I could die tomorrow, I thought immediately. When I was twenty-three, I was living with my boyfriend Chris in the Back Bay. He was in bed already that night. I sat at the end of our bed getting ready to go to sleep. It was very quiet and dark in the room. I was changing into my pajamas. My arms crossed in front of me as I was taking off my shirt. My left arm brushed against my left breast and I felt something as hard as a rock inside my body. An electric current went through my body immediately and automatically. What is that? I put down both my arms. My left hand touched my left breast again and I felt the rock again. Do I have cancer? Am I going to die? Should I quit my job? My thoughts raced. There was nothing more effective than death to de-prioritize my job. I had to wake Chris. He dialed a nurse hotline to ask what I should do. Shortly after that discovery, I did a biopsy and received an inconclusive result. The doctor recommended surgery. I was in the hospital for one day. The “rock” was surgically removed and tested. It was a benign cyst. I was fine. But since that experience, from time to time, I would tell myself, “Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. I might die tomorrow. Remember! So live today as best as I can!” This thought would be the consistent thread as I went through major changes in my life and every time my gut felt that I was not living my life as best as I could.
My life happened in reverse order from the conventional timeline. At 20, I started my young adult life in a serious relationship. My first boyfriend spoke of marriage and kids, but, at 21, I was not ready for all that. Afterwards, I immediately got into a second committed relationship. Between the ages of 20 to 28, I always had a boyfriend by my side. At 28, I broke up with my second boyfriend, Chris, who I’d been dating for six years. This set me on a path to being single for the next two decades. Around my thirtieth birthday, being alone triggered schizophrenia, which I wrote about in my first memoir Becoming Whole. After quickly recovering from my first major schizophrenic episode, I continued to live life as a single woman. It took some time and practice to live life well this way since I was used to being in relationships, which meant having someone with me all the time for everything. In parallel, schizophrenia lingered in the background while I wasn’t yet fully aware of my brain condition. At the age of 36, I considered being a single mother by choice, which set off my second major schizophrenic episode. At forty, I started focusing on dating. Five years later, I asked myself, why am I dating?
I might die tomorrow!