Monday, April 27, 2015

Illuminations 4/27

Earlier today, I was wondering aloud in the office what I've been obsessing about in the past week most so that I could write this blog about it. A fellow intern (hi Maggie!) suggested I write about donating blood; I had, after all, just finished a rant about the intricacies of iron absorbed in my body. And so in the past few minutes I've debated talking about the psychological and sociological implications of blood donor incentives or the Japanese fixation on blood type. In the end, I resolved to tell y'all about the selfish reasons I donate blood.

Before we begin, say "aww" in unison
Like most people in the world, I experienced the usual teenage angst and disgruntlement in my high school years, accompanied by a whole bunch of unusual childhood memories I wish I never made. I couldn't forget, so why couldn't I try to replace myself completely? There was a donation drive going on at my school, and my blood weighed heavy in my veins. I wanted to drain myself a pint at a time, until all was renewed and I cleansed. At the time, I had a utility belt of unhealthy coping mechanisms; this one would at least be helping others.

It's no surprise that I found the feeling so addictive. Throughout my life, I had developed a ridiculous concern with constantly being productive for other people. By knowing I helped someone else, I found a sense of worth in myself. And so I donated. And donated. And grew annoyed if my iron wasn't high enough. And grew irate if my iron wasn't high enough. And then despaired.

In the game of life, I had very often found myself a pawn in other people's chess matches; I was rarely myself in control. But the constant monitoring of my iron intake, on the other hand: that was all contingent on me. As of late, I have the science of iron consumption down to such a science it's kind of disgusting: everyday I take an iron pill with 361% of the necessary iron for my body, but it's all non-heme iron (which isn't absorbed as well in the body) so I have to consume some form of vitamin C (promotes iron absorption) with it and avoid calcium (prevents it). And this fixation isn't one that goes away after donating; it's a constant thought on my mind, and probably one of those things I do that's healthy to the point of being detrimental.

I'd love to tell you that angsty Courtney is gone and that my reasons for donating blood are purely altruistic now. That, however, is bullshit. I give blood because there is still part of me I work hard to shoo from the surface - part of me that whispers how it wishes to disappear, part of me that loathes all that I am and all that I've lived through. The needle in my arm works for me the way heroin works for others, so that I don't have to face what I'm so intent on running from. It's an imperfect system, but it's better than some alternatives. Maybe one day I'll be able to grow up, come to terms with trauma. But for now, I'll obsess and eat my weight in spinach and count grams of protein and try my damnedest to get drained.

But ain't these guys cute?

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