ELLEN DE LA CRUZ

A staggering feat that hasn’t happened yet.

Ellen preparing in the English Channel

Of course, I am terrified. Anticipation of pain is not my strong point. This feels like more than going through labor. I had Sam almost 22 years ago. I was overmedicated and I didn’t embrace the pain. This time, I have to recognize that:1) people survive pain, 2) I need to move through the pain, 3) pain will not kill me, and 4) I need to train my brain to use pain as fuel.

I’ve avoided journaling because it is hard to talk about Parkinson’s non-motor symptoms. It’s easier to break down the physical manifestations: my right hand unable to move the mouse on a desktop computer or open a door, my right foot balled up from dystonia, the tremors, and speech delays. But what is most debilitating with Parkinson’s is how my brain misfires. By misfiring I mean I worry about everything and ruminate on “worst case scenarios.” I usually try to use my anxiety to get things done, but I also have to recognize when my mind is giving me misinformation. 

In his English Channel swim journal, San Diego swimmer Phil Garn talked about depressing or “dark” periods while marathon swimming. Your body literally feeds on itself and sends grumpy messages to your brain. This is known to happen more frequently around the 6th or 7th hour. 

How will I respond when I’m alone and hurting in the water? I often repeat prayers, and on a good day, I hear complete songs. I’m sure I may curse like a sailor, but I’m hoping for grace and a sliver of dignity. Who knows how my stomach will behave; Carbo Gain and baby food purée are all I’ll be eating during the swim.

As I write this, I can see France from the Best Western where we are staying (just for tonight). Like a mirage, it appears deceivingly close, but I’m glad it’s there. I’m glad I will be focusing on a distant dream as it comes into focus.

I’m worried that I’m not enough, that I’m an imposter, and that this amazing weather will become a foggy mess.

My worry list is too long to enumerate, so I’ll stop.

Instead of worrying, I’ll enumerate some of the things I am grateful for: 1) being in England with its summery floral display; 2) seeing a castle which my ancestors quite possibly walked beside; 3) seeing the white cliffs of Dover; 4) recognizing how close the Nazis were to the UK and knowing the bad guys lost; 5) tea with milk; 6) apricot jam on a waffle for breakfast; 7) kind people on trains that give grace to grumpy people on trains; 8) time away from work; 9) love and support from so many friends and family; and, among so many other things I am grateful for, 10) lifebeing a small, warm human hurling myself through a vast sea in order to prove to myself how alive I am despite my brokenness. 

Peace be with you,
Ellen