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Why the Gym Makes Me Feel Powerful as a Person With Lupus

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After I was diagnosed with lupus, I felt like the weight of the world got lifted off me. But slowly, as I began to understand more and more, I started to feel something else. I felt heavy and hopeless with my new lack of possibilities in life. Over the last month or so, however, I’ve started to turn that on its head, thanks to one thing: the gym.

I’ve heard of many types of extraordinary feelings and have been lucky enough to experience some of them myself. I’ve felt tremendous courage as I faced my internal fears and conquered 10- to 12-foot waves while out surfing. I’ve turned to look at someone, knowing that in that moment I couldn’t love anyone or anything more and that I was whole-heartedly content. I have watched and felt beaming pride as my youngest sister used her new skills in sign language to communicate with a man with hearing loss, only to see his elation that someone could talk to him in his language.

The memories of these feelings, these moments, will stay with me for as long as I live. They, among others, touched me so close to my heart that they’re not just a minute in my history but a piece of who I am and will always be.

Last Thursday, as I worked through another personal training session, I realized why I continue to get myself up for these sweat-filled mornings. Besides the fact that I know I have someone waiting on me and it’ll do nothing but good for me, I realized there was one more reason I do it — and for me, it’s the most important reason there is.

When I go to the gym and run, push and pull and lift weights, I feel — for the first since being told about my lupus — that I am powerful.

It makes me feel strong. It makes me feel like I can truly do anything that I put my mind to. And it wasn’t until I noticed this that I realized just how much I needed to remember what that felt like.

I needed this moment. I needed this reality check, this moment of epiphany and intense feeling, to remember just how much I always have been, always am and always will be capable of achieving.

I used to feel like that so often, like I could create a goal and just work my way to achieving it no matter what it was, not backing down until I reached the outcome I wanted.

Only I stood in my way.

And I know I can still do this — the only person who will ever stand in my way is me — but for a while there I guess I started to forget.

Over the past six months, I’ve read and read and read. They say that you can read too much, and I think in some ways maybe I did. Not only was I reading accounts of other lupus warriors, but I had started to accept their anecdotes as my own.

Deep down, I think a part of me was starting to become resigned to the fact that I was always going to be this tired, limited, perpetually lupus-affected person, and that this was just how it was going to be.

There is now a solid reason and a driving factor behind my going to the gym each week. It’s to push my boundaries and to always keep rediscovering and remembering what I’m capable of doing.

It’s to not just know that I’m strong and powerful. It’s to feel it and to prove to both myself and to my body that such a feeling belongs to me just as much as anyone else — and that this fact didn’t die with lupus.

I can’t call myself superhuman. No matter how good of a day I’m having, there is no way Clark Kent ever felt as tired as I always seem to.

But in those moments as I sit there, trying to catch my breath and push myself through the last four, three, two reps of an exercise, as my muscles are begging “why” and I know I’ll pay for it handsomely tomorrow morning, I feel “super-lupus.”

And I know that’s a ridiculous and laughable term, but I can’t explain it any other way.

It’s a simultaneous mix of feelings. I’m getting very used to being undeniably tired, yet somehow extremely powerful and proud in a way I’ve never known.

This post originally appeared in Kristiana Page’s column “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” on Lupus News Today.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: December 14, 2016
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