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The 'William Wallace Moments' in Life With Chronic Illness

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Many of us find relatable characters in movies, TV shows, and books. Often, the most relatable characters are the ones who have struggled a lot. They’ve often experienced a type of heartbreak that has completely broken them open. We may hold their hands through their vulnerability. We may cry with and for them. We may root for them when they are their most torn-up, torn apart, and decimated.

Most of the time, the part of their stories that we identify with is when they are stripped bare of all the things that made them comfortable with themselves, and they have to learn how to accept where they are and keep moving forward.

I’m still trying to figure that process out. I’m pretty sure almost all of us are. 

One of my friends was born with a disease, and there were years when she was stripped of the people and things she loved. She was stripped of the things she was able to do previously. She had no choice but being left in the wake of the struggle, still having to figure out how to live a life with purpose.

She celebrated her 16th birthday in the hospital. She’s grown up in hospitals, had heart attacks, had surgery, may have felt “bare” against her circumstances and pain, and she is now in school pursuing a degree in engineering. She now can help those who, like her, have endured pain and loss. She wants to create things for others so that their loss won’t feel as large as hers may have. She is an extremely independent person who might understand how painful it can feel to not be able to do the things that everyone takes for granted. She has a creative perspective that will enable her to have a career that will make living a full life accessible to everyone.

I also have a friend with intracranial hypertension who has had brain surgery to put in a shunt. The shunt helps drain extraneous fluid from her brain so that she doesn’t have potentially fatal migraines and she also doesn’t go blind.

When facing the loss of your physical capabilities, it can be super easy to become angry and bitter with the world, to hide away from people, and to become a curmudgeon.

But this friend of mine works with little kids all day, every day. She loves their energy and is happy to watch them grow. She has also fallen apart and may struggle to appear to be “whole.” Most days, she can fool the world, though. She aims to live life at the edge of her seat.

She has a bold streak in her that allows her to go skydiving and plan to swim with sharks. Her character is laden with love, empathy, and protectiveness.

I myself have lost the ability to hold my camera for more than 10 minutes without my wrist, knuckles, and fingers emitting a burning pain and eventually turning red and throbbing. I have lost the ability to go to sleep and be able to stay asleep the whole night. Often, I wake up at around 3:00 a.m. and deal with a myriad of pains that make comfort or sleep impossible. I have electric shock pain in muscles throughout my body, joint pain that makes crying a normal part of my day, serious migraines, difficulty walking, and the energy level that an 80-year-old might have. But I’m not giving up. I’m pursuing photography and learning more about graphic design. I want to learn more about my passions, and I want to work. I write when I can. I’m learning how to push myself and be OK with the consequences because I get to feel like an “average bear” for a little while.

My friends and I may be firmly planted in that time in the movies when our audiences might be crying with us and simultaneously pumping their fists in the air. It’s a real William Wallace moment.

Our pain may take up a lot of our lives, but it will never take away our hope or our determination to live our lives to the fullest.

We all may get caught up in our lives, especially the “William Wallace moments,” when we may feel invisible and helpless. In these moments, we may have no idea what in the world we are doing or how to accomplish what we want to. In those moments, I’m pulling for you.

Getty image by grinvalds.

Originally published: March 21, 2022
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