Thursday, November 17, 2011

"But You Look So Good"

One of the greatest obstacles I have encountered during the six years I have lived with a chronic illness is attempting to explain to other people what I am experiencing in relation to this illness. When asked how I am doing or how I am feeling, I tend to waver between being completely honest about the myriad of symptoms I am struggling with, or being dismissive with a generic answer that I am doing fine. I believe that most people also deal with this decision in some way or another on a daily basis. As a formality we are often asked, 'how are you?', which we tend to answer with some type of generic response, 'fine' or 'good'. But what about the times we are truly struggling inside in some way or another? How honest are we to be with people without making them uncomfortable?

When I do choose to be completely honest, and describe the burning and throbbing pain in my legs, the stabbing pain in my feet, or the crippling fatigue that keeps me in bed more often than I care to admit, I find others quite often respond in disbelief. "But you look so good' they say to me, which leaves me feeling conflicted on how to respond, not only verbally, but emotionally as well. Sometimes I feel guilty for voicing my discomfort, because I know there are so many others who have it much harder than I do. But I also want to help bring awareness to others that there are so many 'invisible disabilities' that countless people struggle with, but which most people in their lives cannot see or understand.

I suppose that one gift I have received as a result of my illness is that I am more inclined to wonder at what lies beneath the surface of what I see in other people. It seems like we live in a society where so much is judged by what we see. Perhaps human beings are naturally inclined to rely on the visual sense more than their other senses, but I find that so much can be lost as a consequence. I try my best each day to look beyond the surface of at least one other person, and truly wonder what this person might be experiencing beyond what I can judge from what I see. I think that perhaps all of us have things that we struggle with that are not visible to others at first glance. But what if we take the time to see in a different way when we look at others? Instead of looking at their outward appearance, might it be helpful to attempt to gaze inside their internal experience?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Finding My Balance

It has been quite some time since I have posted on here, and I can only say that I have been on that side of the spectrum when the daily challenges of life start to weigh heavily upon me. It is all to easy to fall into the self-pity that I try so hard to avoid, and sometimes, without being fully conscious of it, I find myself once again back in that place that I try so hard to stay away from.

And so, I have been attempting to find a balance with this daily living. There must be a place where I can be suspended between being truly aware and awake to the reality of what is happening to my body, but at the same time have the same awareness for the gratitude that I owe to this experience. Sometimes I ask, how could I possibly be grateful for the fact that my body continues to attack and destroy itself? It can seem like a cruel and unfair hand that I was dealt. But I have to move past that and realize that my life has changed in profound ways since this journey began.

As I continue to challenge myself to get up and walk without the assistance of a cane, I have been very aware of the way my body struggles to balance itself. I find myself embarrassed to be seen like this sometimes. I know I can appear like a very drunk person trying to stay upright, as I sway and stumble, and I wonder sometimes what people are thinking. I try so hard to walk slowly and correctly so that I will not be stared at or judged. And I have begun to realize that this struggle to find my balance physically, has in so many ways paralleled my struggle to balance my perspective on the whole experience of these daily bodily struggles.

I have found that the more accepting I am of the way I am, the way my body effects me in every situation, the more balanced I become in my attitude about it. I find that when I am so focused on my balance when walking, and how others are seeing me, the more focused I become on the unfairness of my situation. As I worry about what others think, I become harder on myself and my life. However, when I can let go of, and not worry about, how I appear to others, I find that I appear so much better to myself as well, and I tend to not focus on the downfalls of my situation.

Finding my balance may never quite happen in a physical sense, but I know that it is truly possible in an mental,emotional and spiritual sense. And it is so clear to me that the latter is so much more important. My body I have no control over in many respects, but the way I chose to see myself and my life is entirely up to me. So, I have decided to focus not so much on the challenge of walking with balance physically, but walking through life balanced in the metaphoric sense: walking with purpose and confidence and gratitude for what I do have.

I must honestly say that I have not found this balance yet, but I will continue to pursue it to the best of my ability. And, I know, I will be much stronger for even having tried, no matter where I end up.