Lately, I've found myself pondering the pure and seemingly sparkling crystals that so frequently fall from the sky these days. Snow is a funny thing in that there is no one snowflake that is exactly the same. Each has its own Divine design, and the path that each snowflake takes to reach the ground is unique to that particular snowflake and looks different depending on its time and place.
Similarly, we as human beings walk different roads, come to different bumps and turns, and come equipped with our own unique design that God blesses us with when we came down here. I often wonder why my path in life often seems so different than other's may be... but then again I'm sure that all of us experience that daunting perception at some point in our lives.
With that in mind, I've watched many people suffer from chronic illness and the wide range of differences that come from being sick. This phenomenon is something that would do everyone some good if they took the time to look into the hearts and minds of these people who suffer on many different levels. The fact of the matter is that there are no two chronically ill lifestyles that look the same. We're all simply moving along on our own individual paths, trying to survive the best that we can.
The words "chronically ill" are usually accompanied by a substantial amount of expectations and perceptions from others. There's a certain "type" and "look" that apparently we're all supposed to have, but the reality is that some of us just don't have that "look" but that doesn't make our lives any easier, and it doesn't take our painful circumstances away.
The majority of people view illness by the book. When you're sick you lay in bed with body aches and head congestion while consuming large amounts of ibuprofen or Tylenol to relieve that pain and wait for it to pass. It may take a few days of discomfort, but it passes, and you move on with daily life. Others simply push past the pain and continue their daily lives and are lucky enough when their symptom cease, despite the need to persist in their prior commitments and responsibilities.
Now when you're REALLY sick it's a little different. When you're in unbearable amounts of pain, you rush to the doctor, load up on pain medications, and wait for hard-working health experts to diagnose and treat you. And after countless tests and hours, these loving and caring doctors treat you with medication or surgery, and you go home ready to recover and your pain eventually passes so you can live a normal life.
This is what illness looks like, right? This is how we manage our health and wellness so we can feel vitalized and renewed, right?
A flu virus is one thing, but being chronically ill is an entirely different paradigm that requires a lifestyle change and a realization that maybe being sick isn't what you thought it was in the first place.
Many chronic illness patients do spend a lot of time in the hospital, and many chronic illness patients do treat their symptoms with pain medications, which is definitely not something to downplay and consists of an incredibly difficult road. But my story and many other's stories are different, and that doesn't make any of our pain less valid or less painful.
What most chronic illness patients don't tell you is just HOW MANY doctors they had to go through in order to find one that would finally help. What a lot of us don't talk about is the PTSD that comes from how badly we're treated by people, and the desperation we all have to find answers. And what a lot of us don't tell you is that hope may not be found in a doctors office or in a medication, and that doesn't mean that we're crazy or that all of our symptoms are psychosomatic. It simply means that our path is different, and our answers are different.
I'm never in the hospital.
I've don't take any medications.
I treat my symptoms with natural food, remedies, and protocols.
And I never managed to find one doctor in my area that helped me very much.
And the things I'm doing now are HELPING ME TO HEAL!
My symptoms can range from tremors to being light-headed, to passing out after taking a shower, to skin lesions, panic attacks, extreme fatigue, and severe abdominal pain. But sometimes the pattern is that one day I can feel healthy and strong, and the next day I can hardly function at all.
Sometimes I feel like I'm losing my mind.
Other times I feel free and hopeful.
I pray every day for the feeling of the floor falling out from underneath me to cease, and for the grief that comes from illness to pass. Some days it does. Some days it doesn't. And that's just a normality for me and many others.
Chronic illness is a wide spectrum of struggle and perseverance, and there is no one size fits all. For some of us, it's doctors and hospitals on the daily. For others, it's constant protocols that never seem to end. And for others, it's diet change and learning how to be healthy half of the time and sick the other half of the time. For others, it's all of those things combined and it's often overwhelming and exhausting trying to keep all of the daily health routines straight.
Whatever it is, and no matter your place in your journey... your pain is valid and I urge you to heed not the expectations and perceptions of others who have never walked in your shoes. It would do the world some good if all of us could increase our love and compassion towards those who suffer in any way. The more we're aware of the suffering around us, the more empowered we can be to pull others out of the swamps and dark places that we all can find ourselves in.
Despite the difficulties and the struggles, there are some things that all chronically ill people have in common:
All of us are warriors. All of us have battled sore affliction. And all of us are beautiful, resilient people who are seeking to live life to the fullest and emerge out of the norm of society to bring light and healing to a world that craves those things. As we're sculpted into the warriors that we are, we're transformed on our path and seek to touch the world with our newfound being, just like the snowflake that travels to the ground to ultimately bring beauty into our lives and nourishment to our earth.
I sense extreme pressure that builds up in my chest and makes my nerves tingle from my heart all the way to the tips of my fingers. Pressure that makes me fear the future and gives me a severe distaste for my present. Pressure that brings tears to my eyes when I least expect it and leaves me looking at myself in the mirror wondering who that girl is.
I'm not completely sure where this pressure comes from, but I have a slight notion that it originates from past traumas. Memories of insufferable pain from Lyme disease for long nights. Recollection of people that I love making promises they never intended to keep. Thoughts of being hurt by the harsh words and actions of people who don't even seem to understand how much effect you can have on another's human heart. This odd awareness for past experiences flashes through my mind when I least expect it, and leaves me feeling like something inside me is crawling up my spine. I can't stand it, and for once I'd like to just be me and not have to worry about being crushed again by the insensitive human temperament that so many seem to possess.
I want my heart back, and I want to feel comfortable in my own skin again around other people.
When I'm occupying my own space, I get to experience a sense of acceptance of the girl that screams to be free. In my sanctuary, I have the privilege of being that girl that doesn't eat sugar and experiences a thrill from eating healthy food. I'm that girl that can sense things that others can't and is allowed to be highly sensitive to smells, tastes, sights, and the little beauties that are all around us, and it's not crazy, it's insightful. I'm that girl that sings her favorite song as she's walking down the street and wears maxi-dresses for no special occasion, just because she can. I'm the girl that jumps up and down when she gets excited over seemingly insignificant things, and I'm that girl that obsesses over to-do lists and loves schedules, but also loves feeling free as a bird! I'm the girl that never does anything half baked, and it doesn't matter if everyone else executes everything in their lives with half the effort, because she can be happy living in her full and vitalized life. I'm the girl that lavishes my entire heart in her endeavors and thoughtfully verifies that the beautiful living creatures that she comes in contact with can experience the intense Divine love that she can bestow.
I'm also that girl who can be smiling one minute with gratitude that she's not in pain and crying the next because coping with trauma from illness is SO HARD. I'm that girl that can laugh at the humor in life one second and be on her knees in prayer the next praying for release from severe anxiety and depression. I'm that girl that can be on my feet and doing yoga one day, and in bed with a heating pad hardly being able to move the next, because Lyme disease sometimes breaks you. But when I experience my whole being in a safe place for myself, I don't feel completely insane for the various and rapidly changing ups and downs. When I'm safe, I can accept that I'm just a girl with a chronic illness who is trying to learn how to heal to the best that she can and sometimes she's dissatisfactory and defective at it, other times she thrives, and that's okay!
In the presence of large groups of people, everything changes and I often find my indestructible and merciless brick walls building up around my heart as a protection against the naysayers. I often can feel the lock and key as I stuff my personality in a corner for the meantime. I often feel trapped to be like everyone else, and if a little part of me comes out it could be dangerous in the hands of people who disagree or misinterpret. I often find myself performing the act of the perfectly composed woman who wasn't just in excruciating pain the night before and can be wherever it is I need to be because I'm expected to be there, even if my body cries otherwise. Concealing my thoughts, holding my tongue, not venturing too close... Because if you unexpectedly get too close to someone who bites... you're left suffering on levels that they don't understand simply because they haven't experienced their severe adversity yet. Protecting myself is chaining, exhausting, and lonely. And for that reason, I choose my safe space as often as I can.
Everything changes in the presence of people who misunderstand and misinterpret. And the unfortunate truth is that so many people throw wrath and fear at others simply because they lack the ability to reach their hearts into someone else's. So many lack the ability to be raw and honest with themselves and others about their lives. We all struggle, and if the human struggle was a shared effort where we all sustained each other, there wouldn't be so many who feel the need to live a double life.
I often wonder what it would look like if it were possible to compile all the tears from human suffering into a box, how big that box would have to be. And if people had a chance to witness how large that box was, if it would soften their hearts in a way that made them slightly more sensitive to the people around them and slightly more aware of the hearts that are crying out for help. If we knew how deep other people's waters were, would we take extra time to stop and help them so that they don't drown? And if everyone stopped and helped the people in deep water, maybe all the water as a whole would be lessened to the point where we could all patiently wade through less troubled waters together. Maybe if we all decided to be a little more real, and a little more honest... then maybe those who suffer wouldn't feel the need to live a double life because then they would know that they weren't along and that there were strong hands waiting to lift their aching hearts.
God doesn't expect us to live out our lives in cold hard shells so as to not let other's notice our pains. God desires us to love and lift the hands that hang down. God wishes us to let love penetrate so deep that we can all feel His Divine love through each other. I hate the pressure I feel to live a double life as a chronic illness warrior (and I know I'm not the only one), and I've found that I'm more effective at bringing light into other's lives when I'm simply striving to be my best self. Maybe all of us could come to that realization in a way that could change the world.