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Finding Your Inner Superhero in Your Battle With Illness

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When I write the word “superhero,” what is the first thought that comes to mind? Perhaps you may think “Superman” or “Spiderman” or Marvel/DC Comics (Marvel fan here, for the win!) And I will say you are correct. Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman – all are characters who undertake extraordinary feats to maintain goodness in their worlds and to do good for others. In a quick search in Google, a “superhero” can be defined as “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also: an exceptionally skillful or successful person.” With much attention on Marvel and DC Comics on Netflix and in movies recently, we have probably come across one superhero or another!

As a child, many of us can relate to wanting to attain these superhuman powers – to be successful, to be good to others. We may think, “Oh, that is a childhood fantasy, merely a fantasy that has been left behind.” As a child, we may have watched a movie with a superhero, read a comic or two – or even dressed up on one or more occasions. We can probably all feel the nostalgia that comes from thinking about these experiences. However, if you speak to your inner child, perhaps that fantasy hasn’t been left behind after all. What if I said you were a superhero – you just haven’t realized it yet? That this superhero has been there within you for the whole time?

Living with hidden illnesses of fibromyalgia and anxiety, it is difficult to not feel like one is being left behind, like there are too many hurdles to be able to show one’s skills or feel like one is successful. Physically and mentally you may feel weak, but you know you have so much more to give. I have experienced these feelings myself and questioned myself constantly. My anxiety tends to mentally trip me over, making me stumble and question my abilities and skills. Fibromyalgia is physically exhausting, but with the pain being “invisible,” it sometimes is not understandable to others how debilitating it can be.

And you may ask, “If I feel weak… am I going to have strength again? Can I show my skills and be successful?”

Your strength is derived from your battles. We all fight differently, but we fight for the same cause. As we share our stories online and we talk to others, we are each our own superhero. We are passing along the power of knowledge and experience so others can also pick up their armor and continue fighting their battle. It gives others hope and courage.

When I wake up each morning, I like to speak to my inner child. Though she may be struggling, she has her cape and is trying to fly. She stumbles and falls many times – but she stands and continues on. Every small achievement is a large success, knowing it’s her “power” that helps her through. Smiling to a stranger and saying “hello” can be difficult when one is feeling anxious. The times I do however, I have been able to hear a new story, to share an experience. It’s enough for me to be able to share success in something that may seem so small, but is also so big. It is what I can consider “superhuman” at times – and I see it in others every day. I may not know their personal battles, but the experience with my own has helped me to develop gratitude and empathy and be kind to those we may not yet know personally. Most importantly, I have developed gratitude and empathy for myself.

With physical pain and anxiety, some may say this is not the definition of a superhero. We see those who we may think “have it all together,” which is what we may class as success. Which it is, don’t get me wrong! But there are many forms of success. I have to admit, it has taken me time to understand this concept. As a young woman in my mid-20s, I have constantly compared what I think of as success or achievement to others my age. Being able to be at peace with my inner child and using my own strength for goodness has helped me understand that it is perfectly fine to be where I am – I am doing the best I can. And perhaps holding onto my values and beliefs and being true to myself is more than enough to be defined as a success.

But even as superheroes, we all fall and stumble. And that is perfectly fine. It does not mean our power has suddenly “vanished” or we are no longer capable. With fibromyalgia and anxiety, I tend to feel like I have “fallen and stumbled” more than most. And I have been hard on myself because of that. It has taken me a lot of time to be gentle and kind towards myself and my battles – but I have also found it has been important in healing.

I want you to know that you are a superhero too. (Spandex or not! But spandex is rather cool.) Your battle is courageous and yet it is also inspiring. Find your superhero within. I know he/she is there, and though you may not know me, I am here cheering you on. Everyone has something special and unique to share with the world – and though it may sometimes feel like your power has diminished, it is still fighting strong – for you, your family, your friends and those you may not have crossed paths with yet. You may be walking past these superheroes every day, and though sometimes we may say, “How cool – I wish “so-and-so” superhero was actually around,” well, they truly could be. When I think of the words “The Mighty,” a superhero is what first comes to mind, and this has inspired me to write.

So, the next time you’re watching a Marvel movie, smile and think to yourself, “Well, I am rather awesome like that,” because you certainly are!

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 14, 2016
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