Porochista Khakpour's Sick: A Memoir was a popular new release, so I jumped on the bandwagon as soon as it came out. I was unfamiliar with her previous work, and much to my shame. She is a beautiful, compelling writer who drew me in with her prose and her tale-weaving.
Most likely but as a child, Porochista has never known a time when she wasn’t sick. Things had always felt off for her, and when as a young woman at college in New York she finds herself spiraling down into a series of health breaks, she can’t quite put her finger on why. Although several people mention the possibility of Lyme over the next few years, it’s not until a definitive diagnosis almost a decade later that she can find any sort of short-lives relief. Her work and wanderlust takes her all over the word, but her illness continues to bring her back.
Porochista’s story is fascinating, and well worth a read. She has many in her life who don’t believe her, and through her story I did a great deal of reckoning with myself over people I have known who have suffered from similar ailments. Was I a non-believer? Did I hurt anyone I loved because of an illness that was hard to diagnose? Quite possibly. I also had to reckon with my own ailments. I have been suffering from extreme exhaustion on and off for four years. It got better with pregnancy and post-partum, but it’s recently started to read its ugly head again. No doctor has taken me seriously, and so I soldier on, grateful that I have the ability to work from home on days when I just have difficulty moving.
Following Porochista’s journey from childhood to adulthood and colored by this mysterious illness that has lent a cloud cover to her development was fascinating. Her timelining her illness with her relationships was something we can all easily relate to, even though by the time her illness became so bad that she had to leave Germany, I wanted to smack her and tell her to let herself heal emotionally as well as physically. For once, a character listened to me! For a bit, anyway, so by the time she found a relationship after making her way back to NYC I was cheering for her.
I appreciate that she ended the book with the recognition that her journey is far from over. She talks about the book that she pitched which is not the book that she ended up with due to an unexpected relapse. Her open heart that she lays bare on her pages makes me feel as though she is my friend, and her words strung together on the page have made me think more deeply and honestly about capital-H Health.