I cannot even remember when it began, it was, at the time, of so little consequence; a buzzing in my right big toe. I only really noticed when the numbness spread over the whole foot and even then we joked about it. As the loss of feeling advanced up my shin I had this creeping fear that I was to be turned to stone.
Then came the dizziness, the falling over, the headaches, the stone cold tiredness, and the viruses.
Pains – unbearable pains. The loss of words.
Then came the tests: bodily fluids, scans, the tiny hammer to my knees – while all the while the fear crept. Tongue fumbling attempts at describing the hundred different intermittent symptoms left me exhausted and tearful.
‘I will sign you off work for a few weeks. We could try this drug.’
A diagnosis of exclusion, a double negative, this ticket allowed me entrance to the ‘What do you expect me to do about it?’ list with my Doctor.
Then came sloughs of brain-fogged days, night terrors, sweats, shakes. The seclusion.
Like autumn leaves falling, pieces of my life fell and were lost. It cost too much energy to explain, even to friends, and these too fell away.
Trips out became marathons of difficulty and panic – from the corners of my eyes other worldly shapes threatened. Floors twisted and buckled beneath my shuffling feet.
Then came the drugs to stop the side effects of the drugs that did not seem to be working, months skated past. A harsh winter huddled down, lost to all, a giving in of spirit.
Then one day, the green smell of spring in the air rang clearly through my being and brought with it the urge to stop all the medications. My body violently purging the chemicals, I began to emerge. Crawling through the shattered glass of dependence, a creature half gone – no butterfly wings for me.
The symptoms surge back, a tide of known pains, I breathe with them.
Here I am now, part broken, part petrified.
Changed, but still here.
by F. E. Clark.
(My response Luminous Creatures contest number 5, which asked for a story which included the above photo prompt, and included the words 'this creeping fear'. This story came 3rd in that contest.)