I recently experienced pneumonia for the first time in my life. Been there, done that now, hope to never do that again! But this was also the first time in my life that I seriously thought I was going to die. Seriously. Thought. I. Would. Die. Because even when I TRIED to die, that winter I attempted suicide, I didn’t feel as close to death (in spite of what the reality might have been) as I did with pneumonia. So it was a very interesting experience for me. In many ways. I am sure I didn’t have the worst case of pneumonia ever. But the doctor wanted to put me in the hospital because she wasn’t sure I would be okay on my own. I begged her to let me go home instead, explaining my serious lack of money and the fact that I have two sweet little Miniature Schnauzers who have no one else to love and care for them. I couldn’t afford to board them even if I wanted to. She was reluctant. Asked if I had a friend who could come live with me for a few days (ha, funny). My temperature was 103.5. I could barely stand up. My lungs didn’t sound good at all (both right lobes involved). But she conceded, in spite of me not having a friend who could come over to watch out for me, only because she knows people rest better at home and I needed a lot of good solid rest. I got a mega-super-duper antibiotic shot in the butt that burned like fire and hurt like heck. She put me on a prescription for some jumbo powerful antibiotics as well that I had to take daily for 10 days and some prednisone to open up my breathing passages. I was told to keep the fluids going down, to go to the ER if my temperature got any higher or if I got any worse and to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the week. Well, except drive back to her office every day to make sure I was getting better and not worse. Or maybe to prove I was still alive. She wanted the follow-up visits because she really was not comfortable with me being at home. Especially since I was alone. That Monday when I first saw the doctor and the next day were the worst. Those were the days I had moments where I doubted my life would continue beyond a few more hours. That first afternoon, I was laying on the couch with my two girls laying on me, snuggling close (it’s great having dogs laying on you when you have a fever, by the way) when I thought, “Huh, so this is how my life is going to end?” I wasn’t afraid…not really. Probably because I didn’t have the strength to do anything other than lay there and breathe. Couldn’t even open my eyes. It simply didn’t feel as if my body was going to be able to take any more. It felt as if I was approaching the end at a fairly good clip. And I wasn’t concerned. I kept thinking I should be upset. Other than being worried about what would happen to my dogs, I couldn’t have cared less. If they hadn’t been a part of my life, I’m not sure I would have made it. I think they were the one thing that tied me to this world. Oh, I knew my brother would be pretty sad. I felt bad about how messed up my house was and how much crap he would have to go through to clean it out. I was a little frustrated that I had never managed to write that book I’ve wanted to write. But not frustrated enough to really care if I died before it happened. I guess, truthfully, my “nothing matters, especially me” philosophy proved to be deeply embedded in my psyche and soul. Because only one thing did. My dogs. And they didn’t matter as much as I would have thought because I didn’t have the strength to care. All I could do was wait and see what would happen. For better or worse, after a couple of days, the antibiotics made a difference. By the third day, I could tell I was making some progress and that I wasn’t going to die after all. I was very weak. I still wasn’t interested in eating anything, though I dutifully downed as much Powerade Zero as I could stomach. I wasn’t mad any more at Zoe and Hannah for wanting to go outside every 20 minutes. I wasn’t ready to scream when it took them more than 2 seconds to do their business while we were out there. I could stand up longer. My fever was down. I was sleeping just a little less. I was actually sitting up for 30 minutes to an hour. I was healing. I remember laying in Intensive Care for several days after my suicide attempt and not feeling I was all that close to dying. Perhaps it was because I was so close and so out of it, nothing registered. But laying on my couch, face planted on the floral upholstery, I believed I was facing my last moments. Alone. With only my dogs to see me off. And feeling guilty that I would be leaving them behind. Alone. My life has been lived alone. I was alone when I was growing up with a couple of monsters for parents. Monsters who hit me and screamed at me and slapped me and grabbed me by the hair and threw me around. A monster of a father who sexually abused me for at least 10 critical years of my childhood. Monsters who rejected me, neglected me, treated me as if I wasn’t human and called it love. There was nowhere to turn. No arms to hold me. No comfort. No peace. No safety. No laughter. Pain. Lots of pain. No love. No protector. I was alone when I got married at 17 and he decided right after the ceremony that he had made a mistake. He flirted with the waitress wearing hot pants at our “we just got married” lunch and was unfaithful several times during the first week of our marriage. He asked me for a divorce a mere two weeks after we married. And though we stayed together for 3-1/2 years as we prepared to go our separate ways, I was alone in a loveless environment without anyone to turn to for comfort or support. I was alone for 22 years when I married my last husband. I was 25, head over heels in love, couldn’t believe how wonderful he was…and he wanted to marry me!! But two weeks after we married, we moved to his home town of Santa Fe, NM, and on the way, I suddenly realized that he didn’t love me either. I had made the same mistake again. But this time, I was a Christian, so it was, in my mind, forever. I had to suck it up. Make it work. Be faithful and loyal and believe God would work His miracles on my behalf if I did the right thing. I tried to reach out to God, but He was distant too. I cried out to Him, but there was no response. I lived with a man who told me repeatedly that he didn’t love me, who made me feel inadequate and worthless in a million different ways, for years and years as my heart died with me. And then, he left me for another woman. A woman he loved. I’ve been alone ever since. Painfully, deeply destructively alone. Isolated. Unwanted. Not special to anyone…well, other than my dogs. I believe this isolation and profound loneliness are the pneumonia of my soul. I believe this state of lonesomeness is just as life-threatening and caustic as that awful disease. Oh, I get up off the couch. Even when it isn’t easy. I go to work. Even though it takes every ounce of my strength. I walk outside with the girls, watching them bound around the yard with utter joy as they smell all the new smells and eat earthworms that have died in the recent rains and turned crispy in the sun. I get through the day, barely. The disease in my being isn’t obvious…not the way it was when I had pneumonia. The need to be hospitalized or in intensive care isn’t noticeable. The necessity of receiving help can easily be overlooked and ignored by anyone looking on. And there is no super-duper mega shot that can fix what is wrong with me. In reality, the thing that will more than likely kill me is simply the total emptiness of my world and the fact that I truly don’t matter much to anyone. That is, perhaps, the one most profound discovery I made during this recent physical struggle. If anything is going to kill me it is that I am unwanted, alone, unloved. This is the worst germ, the most horrid infection, that can possibly invade a person’s life. And for this infection, there is no cure. No magic drug. For the antibiotic required in this broken state (human companionship, love, contact, touch) is not available to those who live in isolation. And so, for lack of connection, touch and genuine caring, I die a little bit more every day. On the inside. While the outside tries to keep going. Empty. Alone. Desperately sick with a disease that is worse than pneumonia. With no hope of recovery.