychosis sent me back down the MD route, and I haven’t looked back… except when one drug triggered a manic-switch, another lost efficacy, and yet another has lost efficacy.

Days when my depression is worst I find it difficult to disentangle the mood from the physical symptoms brought on by the lupus/fibro. Is one more causal than the other? Is the lupus/fibro simply another extension of the depression I’ve been lax to treat most of my adult life?

I read testimonials of people with severe depression who’ve tried alternate therapies or experimental therapies like ayahuasca, psilocybin, LSD micro-dosing, or TMS, and I weep for the possibility of being shed of this dark passenger for a month, a year, or a lifetime. Without having to go through another weaning or introduction of the uncertain response to a medication. I never again wish to experience the utter madness of a manic-switch. And yet I find myself facing the inevitability of yet another experiment on my already squishy and exhausted psyche, and, frankly, it sucks.

I long for the hope that tomorrow could look different from today. Yet all it looks like is the same damn foot in front of the same other damn foot, on the same damn earth, moving slowly and surely toward the inevitable.

Seems all I’ve got left is an overly healthy gallows humor and a couple of folks that love me more than they ought. And today, that’s enough.