written on 07 October 2020 by Deborah Beutler

Art by Katy Hollway

The world around me feels like an old computer game
I used to play on my grandmothers desktop as a child:
To play the game, you would be presented with a board of small grey squares
Click on a square, and numbers would pop up,
Telling you how many squares away a bomb was.
The goal of the game was to find all of the squares that were empty-
Avoiding the hidden bombs through guesswork and calculations.

My life with chronic illness now feels like that grey board.
There are signposts like those numbers
That I have learned to read.
Ways to avoid the bombs in my life as much as possible.
Yet sometimes my guesswork fails,
And I hit a bomb:
A flare up of illness,
A new symptom,
An emotionally traumatic medical experience.
I have to reset the board and try again.

The rules of my constant bomb detection
Don't seem obvious or make sense to those around me
The game board is hidden to everyone else.
No one seeing the damage bombs wreck because
I can no longer participate or function when I hit one.
Outwardly I am young and able presenting,
And so as I try to navigate my minefield,
I also have to deal with the constant weight of
Advocating for my needs and risking painful interactions
Or staying silent and safe.