Almost a decade ago, I woke up in extreme pain--my eye was bloodshot and I was experiencing extreme photophobia. When I say my heart was breaking from pain, I mean it. For nights, I sat in the bathtub in the dark. I could barely attend my grad school classes without taking a break outside the room, breathing deeply in and out--trying to convince myself that I wasn't losing my mind. I wasn't going to just die from pain.
Doctors kept telling me I was experiencing contact irritation, but that wasn't the case. How many people does it really take before a sick person can be believed? It took nearly a year to get any clarity at all, actually--I had to keep speaking up, keep saying that I didn't feel normal. That it wasn't OK. At first, I was diagnosed with Uveitis, which is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye that happens to make Pink Eye look like a fucking unicorn and rainbows dream come true. It later came to be, after years of joint pain and inflammation, that I had Ankylosing Spondylitis, inflammatory arthritis that affects the large joints and the spine. And this is what caused the Uveitis, which is chronic, and which I will suffer from again.
It's hard to be a healthy-looking 20-something while having an invisible illness. It's hard to say, "I can't meet up tonight, my knee is killing me." I mean, I'm not 70. My knee?! But the pain continues, and the future is unclear. It makes me lethargic, and it makes me grumpy. Because having arthritis just sounds ridiculous to other people. It also sounds less real, somehow. After all, it's not cancer. I am not dying. That much is true, and I am grateful for that.
I don't think that needs to be the marker, though. I don't think we need to be on death's door to openly discuss the pain of being alive. And with that idea in mind, this issue is for and by everyone with an invisible illness, a mental health issue, a chronic illness or a disability. We'll be publishing content through Friday and you will see a variety of forms--poetry, fiction, essay, comic, photography. We're so honored to have so many beautiful pieces of work, and we're touched that our writers were so vulnerable, so honest, so compassionate.
We had hundreds and hundreds of submissions. It wasn't easy to decline work. It wasn't easy to say no to such heart. Everyone who submitted to this Issue matters to us, and we appreciate everyone who will read, share and create dialogue around this Issue.
I am so thankful for the editorial team here. Extra special thanks to Joanna Valente--who oversaw a lot of the production and edited the majority of this massive issue--and Alaina Leary for spearheading the initial creation of this issue. Huge thanks goes to Nadia Gerrassimenko, who is a fantastic editorial support--from helping with logistics to drafting content to promoting our writers on social media to having a big hand in the aesthetics. We couldn't do it without you.
I can't wait to hear your thoughts on our writers' work. Thank you!
- Lisa Marie Basile