Living with a chronic disorder, you teach yourself to heal quickly. When your body aches and your head throbs, you take the medicine, rest, despite the boredom and restlessness, and use every ounce of willpower you have to just get better—nothing else matters. You get really good at it to the point that sometimes it almost seems to be part of your essence, to heal, despite all odds. It is one aspect of your life that you grow great confidence in, in a world and a body that is often trying to tear you down. Your past has been filled with pain that clouds your mind to the point where your words and phrases do not make sense, but somehow, you find the strength to reach for the phone and call for help anyways. There have been times when you walk on your tiptoes to relieve a tiny bit of the discomfort that comes in each step. To be blunt, there have been times when you thought you were going to die, but you didn’t. This is not to scare anyone or hyperbolize. It is just your reality and you bear it. You learned that lesson long ago and now, most days, you do not waste time wishing it away. It is your life and you will continue to bear it any day and every day if you have to because it means living. Living for and with the ones you love. You mentality steadfastly becomes “Bring it, pain, I will win.”
But then one day, as part of the growing up we all must do, a different kind of pain comes along, one very foreign and unfamiliar. It is not one of the head or the limbs, not one of bodily malfunction. A kind that no amount of wincing through the muscle cramps or deep breathing can lessen. It is no longer a pain that you can use your mind, your once most powerful tool, to overcome. It is one of the heart. An unrecognizable beast. And it will stop you dead in your tracks, despite all the fighting you have done your entire life. You have literally fought your own body and won so then once you are able to catch your breath, you wonder, why is this breaking me? You feel betrayed by yourself. It is the type of pain that feels like a coalition of the world’s forces against you, that you never wholly come back from. It leaves you changed. It is the type of pain that even though each and every one of us has felt it in some way or another, at that moment in time, you feel like you are the only one who understands how badly it aches, not in your flesh, but in your soul.
At first, you tell yourself to cope with this emotional hurt like you do the physical. Why can’t you just push through this like all the times before? And if you are anything like me, you will beat yourself up about it for many moments too long. If you are anything like me, you will tell yourself that you can be better, stronger, bigger than this. Why does this pain not trigger your instinct to fight, but rather makes you want to curl up in a ball and hide away? It is because this pain is not the same. Not at all. And it is not supposed to be. Don’t make the mistake of treating it the same. This is not a matter of urgency or necessity. There is no test that will measure your progress in “getting better.” There are no doctors in the world that can tell you how to manage this. With this pain, and this healing, it is your choice in when and how it is done. With this healing, it can be an actual process, not a mission, not a matter of pure survival.
So this time, my dear, do not do what you have become so accustom to. Do not do what you do best- use the pain, the thing so awful and disruptive, and turn it into power, or at least not immediately. Take the time. Just be gentle with yourself and let yourself feel this fully because for once, you can. You have that luxury this time. Cry into the pages of your favorite books and the lyrics of familiar melodies. Go out into a world of unknowns and come home feeling so hollow and directionless. Just rest in it. Think about it. Think about you. Think about what it means. Think about it so much your head throbs, crawling into every dark corner of your mind to discover how you feel about it. Feel it so strongly it hits you at your core. Ask everyone you know and trust, weep on their shoulder. Do not be afraid of looking weak. Have your restless nights and exhausting days. Allow yourself to be sad, scared, angry, and isolated; they are all the feelings of the bittersweet spectrum. Do what you want, what you need. In this pain, and this healing, you have a choice. Your opinion about how it feels can be heard and this time, nothing else matters.
It will be brutal. And often you will wish you could use something to numb, or at least, dull the pain, but don’t. It is never worth it. It is always just a false, temporary retreat, leading you further from your intended path to real, everlasting truth. And even though you feel like it will never happen, it will happen. There will come a day when you are not in a constant state of overwhelm at the existential crisis of it all. You will just start to notice the little things again- the way the wind tickles the leaves on the trees, the pure and genuine smile of a child, the ability to talk and listen to a friend, or even a stranger, and learn something new. And then, even if slowly, the little things will become the big things. You will realize even though life is not perfect, and things almost never work out the way you expect and the confusion never quite completely goes away, you are not doomed. The truth of the situation is it is at our lowest point that we learn what we seek in this life, what truly can set us free and yes, what truly matters. And for the rest of our lives, we remember what lifted us up. Then one day, you will be able to look back and say you not only fought for your body, but for, not against, your heart—and won.