When Chronic Illness Leaves You in the Darkness

One minute you sit within the light. Comfort and companionship surround you. Perhaps, it’s a Friday night tradition, hosting dinner at your house, your closest friends laughing and dining together. The climate of the room adds to the perfection of the night. It’s cool, but not too cool – a welcome reprieve from the punishing heat outside. The food and fellowship nourish your soul. You have everything you need, right here in this room, within arms reach.

And then the lights go out. Perhaps, it’s a power surge, too many people entertaining, with the air conditioning set too low on this lovely evening. Suddenly, you sit in total darkness, unable to see your hand in front on your face. The entire neighborhood must be without power. You stand and begin to fumble your way towards, where? You don’t know where you are or how to get towards the light. Suddenly you feel panic rising in your chest, constricting your throat, the air becoming harder to obtain. What was safe, familiar, and inviting just seconds ago is now menacing, unknown, and terrifying. Quickly, the temperature rises and while you can hear the voices of your people, you don’t know how to get to them. How did life change so quickly? Hopefully, the lights will come back on momentarily and life can resume as normal.

But what if instead of the lights going out at your dinner party, words were spoken over you, which ushered you into darkness? What if, instead of a power outage, it was actually a devastating accident, a mental breakdown, or a sudden barrage of symptoms which rendered you unable to get to the ones you love, even though you could still hear their voices? What if one moment life was perfectly lovely and the next you were left with panic rising in your chest, wondering when someone might turn the lights back on so life could return to normal? What if no one ever turned the lights back on and you had to learn how to navigate the darkness?

The first year of my illness was spent in a fog, darkness really, which swallowed me whole. One minute, I’d been sitting in the light next to the people I loved, laughing and enjoying the moment. The next minute I sat in total darkness, unable to get to anyone, unsure of how to find the light. Sheer terror consumed me. How long would it be before the lights came back on?

It turns out I spent a year in the darkness. Not because I suddenly got better within that time frame and then the lights came back on, enabling life to go back to normal. But because, eventually, I learned to find what I needed within the darkness. I learned to find my way to the people I love. Slowly, the darkness lifted. The fog was dense, but it no longer left me petrified. I’d lived in the darkness long enough to no longer be afraid of it.

Is the darkness swallowing you up today? Are you living in a fog, unable to get to the people or things you love? Are you waiting for the lights to come back on so life normal life can resume?

Can I tell you today the lights may never come back, on but the darkness won’t last forever? You will find your way. You’ll find the tools you need in the darkness. Eventually, a friend will place a flashlight in your hand. It won’t be long before you find the matches and light a candle. Before you know it, the panic in your chest will begin to subside. Cooler nights will come, and open windows will bring relief. Hold on, it will be bearable before long. Before you know it, you’ll catch yourself laughing again.

One day, maybe a year from now, maybe two, you’ll look back on that night the lights went out and you’ll marvel at how far you’ve come. How in the world did you learn to live in the darkness? How did you find light where there was none? And then in a year or so, maybe two, you’ll find someone wandering about, panic-stricken in the darkness and you’ll place a flashlight in their hand. You’ll pull them close and whisper, “Hold on, friend, the darkness won’t last forever.”

Follow this journey on Chronically Whole.

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