In regards to tragedy, we too often think “that happens to other people, not me.” This is an absolutely understandable, yet nonetheless naively ignorant, comfort mechanism. Still, it does not stop there. Most of us also, although we are not likely to admit it, held an illusionary image of the self we would be if we were –hypothetically of course- chronically or terminally ill prior to the moment we actually fell ill. A person of courage, of grace, of inspiration. Holding true to the nature of the image of a nonexistent future self the ego streams together is this: When that future becomes your present, as it does when you contract a severe and life changing illness such as Lyme disease, the preconceived notion of the person you once thought you would be in such a situation disintegrates. If it doesn’t, it needs to. It absolutely must. Holding on to it is one of the biggest mistakes we can make, one typically leading to mass self-destruction.
Initial debilitation from Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses is nothing short of ground zero physically, psychologically, physiologically, and socially. The idea we once held of who we would be if ill is quickly rendered foolish once we are actually sick, because we are no longer even the same people who conjured up illusionary selves by that point., Instead –lest we desire to lose our battle against this disease, which I have rarely met person who truly does- we are forced to rise from the ashes like a phoenix, unsure of who we will be, but certain that we will in fact be.
At the other end of the spectrum of ground zero lie the ideas of others regarding the type of people we should be while battling an illness. This misconception is just as, if not more, destructive than the previously mentioned one. When others impose their beliefs of how we should act and incessantly tell us what we should do -while we are dealing with life threatening illnesses that no one else but us could ever entirely understand- we can be certain they are not acting out of love, as real love always acts selflessly. They are not taking the time to understand us, which is to say, they are failing to place their egos aside long enough to acknowledge that the only thing they can ever fully understand about our situations is the fact that they will never be able to fully understand it. Until a person deeply realizes this, their judgments are likely rooted in ignorance.
Upon further examination, it is clear judgment of any kind can never exist without at least a miniscule amount of ignorance attached to it. You might refute this thought immediately due to the fact the person pushing their ideas on you also suffers from an illness similar to your own, you could not be further from the truth. No two cases of a disease are identical but, medically speaking, let’s say by rare chance they happened to be. Still, the situation of said patients would remain a world of difference due to their external lives, genetic coding, preconditioning, state of consciousness, vulnerability, and the list goes on and on. It is impossible for anyone other than ourselves to truly know what is right for us. Anyone who has our best interests at heart will make the effort to see and respect that. If they can’t, we can try and help them. If we point it out and they still impose their offensive beliefs on us, then we know we did all we could and it is time to devote less energy to them. Keep in mind, acts bred out of ignorance do not necessarily stem from a place of evil or from a person with knowingly ill intentions. Rather, they stem from a place of not knowing or from a naïve person with good intentions. Often times, ignorance is very much innocent in nature.
What it really boils down to though is the need to raise from the dark pit our diseases have plunged us into, a pit any one of us may or may not stay at the bottom of for months or years. To do this, we need incredible strength. The problem, however, exists in society’s preconceived notion of what it means to be strong. This skewed image of strong merely serves as a mask for weakness, as it is created out of fear. Strong, when used to fit this definition, involves “holding it all together” and not “breaking.” Well, what exactly are we supposed to hold together when everything is already broken?
On the contrary to the latter definition, true strength involves allowing ourselves to walk straight into the darkness, straight into the unknown forces threatening our very lives. It is, without a doubt, immeasurably easier said than done. It takes time. It does not happen overnight. When your whole life has been shattered, the process can only be taken one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. In my case, from a wheelchair, this meant one wheel in front another, or crawling a foot further on my hands and knees than I had the previous day.
Most of my memories are foggy, but I remember the first day I lost my ability to walk as clear as the present moment, because I looked at my bedroom door and said, “even if I have to crawl, I will crawl out that door.” Eventually, I did. I really cannot stress enough how essential it is for you to embark on a journey to find, rebuild, and protect your spirit and soul while battling a serious illness. With Lyme disease, such a journey is incomprehensible and seemingly impossible. At times, I lacked the ability to comprehend finding myself when I felt a permanent tsunami had made itself at home in my brain. So, I told myself it was okay and more than warranted for me to not yet possess the ability to comprehend the idea of ever feeling whole again. Then, I realized the only thing ensuring it was impossible was the thought in itself, the debilitating voice repeatedly telling me that it was impossible. Truly I tell you, a person who allows themselves to feel every ounce of pain and darkness bestowed upon them without backing away from the fear commits one of the most courageous and commendable acts of all. It is in no way impossible, though. Both you and I can do it, over and over again, as many times as the darkness of disease demands.
The textbook definition of strong, the one accepted by society out of fear of pain, often limits potential for healing and growth by placing mental blocks in our heads; as it involves little more than placing walls within to conceal our pain. It is wise to take into account that walls within not only cover the bad, they cover the good too. Anytime truth is masked, anything genuinely good is too. It is not weak to feel, it is human. I am in no way suggesting we sink into self-pity and sulk into dark corners from which we never return, rather I am suggesting we make a conscious effort to be honest with ourselves regarding our situations so not only do we walk into the dark, but we walk out of it as well.
When we throw our clothes into the closet before having a visitor over, it creates the illusion we desired –a clean room. However, the clutter still exists behind the closet door, and we will once again be left alone with it once our visitors leave. In regards to Lyme disease, and basically in any other situation in life, putting up walls is quite similar. Although we may appear amazing and strong to others, we still have to go home and face the broken pieces alone. When we are dishonest with others, we are ultimately dishonest with ourselves. If we fail to change this, it is highly likely we will fail to positively change our lives as well. We have to continuously clean out our interiors, maintaining wall free zones within. It does not matter how long it takes to go through this process, it only matters that we do in fact go through this process. We must rise from the rubble and rebuild what was torn down. When we do, we are likely to find ourselves destined to build something far greater than all that was torn down.