Photo: Laurie Caffery Harris

Hi, I'm Kate!

I have a POTS – and a lot of strong feelings about medicine's treatment of women throughout history. Welcome to Hysterics.

My Own Personal Final Girl

My Own Personal Final Girl

Most horror movies that you’ve seen have a Final Girl. She’s the last woman standing after her friends have been brutally dismembered by the psycho killer, she’s clinging to the back of a truck as it speeds away into the Texas sunset and she’s laughing hysterically at the horror that she has witnessed, and the shock that she made it through. Is it too dramatic of me to think of myself as the Final Girl of my own illness? I just celebrated my first year in the Sick Girls’ Club and while there have been casualties along the way, I’m seeing the sun on the Texas horizon! I can also see my metaphorical Leatherface running behind me, but ain’t that just the way things are.  

From what we can guess, I contracted Epstein Barr virus this time last year and it went untreated, leading me to develop CFS (+ chronic migraines + fibro + dysautonomia…) I only found this out about two months ago, up until that I point I had spent most of last year going through more tests than I can count. 25 was the year when I wore a heart monitor for a month, had my first EEG, had what seemed like gallons of blood drawn. I had offensive and demoralizing shit thrown my way by more doctors that I can count. It was also the year that I got back no less than two dozen negative test results for everything from pregnancy to a brain tumor. Some things have healed over this year, other things have broken. I can say that I am surely in a healthier place than I was last fall, but I also have to accept that this is as healthy as I’m likely to get.

I would love to say that I’ve learned lessons along the way, that I’ve made peace with being in the Sick Girls’ Club. Sometimes I do feel that way, but that is often just the writer in me who wants a clean narrative (literally driving off into the sunset). My life has changed, for sure. I’ve had to slow down, reframe how I look at success, productivity and my worth. My relationship has been tested and flourished and I’ve found new creative outlets and ways to connect with my passions. I’ve been forced to make the scary decision I otherwise would not have made: to step back at my conventional job and explore more creative options, to bet on myself because that’s really all I have to bet on when my body limits me. I’ve gotten extremely lucky with an understanding support system and workplace that allowed me to do both in sustainable ways.

It’s like that scene where the Final Girl knows she could save her bestie from the meat grinder but instead she turns and runs out the door… except you’re just laying in bed being a bitch to everyone you know.

Sickness can be like holding a mirror up to your own life, you can find the silver linings, but you also see the ugliest sides of yourself. It’s like that scene where the Final Girl knows she could save her bestie from the meat grinder but instead she turns and runs out the door… except you’re just laying in bed being a bitch to everyone you know. I’ve been bitter, hard to be around, angry and scared. I’ve apologized for basic help to the point where it sounds like I’m accusing the one’s I love of resenting me. In September, my partner had gnarly surgery and I took on the role of caretaker. It was shitty in so many ways, from watching him be in pain to the overwhelming responsibility of wound care. He showed me that he’s a much easier patient than I am – but at least I got to pay this year back to him in some way. I also got to prove to myself that even in the middle of a flare up, I am able to be an equal partner. Even if we both have to lay in bed together, I can still be a caretaker. Just like anything else, I have to do it differently and asking for help has to be an option. I want to keep exploring equity in relationships when you’re chronically ill, but to be honest I’m still figuring it out as well. 

As I write this, I can feel myself dancing around the point. What is the big culminating lesson of this year? There really isn’t one. The point is that I survived, even if my life looks completely different than it did a year ago. As someone who has lived with PTSD since their teens, this isn’t something I take for granted. I’ve been through trauma this year, but I’ve also learned that I can live through it and use it to power me through.

I do have something to show for this bonkers year, and you’re reading it right now. October 1st was the official launch date for this blog and its Instagram community. I’ll be recording the first episode of my podcast this month and will be releasing a new podcast every month for the foreseeable future. The whole shebang is now beginning in earnest! You never see what happens to the Final Girl after she escapes the clutches of the monster, let’s see what I can do with this second chance I got.

Image: Actual documentation of me leaving the holistic doctor who told me to have my teeth pulled. Also seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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