I did it again. Open mouth, insert foot. I was talking big for my britches, acting like I know more than I do, and embarrassed myself. I do it so often that I have a large pocket in the back of each cheek from shoving my hooves in my mouth so often. I'm like a hamster, only instead of whole carrots, I use feet.I apologized, but that rotten "I'm such an idiot" feeling didn't leave. An hour later I sought out the victim of my moronic mouth and apologized again. She said no worries, but I still have them. I haven't been able to shake the feeling. I want to say sorry again, but I won't. I have to just work it out in my head now. Becky taught me that.
When I was in college, I had a friend named Becky. She was tiny, about 4'10", and had a tiny voice like a child, but in all other ways she looked like a grown up. She was bubbly and laughed a lot, and I really loved being around her. One day as she walked by me, Becky bumped me with her ball point pen. It left a little mark on my arm and she was very concerned. "Are you OK? Did I hurt you?" I laughed and assured her that I was fine, that she couldn't hurt me with a club, but a few minutes later she asked again. Again I reassured. Then about half an hour later, she asked AGAIN! "OK, Becky, What's up?" I asked.
"Well, I guess I really should explain..." she began. When Becky was 12, she developed strange horizontal stretch marks on her shins. Her mother took her to several doctors, who all brushed her off. But the last doctor, the kind they make movies about, knew what he was looking at right away. "Your daughter has a rare benign brain tumor on her pituitary gland." He told them. It was a one in 100,000 kind of deal. Test confirmed it, and a surgery was scheduled right away. The tumor was removed through a tiny cut under her top lip and into her sinuses. She recovered and all seemed well. Then on a follow up visit, the unimaginable. Becky had another one. Not a recurrence of the same one, but an entirely new tumor. Now Becky was a 1 in a million, and she became a case for the medical books. Doctors were forced to remove Becky's pituitary and adrenal glands, along with the tumor.
Everyday, Becky carried a large Tupperware in her backpack. In it were dozens of pill bottles. Because she no longer had the glands in her body to regulate her hormones, she had to take medicines to either imitate those hormones, or stimulate their production. Things we take for granted, like insulin, progesterone, thyroid, and many more I don't even know about, were provided in pill form. She carried her medicine with her everywhere, because if a bus broke down or a storm stranded her away from her medication, she would die.
Becky explained that when ever doctors had to tweak one hormone level, it would send a few of the others out of whack. And each time that happened, she had some unusual side effects. "I know it sounds stupid," she said, "but because I bumped your arm, I truly believe in my heart that I broke it. My logical mind says it's impossible, but right now, I believe I broke your arm."
She went on to explain that this was one of her more mild imbalances. She has had germ phobias and hand washing obsessions. The worst was the phase when she believed she was killing people. If she drove past someone standing on the street corner, she would think she had accidentally struck and killed them. She would circle the block looking for their dead body. "That was a hard one." she smiled.
I had known Becky for months and had never known of the struggle inside of her. I knew she was tiny and had a ridiculously high voice (she was never blessed to finish puberty), but I had no idea about her daily mental struggle to function when all her radar was giving her misinformation.
Becky's story has gotten me through some difficult times. I struggle with inappropriate and inexplicable guilt. I rehearse conversations in my head after the fact, sure that I have offended the other person. I fret over hurting other people's feelings, not meeting expectations, and not being in tune enough to the hearts of others. I loose sleep, get physically ill, and can't shake the thoughts. I know it's getting bad when I find myself calling folks days later to apologize. When I hear the confused voice on the other end of the line saying, "Really, I didn't even think about it. I wasn't offended. You're worrying over nothing." I feel embarrassed. I have gotten used to it, but like Becky, I still wander around looking for the damage I believe I have caused.
I am really glad that I know about Becky, though, because more than giving me patience with my quirk, it has helped me to understand the quirks of others. My son Ethan will say and do some very irrational things with total commitment to their logic. No explanation will change his mind. If he believes it, then it's true. Becky taught me about my son 7 years before he even existed. Really, we all have odd little stuff. Becky's life explained to me a little about almost anyone I could ever meet.
I think the thing that I appreciate most is knowing that, in this case, I am not totally crazy (or maybe I am, but it's mostly just a chemistry quirk in my head, not necessarily a ginormous character flaw). Oh, I have those, too. Character flaws. Ask my husband. Heck, ask anyone who has been a victim of my hamster cheeks. But Becky showed me how to work on the things about myself that are hard to change, and to be kinder to myself when I fight the same battle over and over again. And again. And.... again. It's not an excuse. It's not a crutch. It is a very wonderful tool.
Thanks, Becky, where ever you are.