The Conversation I Remind Myself of When My Illness Makes Me Upset
About 15 minutes over the allotted time for my session with my therapist, and once again I’m in tears.
He asked, “Do you think you have any more right to be sad than I do?”
“No, of course not.” I defensively replied. Thinking this was certainly some kind of shrink trickery.
“Do you think you have more reasons to be angry or cry sometimes than I do?”
Again but with more conviction, “No! Why would I think that?!”
“Because I do.” He replied.
He started running down a list of symptoms I’d been experiencing.
Chronic nausea and vomiting, blurry vision, muscle tremors spasms, cramps, widespread nerve pain (fibromyalgia), memory loss, hearing loss, cognitive issues (brain fog), joint swelling, migraines, anxiety, insomnia, dehydration, low blood sugar…and topped it off with, “I don’t feel like I’m actively dying.”
I started nervously laughing at this point.
He looks up at me and said, “I don’t have these things happen inside of me every day.”
I cut him off, “That doesn’t matter. Even with it going on inside of me, because everyone has pain.”
To which he replied, “So then my question to you is why don’t you have the same compassion for yourself as you would another?” He told me to visualize the “worst case scenario version of myself” and I did.
I closed my eyes and imagined myself curled up in the fetal position rocking from side to side with tears rushing down into my ears from crying so hard. Hair in a matted bun, at best and the only color on my face is the red swelling around my eyes and lips.
And that far off pain stare. When it’s beyond the level of even explanation, just a blank empty void. I think that’s when our souls start pleading for us. When the pain is too deep to even form words those moans and groans and even silences are our souls crying out on our behalf.
When it was clear that I had this image, he asked simply,
“What would you do or say to her? Would you walk up and scream at her to get up and clean the house or cook dinner? Would you throw a million questions at her about college, relationships or work? Would you look at her with pity? Tell her she should be ashamed of herself for not having her hair and makeup done at this time of the day? Snicker at her because the latest medications made her gain some weight or tell her she’s ‘crazy?’”
I just started rambling, “No! I would wrap her up in my arms and not tell her it’s going to be all OK, but promise that I’ll be there even if and when isn’t. I’d grab a blanket, pillow and heating pad to set up on the couch with a table of medicine, supplies, water and snacks making sure all were within her reach. I’d put on ‘Harry Potter,’ Disney movies, Broadway musicals, or anything we could binge watch all day if she wanted. If she wanted to scream, I’d scream with her. If she wanted to cry, I’d cry too. If she just needed to sit in silence, I would do everything I could to drown out all the noise. If she needed to sit outside and feel the sun on her skin, I’d spend all day right alongside her. Anything I could do to ease her suffering and pain.”
He smiled that Yoda, Buddha, pastor grin, which I’ve brought to his attention several times, and told me to remember that next time I felt guilty for not being able work, or participate in an event or even take care of myself on a basic level. To remember to always show myself grace and kindness, even if others don’t. Even in the moments that no one else is around or when I begin to feel like a burden – I can picture the healthy version of me walking in and wrapping me up in compassion and comfort. Instead of allowing that negative side of me continue to beat myself up about things outside of my control.
That’s when I can feel the reassurance in me that we’ve (God, me, my family, friends and fellow warriors), we’ve got this! Reminding myself that I’m usually my own worst critic. I couldn’t possibly count how many times I’ve had to remind myself of this conversation. Or simply pose the question to myself, “How would the better version of you treat yourself at your weakest?”
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