Here's the thing- I think that a lot of people try to deny who they really are. It's hard to be a vulnerable, sensitive person in a sometimes cold and hard world. It's hard to be different when it seems that those who are the "same" as everyone else have an easier time.
Those of us with chronic illness already feel like we're walking around with a red t-shirt that says, "I'm different", so to actually show that we're different, whether that means showing extra sensitivity, becoming tired quicker than others, or eating a different meal than everyone else can cause us to feel anxiety, sadness, and even shame. I admit, I've been working on my feelings of shame that I seem to be carrying around lately. Oh, let's face it, I've carried them around since the illness started. There's something about this whole being different thing that makes you think you did something wrong, or something is wrong with you.
But, what if it means something is RIGHT with you?
What if, as much as falling ill is incredibly traumatic, it brings you right down to who you really are? When you're in a flare, and in immeasurable pain, there isn't time or energy to cover things up, to put on a show or to hide your feelings. You are there- exposed, raw, and stripped to your core. Your thoughts, your feelings, your hopes, fears, and dreams are right there at the surface. Having the rare experience of having your dreams potentially stripped away from you is something not everyone gets to experience, and while it is so hard, it puts you in a place to really know who you are and who you want to be.
I still have my little pity parties sometimes. I do, and it's okay to do that. It's important to acknowledge your feelings and to not shy away from them- kind of like not being ashamed of them, right? I've been doing that lately..I've been allowing myself to feel, even the darkest feelings. When they come up, when diagnosis anniversaries pass and the pain makes itself known, I sometimes go to that dark place, and rather than tell myself to quiet down, to change the thought, I say, "what's the worst that can happen? These are feelings. They are emotions. They are real, and they aren't going to kill you."
But even so, it does hurt sometimes. It freakin hurts. There was a day a few weeks ago when I was in a flare and I forced myself to go to work. I try to always "show up" and do my best, just one minute at a time. But on this particularly dark, rainy evening, I was feeling pretty awful, and on the drive in to work, I started to cry out of frustration. "Why?" I was whispering while warm tears ran down my very warm face. My icy cold fingers wiped them away, and at a stop sign, when no one else was around, I layed my head down on the steering wheel, face in hands, and sobbed. "Please, please make this stop, don't you know I want to help people?" I said to whoever..God, the Universe..was listening.
Then, I received a phone call. I was to meet a co-worker at a client's home who's mother had just made an emergency call to us. This wasn't my client, this was an emergency call that came in, I had never met this child. When we arrived, a 16 year old boy greeted us. He was shaking. We sat at a table in his kitchen and spoke to him while he tried to explain the years of anguish and pain he had gone through. He would look at me from time to time, he'd hold my gaze for a little longer than usual. I felt like he could see through me..I think he could tell I was "different" like he is. Maybe.
He then said, "do you have any idea what it's like to be trapped in your own body? To have no control over it? To feel like you are trapped in there and no one can save you?"
Now, usually a session with a client is all about them. And it should be. Usually I am so lost in their words and their despair I completely forget that I am "different." But, I admit, these words resonated deep with me, and I suddenly heard myself whisper, "yes. I do know."
There was silence, as if he knew I was serious and wasn't just saying this to make him feel better. I went on to tell him how strong he is, and how I would sit there with him through the pain, and that I wasn't afraid of it, and I knew it would pass. I told him we'd work together to find a way out.
A look of relief came over his face. Color began to come back into his cheeks. We spent some time going over the history, and possible small solutions that could be put into place right now.
At the end of the session, he told me I gave him hope. Then he looked at me and said, "You do know, don't you?"
Yes, I do. And this..this few hours where maybe my pain helped bring hope to someone else..well, that just makes it all worth it. I'll take the dark if I can give someone else a bit of light. I'll take it every time.