Astonishing

May 13, 2020

I’m sharing something deeply personal—a thing that rends and tugs at my heart each time it hits the surface. 

I was in the bathroom when Little Women’s “Astonishing” came on and the words of Jo tore through me with every word, note and breath. 

Now nothing feels the way it was before

And I don’t know how to proceed.

I only know I’m meant for something more

I’ve got to know if I can be

Astonishing

When you have an autoimmune disease like mine, one that seems to have taken over my life, like a pest that constantly gnaws at me and whatever is left of my self-esteem, it becomes harder to look ahead. Today, the uncertainty of my condition is compounded by the uncertainty of the times. 

It’s been 3 months since my last blood extraction; I normally get one every 3 weeks to monitor my thyroid levels closely. Once again, my body seems to be rejecting the medication. I noticed the slow but steady pace at which I was beginning to lose my voice again—a warning sign that I  might be having a reaction and quite possibly, be overdosing on anti-thyroid drugs. Common but adverse reactions include a fever, a sore throat, hoarseness in the voice, bloating, swelling of the face and eyes, rashes, among other things. 

I’m not going to bore you with the details or belabor my condition. But I will tell you this: it has been one of, if not the biggest heartbreak of my life. I was diagnosed at a time I considered to be the “peak” of my so-called career. I had just returned from London with a Masters degree in Musical Theater. I was midway through Musikal nAPO rehearsals and simultaneously preparing for Lungs when I was diagnosed with severe Hyperthyroidism secondary to Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that can be fatal when left untreated. 

I avoided talking about it in excessive detail for many reasons. I wanted to project an image of strength, rather than some case to be pitied. I was afraid coming out with my story made me less employable in the eyes of an audition panel. In my sad adult life, I learned to guard my heart more and to trust people less. And of course, talking about it seemed self-indulgent in a world that continued to crash and burn. 

Going back to the morning of the infamous breakdown. 

I was in the bathroom when Little Women’s “Astonishing” came on and the words of Jo tore through me with every word, note and breath.

I will not disappear without a trace

I’ll shout and start a riot

Be anything but quiet

Christopher Columbus

I’ll be astonishing

I remember sitting on the toilet and attempting to hold back the tears. Something about the words, “Be anything but quiet” knocked the wind out of me. It finally hit me. And all at once. The anger, the heartbreak, the frustration, the exhaustion and the sadness from this disease was becoming all too unbearable to be left unsaid. I took a deep breath, washed off the tears and hid behind my glasses. There’s something counterintuitive about holding back your tears though. The more effort you put into choking back the tears, the more ineffective it becomes. My husband hugged me for as long as he could as I sank into his arms and wept for minutes on end. 

I sobbed as I told him how ridiculously pained I was by the mundane, everyday things I could no longer do: chiming in at the dining table even if conversations turned mostly political or pandemic-related; ordering food over the phone without having to pass on the phone to someone else for lack of being understood; and eating without worrying about choking (when you have an enlarged thyroid or goiter, you tend to choke easily. Please spare me the jokes.)

I bawled as I finally let out the words I had long denied and kept to myself. I wanted so badly to sing again, to speak clearly without the figurative and literal lump in my throat. 

I always considered my voice my gift—a skill and privilege I probably took for granted. 

Hand on my broken heart, I wake up each morning hoping it’s back—praying my first words to my husband will come out in crystal clear tones. Or at least in the old voice I recognize to be my own. Distinctly my own. 

I was able to deal with the fluctuating weight because of the medication. It’s not to say that the comments on my weight gain were any less painful. I needed every ounce of self-control not to take a swipe at whoever had the audacity to say, “Tumataba ka na. Gumagaling ka na siguro.”

Then, you have the run-of-the-mill albeit uninvited questions on why you haven’t had a baby. The hard truth is—and this is something I want people to know once and for all—I didn’t choose to be sick. My husband and I would love to have children as soon as my body allows it. But alas, I am still battling this disease. To be asked that question, over and over again, is to be reminded of my illness and what it’s currently deprived me of—a normal life where you can plan for a child straight of out marriage, a career that you worked hard for and can rightfully enjoy, and a voice that yearns to be used and heard.

Early this afternoon, a medical team was sent to our house for my blood extraction. My doctors asked to see my blood chem as soon as possible to detect any abnormality or adverse reaction. It was my first in three months, the first since the lockdown. It was surreal, to say the least. The nurse was in full protective gear, which appeared to me more space age than anything. As for me, I looked like your stereotypical Korean tourist (no offense) in my bucket hat with the face shield attached to it and a face mask underneath. 

I’m sharing this not just to get a truckload of frustration off my chest, but to let everyone know that we all have days when the sun won’t seem to shine. This is my cross to bear, as you probably have yours. Mine’s probably nothing next to what others have had to endure but we’re not here to invalidate each other’s feelings. It’s hard enough living through this—all of this. 

As for me, I’ll be waiting for the results as usual, waiting for my voice to come back, waiting for some miracle, waiting for things to go back to normal (or perhaps, something next to normal)—waiting for my life to begin again. 

That’s the bit we often forget. Whatever the case, you can always begin again. 

Here’s to making a daily reminder of that, and believing that my life can still be astonishing. 

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Wanggo Online

portfolio, reviews, blog

The Good Gal Riri

performer / bibliophile / wanderer

Sasha Lim Uy

Eating to Live, Living to Eat, Eating for a Living

L'Oeil du Prince

A blog on theater, arts and culture. Be informed. Be inspired. Be connected.

Wanggo Online

portfolio, reviews, blog

The Good Gal Riri

performer / bibliophile / wanderer

Sasha Lim Uy

Eating to Live, Living to Eat, Eating for a Living

L'Oeil du Prince

A blog on theater, arts and culture. Be informed. Be inspired. Be connected.

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