I recently had an important revelation.
In the five years since first experiencing chronic illness, I have never actually accepted its presence in my life.
You see, as somewhat of a "spiritual" (though I hesitate to use that overused term) person I have grown to view the world in a very fate-based way. I believe that the unfolding events of our life are all deeply meaningful and I appreciate that our hardships in life all happen for a reason.
However, I have never been able to extend this line of thinking to my health. In my mind, my illness was the golden exception to this worldview- God's terrible mistake.
Whenever I have been in the middle of a particularly bad flare-up, I find myself fixated on one stressful line of thought. This should NOT be happening.
When I reflect back on periods when illness brought my life to a halt, I would feel tension and stress. I would think of all the wasted time, the days spent in bed, and the unmet goals and would despair. The existence of these periods felt wrong, painfully wrong.
Why then, has it been such a challenge to accept my path through life, warts and bumps and all?
Why has it felt so impossible to accept this part of myself? To come to peace with the fact that I have lived an atypical path of alternating illness and wellness?
I can think of two main reasons.
The first has to do with identity. As someone who has always identified as a motivated high achiever, chronic illness has come into direct conflict with my self-perception.
Stripping away my ability to meet my goals at times, (financial, career, etc) has felt like a direct challenge to my true self, my achieving self. I have perceived it as an obstacle whose purpose is sole to knock me off my correct path in life.
But of course, whether I like it or not, my illness has been a part of my true journey on this earth. Outside of my judgments of it, it simply is part of my life, whether I like it or not. Therefore It is inherently part of my true path in life, simply because it ion my path.
The second reason it has been so hard to accept my illness is that I have often perceived myself through the eyes of those around me.
Very rarely in my life have people been able to validate this path for me- and who could blame them, for how could you understand such a foreign experience as chronic fatigue without firsthand experience of it?
For a long time, have been unable to validate myself in the face of being unacknowledged or dismissed by others. This has led to a bizarre state of mind whereby others' denial of my reality has ultimately caused me to doubt and deny my reality myself.
Due to the pain of being misunderstood or labeled a hypochondriac, my illness has become something of a hushed secret. I have avoided talking about it with those around me, I have hidden my symptoms and gone absent from my relationships during my flare-ups. In this way, by hiding and minimizing it from others, I have hidden and denied my reality to myself.
Regardless of the reasons for resisting my illness, I finally felt a sense of peace when I actually decided to accept it as a part of my journey.
No longer does my health history need to be a shameful secret, something I avoid speaking about for fear of making others uncomfortable.
It is a part of my life path, and therefore a part of my purpose. And I can incorporate this purpose in all kinds of small ways, like bringing more compassion to others with health issues. Or choosing to write about my experiences openly and honestly. I could even see myself moving into a role within the health field one day, with the expertise of someone who has walked this path for many years.
My illness does not have to be a destroyer of opportunities. It can also be the bringer of them.
#CFS #Fatigue #CIRS #autoimmune