The Dark Beginning of My Journey With Chronic Illness
“Take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you will go.”
It’s about time I open up about the beginning of my journey, because to truly understand how I got to where I am now, you need to know how hard it was to get here. Picture this:
You are 21, in the absolute prime of your life. You are studying your hardest at university to achieve grades in the top 10 percent. You are working your hardest at a job you absolutely love. You are a pole dancer, and your fitness levels are the best they have ever been. You have a great social life, regardless of your ridiculous schedule, and are having a ton of fun acting your age and living life as a 21-year-old should. Life is actually pretty fantastic – you’re busy as hell but you’re killing it at life and that is damn satisfying. One day, out of nowhere, your body becomes so dysfunctional that you are unable to continue with any of your normal routine. Suddenly your life is turned on its head and you are trapped inside a body that feels so foreign to you, you have no idea how to use it. There was no gradual transition into illness, there were no guidelines on how the hell I was supposed to adjust to this; I just had to.
All undiagnosed issues aside, becoming chronically ill is something that can break you down until you are so bruised and battered you may literally lose all hope. When you realize this isn’t going away and this is how you will spend the rest of your life, it’s really hard to find the motivation to go on. In all honesty, my attitude in the beginning was that I would rather die than be this sick forever. Let me repeat that: I wanted to die. I spent every day for the first few months holed up in bed crying and feeling sorry for myself. Some days I was in bed because I could not walk, but most days it was because I didn’t have the will to do anything. It was by far the hardest few months of my life.
I felt so alone and so isolated because no one else around me understood why I was so scared and upset. I separated myself from everyone because being around people and seeing them live their normal lives that I wanted absolutely killed me and made me feel even worse. I began to resent everyone for being able-bodied and being able to do things I couldn’t.
I didn’t want to try and be happy, I just wanted to not be here anymore. I was a pit of sadness, anger and frustration with no outlet. I would normally channel these feelings into my dance, but I couldn’t do that anymore and I was lost. As you know, I eventually found my outlet in my writing, but before that it was so hard.
My biggest issue was I didn’t try to be happy, I didn’t try to accept my illness and I certainly didn’t try to process my emotions in a healthy way. I was stuck in a hole and I saw no light above me so I didn’t bother trying to climb out. I was trapped inside a body that was so foreign to me that I wouldn’t even have the slightest idea how to start climbing anyway.
The point of me writing this all down is to show myself just how far I have come in the past eight months. It’s to show you all why I am so damn proud of myself for being as strong as I am today. The fact is, I dragged myself out of that hole and I did it all by myself. That’s not saying I didn’t have the support of my family and friends, because I definitely did. The reason I say I did it by myself is because no one else could get through to me. No one else understood, and I didn’t listen to anyone. I came to accept my illness and by doing this I allowed myself to finish grieving and start to heal. I’m lucky I started this process when I did because some people can get stuck there for years, and some may never get out of that headspace. After a few months of wallowing in self-pity I finally realized I was never going to be happy if I didn’t try.
Don’t misinterpret that as me claiming it is easy to win over a chronic illness and just be happy, because that’s the last thing I am saying. Dragging myself out of the cycle of sadness and anger was one of the hardest battles I’ve ever fought. If you, reading this, feel trapped in your own hole – whether that be from chronic illness or otherwise – trust me when I say you can climb out. It will hurt, you will want to quit, you will fall down a few times and it sure as hell won’t happen overnight, but you can do it.
A huge lesson I’ve learned is that happiness does not find you, you must find it. You need to allow yourself to feel it, and by being sad you are pushing happiness further and further away. I truly believe I totally lost myself in those few months and I am still figuring out who I am without a healthy, able body. I can honestly say now though that I am at piece with my situation and I have learned to be happy despite it.
It’s been really refreshing to reflect on how far I’ve come. I am damn proud of myself for what I’ve achieved. I am confident that whatever hurdles my illness throws at me, I’ll be able to handle them.
This post originally appeared on Finding Rainbows in the Dark.
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Thinkstock photo via JZhuk.