The most recent embarrassing symptom of my autoimmune/connective tissue/who-knows-what disorder was a wound on my lip that refused to heal. Actually two. The first one was on the right side of my lower lip and lasted at least three weeks, and as soon as it healed another one opened up on the left side. I can’t even explain the frustration I felt when, after less than a day with actual normal skin, a new wound opened up.
This would have been fine, though, if every time I was in the view of other human beings I was wearing a face mask, but I teach online once a week, and take a Hebrew class online twice a week, and I was supposed to record another choir video, so it was been an exercise in holding my head at funny angles, rejiggering the lights, and trying not to feel embarrassed when my still bleeding lip, or any of the many different scabbing stages, were visible. Only one of my students mentioned it, and I’m assuming that everyone else was either being polite or not actually paying attention to me (which is more likely).
The oral pathologist said the lip wounds were probably caused by a combination of the Lichen Planus (an autoimmune disease that impacts the inside of my mouth and also my lower lip for some reason), and the way the face masks keep moisture in, and the steroid gel I have to use to control the Lichen Planus (which barely works, but successfully thins my skin). He wasn’t concerned, though. He was also unconcerned that there was an ulceration on the side of my tongue, and raw red skin on the inside of each cheek, and gum irritation that will lead to more and more problems in the future (his nurse joked that I should save my money for all of the dental work I will need – Ha ha! So funny!), all of which has made eating a painful experience for quite a while now. But other than that, sure, no big deal.
The thing is, if I could just be sanguine about my symptoms and accept them as a passing experience, maybe I’d be okay. But instead, I end up feeling like these symptoms are proof that I am a disgusting and unlovable creature. I feel like a throwback to biblical times, when Miriam (the sister of Moses and Aaron) was punished with a skin disease for being a gossip. I’ve been putting off teaching my synagogue school students about Tzara’at – the skin disease Miriam, and others, were supposedly punished with for their “bad speech,” because I really don’t want to risk them thinking this lip thing is going to happen to them too. And, really, I don’t want to risk convincing myself that there’s something to that argument. I mean, if gossip caused skin disease none of us would have any skin left!
As soon as my lip healed – mostly – I rushed to do my choir recordings before a new wound could open up, and I made it with one day to spare before the deadline (I really did not want to explain why I would need more time). And instead of worrying about my lip, I was able to worry about the glare on my glasses, and the break in my voice when I had to move from the lower notes to the higher notes, and the flyaway hairs escaping from all sides of my ponytail, etc., which was a relief.
I don’t know what my next weird symptom might be, because it’s generally unpredictable, and I’m not so evolved as a human being that I can be blasé about symptoms that impact how I look. But for now, I’m going to make the most of the feeling of freedom that comes from being able to turn my head from side to side while I’m on screen, and eat salty food without fear of excruciating pain, and knowing that if I fall into the depths of despair in the next few days it will be about something other than how I look on Zoom.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?