When I was a little girl I had a tiny voice. I sounded like Minnie Mouse, and I spoke carefully. I would take long pauses in the middle of sentences to think about what I wanted to say. I was shy beyond belief and I can tell you from where I stand now that it was because I was afraid of people. I was so sensitive to the world that most of the time I preferred not to open my mouth to speak. Small events that didn’t effect my twin sister stand out in my mind as traumatic lessons learned. Despite this fear, I always kind of went headlong into things that scared me.
When I was really little, my dad was a beekeeper. He remembers one day I told him I wanted to be stung by a bee. I remember this day—I wanted to be stung because I wanted to know how it felt and because he’d just bought special medicated Q-tips for bee stings and I wanted to try them. He agitated a honey bee and placed it on the tip of my finger and it stung me.
Bees don’t scare me.
Once, when I was probably about 10 and my dad was still working for Japan Airlines, we went to his annual work party. I quietly decided that I wanted to try eating a dollop of wasabi, so I did. I remember popping a finger full of wasabi into my mouth and quietly suffering, hoping no one had seen what I’d done.
I also decided one time that I wanted to stick my pinky finger in ice cream for as long as possible until I couldn’t feel it anymore. I took my finger out and exclaimed “I can’t feel my finger I can’t feel my finger!!” and quickly turned to sobs as I realized I couldn’t feel my finger. I waited and nursed my little finger, judging minute-by-minute whether or not I would be a pinky-less 11 year old.
I tried a tampon before I started my period so that I knew what to do when I did start.
I commuted to high school an hour away to force myself to find comfort in a new environment.
I backpacked through Japan for 2 months by myself when I was 18 to isolate myself and push the boundaries of loneliness.
The list could go on.
Being diagnosed with R. A. is different because it’s not on my terms, and I didn’t prepare for this in the way that I’ve prepared for other scary things in my life. The thing is, everything else has prepared me for this. I have all of the tools.
It’s a bee sting.