The Unsinkable (Joce)

I’ve almost drowned, twice, in the ocean, on Labor Day weekend. Once, as the heavy waves of Rockaway Beach rolled over my shoulders, I felt the fear of death descend, but I didn’t die. Once, off the sunny coast of San Carlo, Mexico, death hovered, but I couldn’t see it for the blue and sparkling sky above. Again, I did not die.

I recently got the results from my doctor for a genetic test she had ordered to help assess the way my body metabolizes medications. Based on my genetics, the test helped her prescribe a drug that would work with my body, instead of against it, as well as inform her of potential, specific to me, side effects, and ineffective or not recommended treatments for my condition. These genetic tests are fairly new, and despite my complete inability to decipher the results, I found the report fascinating. One fact, in particular: SLC6A4, L/L.

It turns out I am “homozygous for the long promoter polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene.”  What the hell does that mean? I couldn’t tell you. I can tell you that my doctor was pleased that I was L/L and explained that people who have this genetic expression tend to be more optimistic, less prone to depression, and most importantly of all, more hardy when presented with stress, trauma, and disruptive life events.  People who are L/L are less likely to suffer PTSD.  The other people - carriers of the short 5-HTTLPR allele have difficulty disengaging attention from emotional stimuli and are more susceptible to depression and stress.  “I can tell from this report,” she said, “that you are a very resilient person.”

Of course, my doctor has no knowledge of the last 20 years of my life.

I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, but, judging from my blog, I would say I have tendencies. I can feel very, very low, and for weeks, months at a time.  And I certainly wouldn’t put myself in the camp of people who refer to themselves as “optimists.” Occasionally hopeful, realistic, pragmatic, but not optimistic.

But when she used the word “resilient,” I smiled. Emotionally, psychologically, I have been crushed, squashed, and trampled. I’ve been abandoned, wrenched, spun up and exploded. I’ve been repeatedly bombarded, threatened, insulted, bullied, accused, chided, and teased. I’ve been let down easy and hard. I’ve been kicked when I’m down and run down by a Mack truck. My heart has been broken. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. I've almost drowned because of a man - TWICE. And you know what, people? I am still here and I’m fine. And, all those guys that thought they had me sunk, didn’t know me very well, because I’m unsinkable. I’m a lot tougher than they give me credit for.

I will bounce back. I’m resilient. It’s scientifically proven. It’s in my DNA.

Maybe the greatest challenge I’ve ever had to face was coming to terms with what happened with Ken. It took me a long time to recover, and it’s likely that I never will, completely. He told me once that I was the weakest person he knew.  But, I know I’m not, because I survived him.