For My Entire Childhood, My Mom Convinced Me I Was Dying
She said I had cancer, and an eating disorder, and pneumonia. I didn’t realize it was abuse until years later.
Illustrations by Joe Gough
I felt the cold metal of the tool through my shirt as she checked my spine for deformities. I was filled with panic, and a certainty that I had scoliosis. I pictured my spine twisted. Would I need a back brace? Eventually a wheelchair? I got lightheaded and said I needed to stop the test.
The article I’d been assigned to write on a new scoliosis clinic didn’t require in-person interviews. But I’d just earned a graduate degree in journalism, and I was eager to prove myself to my Pulitzer Prize-winning professors. So here I was at the clinic. When I’d suggested to the physical therapist that she test me for scoliosis so I could describe the exam in my article, she’d been pleased.
After prematurely ending the exam, I still felt like I was about to pass out. For a minute, I couldn’t even see. I was led to a chair and handed a glass of water. As the dizziness subsided and my vision returned, I thought, Shit, shit, shit. This has never happened in public before. Sooo…