It has been a little over a year since we launched the #bringwidlenehome campaign and over 9 years since we began the process to bring her to Canada. My live video updates on our journey have been extensive but I decided to release some written updates over the course of the next week to provide a more detailed rendition of some of the specific facets of this roller coaster ride.
This is Volume Four - Living in Darkness
In this journey, there are stories and then there are stories. What we share with the public is one thing and what happens behind the scenes is another entirely. Recently, we have decided to tell a little more of the story. It is a terrifyingly vulnerable place to be in but here we are.
A Little About Me
I often get asked how I am coping with this terrible situation that we have found ourselves in. I rarely give an honest answer. This is an honest answer.
I rarely sleep. When I do, it is usually for 45 minutes at a time. I find myself on that vicious tyrannical cycle where I cannot sleep because of all of the stress, and I am more stressed because of the lack of sleep. Every day, however, I experience about 2 minutes of glorious, heavenly, bliss right before I get out of bed. As I straddle the two worlds between lucidity and slumber, there is that beautiful moment when I have yet to realized the painful reality of my life and what my day inevitably holds. I savor it as long as I can, and I cling to every second as it slips through my fingers. Then it happens. My stupor gives way to clarity and the madness begins.
It is the breathing that I find most difficult. The only way that I can adequately describe it is with the word weight. A crushing weight on my chest that makes breathing nearly impossible. With every ounce of strength that I can muster, I inhale. I try to get as much air in my lungs as possible to prolong the inevitability of the next painstaking breath. The irony of this quandary is not lost on me by any stretch of the imagination. The very thing that should be the most basic has indeed emerged as the chief of all struggles: breathing. I literally fight for every breath.
After the breathing, I really miss the taste of food. I used to love food. I would plan my whole day around the various culinary delights that I would set out to enjoy. Now I see food as a necessary evil, and barely necessary at that. Now, every morsel of delishness that I consume does nothing but remind me of the terror that will follow. Months ago, I had to accept the fact that there would be no such thing as a trip to the bathroom without excruciating pain and terrible blood loss. This is my new normal. This is life under constant stress.
Short term exposure to stress can really mess with your hormone levels. Moods, appetite and even body functions can be temporarily altered. Moderate exposure can cause the stomach to do weird things and make life really uncomfortable. This moderate exposure can literally feel like the walls are closing in and that life, as you know it, is about to end.
Long term exposure to extreme stress, however, that is a whole different animal. In some of these cases, the body’s defense mechanisms can prove to be its worst enemy. As the most adaptable organism on earth, the human body knows what to do to make itself feel better. With long term stress exposure, the body produces hormones that can counteract the feeling or anxiety and even restore appetite. This is the most dangerous state to be in. You see, when your appetite returns and you don’t “feel” anxious, it is hard to tell that your internal organs are in crisis mode. Holes are being burnt into the lining of the stomach and toxins are escaping through lesions on the intestines. There are some studies that have found that extreme stress for extended periods of time creates the perfect environment for the growth of cancer cells. All of this can happen while you body is telling you that you “feel” ok.
Every day I hear it. “Hang in there.” “Keep fighting.” “You are so strong.”
No. I am not. In fact, I cannot imagine being weaker than I am right now other than the fact that I know I will be tomorrow. If you think that the utter destruction that is ravaging my physical body is bad, you would not want to take a look into my mind.
I say it every day. I have likely said it every day since this mess began over a year ago.
“I quit!” And then I see Widlene sending a text message to some nerdy kid from her school who has been bullied, and she is encouraging him. She lets him know that she will always be his friend and that he is a bigger person than those that want to beat him down. My heart is warmed and I immediately, I “un-quit.”
“I quit!” And then I see Nikki, the woman of my dreams, holding life together in Canada selflessly. She is undoubtedly organizing some feeding program for an impoverished village, all the while, carrying our new baby in my absence. I “un-quit” again.
“I quit!” And then I see my parents who are in their 70’s and 80’s. They sold their home in Newfoundland and moved to Ontario to help finance the ongoing efforts to get Widlene to safety. I “un-quit” one more time.
Some would say that I have accomplished some substantial things in my life. Certainly, in the realm of international advocacy I have been fortunate enough to have made some impact. Some have even been crazy enough to state that this #bringwidlenehome campaign has been very successful in bringing attention to a great cause and getting the ear of the entire federal government.
I see no success. I see utter failure.
If my life is reduced to one singular task, I would want it to be getting Widlene to a place where she can feel safe and live in the true potential of her life. In my opinion, anything short of that is complete failure.
Failure is like darkness. As darkness is the absence of light, failure, to me, is the absence of success. Until Widlene’s feet touch Canadian soil or the soil of a country that wants her, we live in darkness.