Halloween is my favorite time of year because I love all things spooky. It hasn’t always been this way, though. This year, instead of writing about the Snallygaster (a local monster legend) or personal spooky experiences, I’m instead going to tell you the story of how I learned to to be comfortable with fear.
My body broke at 23. A rare autoimmune disease had emerged, slowly dissolving my organs to mush. When the diagnosis was given, it came with a series of ifs: If I made it out of the hospital; If my body responded to the non-standardized, experimental treatment; If I could obtain the necessary chemotherapy without insurance; If I could avoid infection while my immune system was systematically destroyed (to save my life), I might have a chance at a normal life.
The primary treatment lasted three years. Three years of ingesting poison, three years of knowing that I wasn’t myself. Three years of knowing there was still a “me” in there somewhere, just out of reach. This is now what I think of when I imagine hell.
Ironically, I wasn’t afraid of dying. There, in a hospital bed, surrounded by a tangle of tubes and hidden behind a breathing mask, I decided to stay. Maybe it was the meds, or maybe it was my mind entering survival mode, but I met a woman I knew to be “God.” She took me to the top of a mountain, the leaves all gold against a warm blue sky. It was peaceful, it was loving. It was home.
She told me that this is what is waiting for me and I had a choice to make. I could go with her now and everything would be okay – I would have no worries ever again. Or, I could go back. It wouldn’t be easy, she warned, but it would be worth it. I stayed in that place for a while, feeling love and golden light and blue sky. And then I went back to the hospital.
I don’t know if this really happened, but her words have guided me to this day. I trusted that everything would be okay, would be worth it. When things were scary, and they often were, I would remember this and my outlook would shift. Scary things are scary because they have power, but I also learned that scary things only have the power we give them. It was because I trusted in a positive outcome that chemotherapy stopped being scary and became that horrible, inconvenient task that was necessary for me to become wonderful, to have a life that was “worth it.”
What scares me, though, is that some days I wonder if I made the right decision. Life is hard, and being queer seems to make everything more complicated somehow. Forging true friendships in a rural area isn’t easy, and dating is even more difficult. A person can simultaneously be too much for one suitor and not enough for another. And then there’s our community’s focus on appearances. I no longer swim because I’m tired of reliving my own personal hell to explain the map of scars on my body. The meds may have saved my life, but they left a trail of carnage behind.
We all have our scars that we fear will never heal. Things also only have the power we give them. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. What we do and say matters. Be kind to others, go the extra mile. Take care of yourself. Know that you will always have choices in your life, and those choices are what make your life what it is. Make good ones. So, if you’ve ever been afraid, take back your power and start living a life that one day will be worth the pain and strife it took to achieve.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.