Some days it’s great to be me.
Some days it sucks to be me.
It is what it is.
I know only this:
I am in metamorphosis, like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa who woke up one morning and had turned into a big bug. I’m changing now into a new human being with brand-new potential and desires. But I have been Gregor the Bug lately. (And was a Survivor Rat while I was sick.)

In October 2016, about five months after a successful liver transplant, I started feeling odd. Mentally. Emotionally. Since I’m used to moving through those kinds of things fairly quickly – processing through sadness and worry in a week or so – I just went with the flow.

But the usual things weren’t working and I wasn’t coming out of my funk. Instead I had metamorphosed nearly overnight into this useless, awful bug. I’d tell myself should be happy: You have this awesome new liver, and you don’t have to worry about this long grocery list of nightmares anymore, like…

  • Hospitalizations popping up at the most unexpected times
  • Procedures that were the biggest pain in my life
  • Scary events like 12-plus hours of internal bleeding, defying death
  • And god-only-knows-what-other-complications from what should have been just the “normal” hospitalizations from yet another liver infection, and trying to die then, too

I was relieved of all that. And I was having good weekly lab results and the lab visits weren’t too disruptive.

The funk continued. I’d cry a lot. I worried about money. I began having serious motivation problems. I could not get up off the couch and do anything, no matter how much I really wanted to.

Then I had a panic attack one afternoon. I was crying for an hour solid for no apparent reason. What in the hell? A friend asked, “Are you having a panic attack?” I don’t know. I’ve never had one before. What’s it like? Like this. Well, shit. I want it to stop. Now.

I made an appointment to see my internist. She agreed on the panic attack idea, prescribed a few Xanax and referred me to a therapist. This all started in early November, and I saw the therapist the first time on November 21, exactly six months after I’d gotten the call to go to Cleveland to have the life-transforming transplant.

The therapist said, after hearing a compressed version of my story, “I think you’re depressed.” Oh hell no. I don’t get depressed. I get sad for a few days, work it out, then I’m back to whatever is normal for me.

She insisted. I continued to disagree. She saw me for a handful of short visits then referred me to someone I could see long-term at, get this, the Depression Center. I came close to flat-out refusing just because of the name. Get. Out. I pictured a huge, windowless black monolithic tower with its own nasty weather at the top of it.

While all these events were unfolding, I was sitting on my ugly yellow-ish couch at home (I sold that couch) doing absolutely nothing. Maybe a little walking, some Facebook lurking, journaling, reading. But no more writing on any of my projects. Nothing.

It was the flatness and the paralysis I hated most.

Then I realized one day:  I’m trying to run this depression diagnosis the same way I dealt with a liver disease diagnosis. Denial. That might work to some extent for a physical illness. But this, this seeping cloud, undertow, silent but powerful rip? Nope, denial wasn’t going to work. I fought the diagnosis, but I did accept I was grieving the loss of 11 years of my life, all my dreams and goals I’d had before illness struck. I had to give up on all of them. That hurt, a lot.

So how long, I asked, is this grieving thing, depression, whatever you want to call it, going to take me to get over? I was pissed. I had big dreams I’d built into post-transplant, too, you know. This is shit. I wanted to be way into the writing of the book of my transplant journey, and hoping for it to be a guidebook for others on organ waitlists. I yearned to be physically strong again. This was my dance time, but now all I’m up for is sitting on an ugly couch and resisting every urge to get up. Where did my get-up-and-go get up and went? I didn’t even feel like looking for it. I cried a little but I didn’t know why. I just knew my heart ached and I was running out of money for this nonsense.

I kept going to the therapist. I think I performed for her. But sometimes the curtain wouldn’t go up for my act and I was left needing tissues to clean up the snot and tears.

I felt highly embarrassed and guilty. This felt like Big Ingratitude. I didn’t want, most of all, my transplant coordinator Tracey and the rest of my care team at Cleveland Clinic, to know what I was succumbing to. I couldn’t imagine a worse response to such an incredibly beautiful, generous gift. And hell, I didn’t want anyone to know.

But finally I told Tracey and she said, yeah, hon, it happens sometimes. But you’re strong, really strong. You’ll get through this. And I got off the phone and cried some more. Relief. But I still wanted someone to tell me How long. Please. Hint. Throw out a date. I don’t care (as long as it isn’t, in my estimation, too long), just something to shoot for.

I didn’t get a date. But I finally had some rumblings, tiny movements towards a sliver of light. It was so subtle I don’t have any concrete signs to describe. Just itty-bitty nudges, hints I was moving slightly out of my cocoon.

It took almost nine months to gestate into this new being I am still growing into. The bug part has sloughed off and I’m back to life. But this time it’s the new life I began on May 22, 2016, my rebirthday. I feel again like I did post-transplant, with that one phrase running through my head: This is a miracle. It started up as soon as I came out of my post-surgery drug haze, and was a drumbeat always thrumming, reminding me what had just happened. That beat is back, the writing is back, and the new me is evolving.

“…what brings healing is the integration of the past with the strong healthy person you are now. And it may take longer than you think.”

 – Blood Orchids, Toby Neal