What it's Like to Pre-Exist

I’ve existed

for almost 30 years

in a body

that doesn’t work.

My mom tells me

that I was born anxious.

Fast heartbeat, fast breathing,

afraid of the world.

I was taken away from her

and placed in an incubator.

A tiny baby box

for tiny frightened babies.

As I grew older,

my body continued to betray me.

Causing fear and pain

when there was no reason for it.

I was called a faker and a liar.

I was told that I was wrong.

It took years for anyone to take it seriously.

To give the pain a name.

The names are what haunt me now,

the labels I’d desired for so long.

The diagnoses prove that I’m sick

to all the people who doubt me.

Now those same diagnoses

will make getting better impossible.

Rich men and women in a big air-conditioned building

voted to take away anything that might help me.

They’re taking away the years

of appointments and experiments,

of tests and medicine,

of validation and answers.

All I wanted

was answers.

Now those answers

will only hurt me.

My body pre-exists as broken

in this country.

I’m punished for seeking relief,

for trying to survive.

I can’t work if I’m sick.

I can’t produce, earn, or contribute.

I’ll be trapped in this selfish life.

This selfish body.

A body that was just deemed


A body that will be too expensive

to keep alive.

I’m not surprised.

I’ve been told for 30 years

that my body isn’t worth

what it costs.

The people surprised are

the ones with bodies

that didn’t pre-exist


I’ve pre-existed

my entire life.

I know how we’re treated.

I know the price we pay.

Alana Saltz is a writer, freelance editor, and disability rights advocate. She received her MFA in Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and her work has been featured in The Washington Post, The LA Times, The Huffington Post, Bustle, and more. You can follow Alana on Twitter @alanasaltz.