Thursday, March 15, 2012

There is no Over, only Through

For the folks who aren’t chronically ill, think of every time you’ve been injured or severely sick. Perhaps a broken bone or pneumonia landed you in the hospital once. There were doctors and medications and instructions. You did everything they asked, all the while upset that you had to deal with this (rightly so) and wondering, “When, oh, when does it get to be OVER?!” Imagine that time. Remember being stuck in it, and all the things you couldn’t do, all the help you had to ask for, how much of an inconvenience it all was, how people had to be patient with you…

Now imagine all that, but knowing that it’s never going to be “over.” It’s never going to get better. That your body will only get worse given time. Those crutches are staying. Those medications are part of your life now. The doctors and staff at the ER will know more about your life than your hairdresser. You’ll actually hear those terms enough times to know how to pronounce them. People will stop being patient and wonder why you haven’t learned to live with it yet, even though the symptoms feel as fresh as day one, every time. Vomiting always feels like vomiting. Kidney stones always feel like kidney stones. What we do get better at, in the long run, is getting angry at it.

Our disease (literally dis-ease) is something we hate about our life. It’s like being shackled to a monster. We have to drag this ugly, demanding thing around with us every where we go! It’s never not there. We can sometimes forget for a little while (#epicwinning), but it always comes back. We hate it about our lives, and we hate it about ourselves. Even though the disease may be the responsible party, we, the person, have to take responsibility for it. “I’m sorry, I tripped over my disease. I’m sorry, my disease is throwing a tantrum. I’m sorry, my disease is a jerk and won’t let me come out to play…” Pretty soon, I feel like the jerk having to explain all the time…

But it’s really, really dangerous to look at my disease this way. Pretty soon, I’m hating me. And that’s the least constructive place I can be.

My neighbor is involved in mix martial arts and she has inspired me. She's a cute little thing and you never would guess she could kick your butt. I was looking at some of her videos from a recent tournament. How those ladies compete is not a natural way to move. Watching the competition videos with her she would point out her mistakes, "now if I was paying attention there, she wouldn't have gotten me into that lock...". After the tournament, she had mean bruises and a few nasty bumps on her head. But these injuries didn't make her a victim. They made her a bad-ass.

Pain and suffering isn't always a negative thing. If it is pain and suffering we have chosen to accept (as, say, a means to an end) then we're a lot less likely to feel tragic about it. It's part of the process, right? Just the price of admission... We all understand that good things generally have a price tag stuck on 'em in some way. Whether it's enduring hundreds of class-hours for a degree, or working your way up the ranks in the military, or meticulously watching your weight to look good for your 20th high school reunion, we understand pain is a part of life. So isn't it reasonable, then, to say that the pain and suffering of my disease is no different? Pain is pain. It's the same nervous system. It's the same brain activity. So why would the bumps and bruises I get from one activity could be seen as triumphant, and the bumps and bruises of another activity seen as evidence of loss? They get you the same funny looks at first... "What the hell happened to you?!"

I have a scar through my eyebrow from a freak croquet accident (a long story for another day). The doctor who stitched me up told me to tell everyone I was on a secret German fencing team, and to graduate, everyone must leave with a scar. This one is mine. A scar on a woman's face on its own could be something to really be ashamed of, but add the cool story and it becomes mysterious and romantic...

Part of the problem is the frustration. I used to be able to walk just fine, thank you very much. I could leave my car at home, walk 5 miles, go shopping, and walk home again... just because it was a nice day. Now I have to hope that a nice day outside coincides with a nice day inside my body so that I can enjoy the day! And I have to drive. And sitting for most of the time is mandatory. Bah!! That certainly takes the fun out!

I can compare my life now to the life I knew before I got sick, and it will fall short in a lot of ways. My dreams at night tease me with visions of a body that follows my commands, instead of commands me about... I can dwell on all of that and be miserable.

Or, I can envision that I am on a quest to earn my black-belt in illness arts... That the bumps and bruises are testimony to learning process and something to be honored by rather than ashamed of. Yes, I am dealing with a storm of invisible problems that makes it difficult for other people to have sympathy for me. But I don't look sick? Thank you! I was hoping it wasn't immediately obvious. Just because other people have difficulty recognizing my problems and accomplishments, does that mean I should devalue my efforts too? Absolutely not.

I may not be able to get over this. But I can find a way through despite it. I don't have to find the light at the end of the tunnel. I can BE the light instead.

No comments:

Post a Comment