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

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Fibromyalgia

Young woman is sleeping from the back in bed

Writing From Within a Flare-Up: 5 Moments That Show What It's Like

Originally, I intended to title this post using the word “during.” That phrasing didn’t sit well with me and it was a challenge to parse out why. I realized that “during” didn’t fully capture the depth of what I mean. A flare isn’t something to solely be experienced. It engulfs you and causes both your [...]
An woman standing outside of a building.

What It's Like Living With Fibromyalgia in India

My tryst with invisible illnesses is almost lifetime long. My late father would call me “fragile bones.” Health was always a concern for me, and my immune system was always weak. After years of misdiagnosis as tuberculosis of the bones I was correctly diagnosed years later with having osteoid oesteoma when I was 19. Life [...]
woman sitting on her couch and hugging a pillow

The Worst Part of Being Chronically Ill

There are many aspects that make being chronically ill very tough to deal with. For example, brain fog, which turns your brain into, basically, a pile of mush. As an academic, I struggle with this one a lot because it becomes nearly impossible to write, or to write as flowery and beautifully as I used [...]
colorful illustration of hands releasing birds against a purple background

Releasing the Shame of Chronic Illness

My three siblings are poised to converge on my city this summer for my grandmother’s 100th birthday. We are not a close family, emotionally or geographically. I see them rarely. I’ve been in chronic pain for the past five years, and though two of them have passed through town during that time, our short visits [...]