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How I Found Inner Peace in a Medical Situation Where I Felt Helpless

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When faced with varying degrees of pain and exhaustion every single waking moment, there are times when I feel a sense of hopelessness. After years of struggles and heartaches, I am mighty, yes, but I am also very vulnerable to indifference from people who treat me like I don’t matter, sometimes like I don’t even exist.

Interactions with others are precious few when one lives in forced isolation and these contacts with the outside world are often all we have to get a sense of belonging to the human race, if not to a community or a family. We notice people’s attitudes toward us probably more than the average person because we drink in the interactions. Many people are kind and many are not.

I went for blood tests the other day. I carry with me a note from my doctor that says I have ME/CFS and that I am to be considered a priority, i.e. I cannot be kept waiting long on a hard chair in a room crammed with people. This usually gets me taken care of quickly enough but on that morning, the woman at the reception practically threw the note back at me and told me to take a number like everyone else. They don’t do “priorities,” she said. I tried to explain my situation to no avail. When I told her I couldn’t sit vertically for more than a few minutes, she grudgingly offered a gurney for me to lie on in the back room, lit with bright fluorescent lights and freezing cold. As I waited there shivering and feeling totally miserable, I started feeling sorry for myself.

I got up and turned off the light and tried to get warmer by lying in a fetal position. I listened to the numbers being called and felt helpless. Then I remembered my mindfulness training and began to breathe consciously: On the in breath, I “allow” the situation to be. On the out breath, I exhale the resistance that makes me feel so lousy. I give my feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, etc. a space inside of me: I’ve created a beautiful place on the shore of a crystal blue mountain lake with waters so still, they seem like a mirror. Breathing in and out for a minute or two and I’m there, and suddenly I’m at peace.

Before I knew it, my number was called.

The next time you feel bad, give this a try and with a little practice, you may find that beautiful space inside where you are at peace. Here are the lyrics to a wonderful song that has inspired me for many years; it clearly shows that this man knew all about the struggles of the human condition. As do we.

“Looking For Space” by John Denver

On the road of experience, I’m trying to find my own way.

Sometimes I wish that I could fly away
When I think that I’m moving, suddenly things stand still
I’m afraid ’cause I think they always will

And I’m looking for space
And to find out who I am
And I’m looking to know and understand
It’s a sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I’m almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I’m deep in despair

All alone in the universe, sometimes that’s how it seems
I get lost in the sadness and the screams
Then I look in the center, suddenly everything’s clear
I find myself in the sunshine and my dreams

On the road of experience, join in the living day.
If there’s an answer it’s just that it’s just that way,
When you’re looking for space and to find out who you are.

When you’re looking to try and reach the stars.

Getty Image by Elvira Podolinska

Originally published: August 22, 2018
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