In this first installment of a regular column detailing the experience of living with a mysterious, unidentified illness, Lola Ray explores the metaphor of disease as a monkey.


Dear Diary,

I'm tired. Too tired to keep writing in this stupid diary.

p.s. Stop being so nosy and mind your own business.


It has happened again.


No matter how many times it occurs, like a broken heart, a nasty case of athlete's foot or a guy with a sign selling handmade dream catchers outside the Allsup's, I am always shocked to find it taking up habitation and lingering again. It starts off slowly: I’ll arrive at work with a misbuttoned shirt, or find I have difficulty remembering what day of the week it is, or become breathless ascending a single flight of stairs. Then, quite abruptly, it accelerates, and I find myself in one of those nightmares where you are lost in a dark fog and there are voices saying rude things in another language and I think if only I could remember any of those six years of French I took maybe I could curse my way out of this.


First the body fails, then the mind and memory, followed at last by my general perception of the world. It begins like any standard alien/spirit/pet cemetery possession--my body is a foreign place and I can no longer recognize its workings. Who is this crippled, fatigued geriatric I now have to lug around and force up steep inclines? And there is definitely something foreign about these bowel movements. Words start running together like mistranslated YouTube videos: Relax Music Arabian Experience Video Song Best Images HD. My limbs will detach from my body and become unrecognizable, as though a stranger were blowing my nose from across the party.


At this stage, I'll enter a waking daydream. The world shrinks down to a tunnel, as I spin away to somewhere fantastical and frightening, like Alice in Wonderland getting caught in Dorothy's twister except with less helpful mutant friends along the way. Rapidly suggestive photographic images of the desert elaborate into a fascinating movie, meticulously reconstructed and synchronized. I will feel like I am losing my mind, but then I realize I probably wouldn't feel that way if indeed I were walking out of Reality Restaurant without paying my bill. There is a faucet in the back of my head, and out of it drips any desire I ever had to move.


In the movies, someone always comes to rescue the heroine. This is not true in real life. And how can you be rescued from yourself, when the villains are sick body and a derailed brain instead of easily diverted runaway trains or a misshapen bad guys with the IQs of a 12-year-old?


They tell me it is my blood. And then they decide it's my brain. No, wait, it actually resides in my emotional state, or at least until it's more truthfully located in my muscles. From there, they rule out my spleen and liver, but still don't know whether it is a virus, a bacterium, a protozoan or a mycoplasma. Still further, it could turn out to be a monster from within, a genetic mutation, which may or may not cause permanent disability but is definitely impossible to eradicate. And of course there remains the highly technical phenomenological debate between parasite or poison, mitochondrial or neurological, immune dysfunction and/or cellular hyperactivity. After many years, I have almost given up looking for the cause or summoning its outcome.


This disease is like a monkey wearing roller skates in a china shop on my back--hairy, stinking, awkwardly dangerous, and simply hard to predict.