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When You Become Ill and Words of Empowerment Begin to Fail


Throughout our lives, words hold the greatest meaning. It was there for us when we were little children, the link between a little baby and her cooing mom. Words form the basis of encouragement when the little one sets off to crawl or take the very first steps. Words continue to guide and shape our young lives.

“You’ve got this!”

“You’re in it to win it!”

“You can do it!”

I believed every one of those phrases throughout my life – I did have that degree, I was in it to win my first job, I could leave my family and venture out into a new city on my own. I kept on growing and following through on all mini and major goals until the fateful day when I got sick.

Yes, like everyone else, I believed that it was just a passing fever and I would bounce back. I did get better from the fever, but I never bounced back. I became increasingly tired, day after day. My headaches lingered longer and longer. The effort to lift my head off of the pillow was sometimes outside of my ability. My lifelong belief in those empowering words, “What the mind can conceive, you can achieve,” was being dearly tested. I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of a tumultuous journey of hope and despair.

It’s 14 years later now and fibromyalgia is the word that I have to live with. I’ve clung to every hope inspiring mantra imaginable, I’ve inhaled caterpillar to butterfly metaphors but my exhale keeps me in a constant cocoon. I’m now living with daily pain for over a decade, it has eaten away at my spirit like tiny a moth, and it has drained my body’s ability to keep on fighting like a slow puncture. My adrenals are burnt out from its daily fight against an invisible enemy. Pain seems like a manageable condition to people that have the blessed fortune of only encountering it on a cause and effect occasion. When pain is your closest unwanted companion, it surpasses the realm of manageable and enters the dark web of the soul where it brings its companions, anxiety and depression. Anxiety over the unimaginable future. If there was hope that pain will be relieved in any specific quantifiable period of time, that hope will carry you through the most unimaginable pain, but that very lack of tangible hope is what brings anxiety. Depression just joins in for the ride and reminds you daily that you can get off this ride at any point.

What do you do in a situation that seems untenable, when words fail and when every door seems closed? You immerse yourself in the silence, you now know that there are no platitudes that can ease your weary soul. You embrace the silence and find your deep inner strength through patience, prayer and meditation. The cocoon is no longer a prison, but your security until it feels safe enough to emerge. You will know when the time is right. For me, it seems like there’s still a while to go, I will watch the outside pass me by, and I will drop all my self-imposed expectations for this life and I will gently relax into my cocoon of healing – this time without resistance.

Getty Image by Sujay Govindaraj