By Robin Kinzer
Trigger Warning: mention of pain medications, surgery and suicidal ideation
1. The first time I have a panic attack in public, buckling at the knees,
my friends faces suddenly viewed as if through a long, undulating tunnel.
2. The first time I ride a wheelchair through an airport, nauseous
and dizzy, children craning their heads to watch me whir past.
3. The first time I am too sick to make it to my pain doctor appointment,
so cannot get refills, and end up going through cold turkey Fentanyl withdrawal.
Crouched on the bathroom floor for hours, convulsing, sweat-drenched.
I claw at my thighs until they resemble a Tic Tac Toe board.
4. The first time a surgeon’s scalpel digs into my bellybutton;
how the raised red scar gives me hope for relief that never comes.
Once the post-surgery opioids wear off, I return to clutching
round-the-clock heating pads. My abdomen, a deep, mottled pink.
5. The first time I beg to die. How the guilt of that will ghost me forever.
6. The first friend I lose because my illness makes me unreliable.
(Years later, she will say: But nothing I did seemed to help, as if the
sweet bloom of her friendship should somehow have conquered science.)
7. The first time I am so over-medicated that it causes a manic episode, when
I am not even bipolar. I believe that flashing lights contain coded messages.
The blinking time stamp on the DVD player becomes a marriage proposal only I can read.
8. The first time I am admitted to a psychiatric hospital against my will.
I draw dozens of neon pink and green mandalas in the airless art room,
because the anti-psychotics make me so dizzy that all I can summon is circles.
9. The first time I experience synaesthesia, my roommate’s snores bright purple.
10. The first time I trust a therapist enough to tell the whole truth.
11. The first train I take to Atlanta, tucked into a cramped sleeper car with my mother.
I watch the lights of southern cities blur past, unable to sleep. Hope makes it hard to breathe.
12. The first surgeon who grants me a true reprieve. He scissors through my bellybutton
for the fourth time: takes out uterus, tubes, an appendix that has gone nearly black.
13. The second chance at life. I hold fast to it, even when it bucks
beneath me, a rodeo horse that knows I’m used to being thrown.
This piece was first featured on Corporeal Lit.
Robin Kinzer is a queer, disabled poet and memoirist. She is an MFA candidate at University of Baltimore. Robin has poems recently published, or shortly forthcoming, in Wrongdoing Magazine, Corporeal Lit, fifth wheel press, Delicate Friend, Defunkt Magazine, and others. She loves glitter. She can be found on Twitter at @RobinAKinzer.