Thursday, November 13, 2014

Creative NaBloPoMo #13: The Five Stages of Chronic Illness

In which you struggle mightily to pretend to yourself and those around you that THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER WRONG and IF I JUST GOT A GOOD SLEEP, EVERYTHING IN THE GARDEN WOULD BE LOVELY. Pro Tip: This stage is much more insidious and long-lasting if you're lucky enough to cop a Vague Symptoms condition.

Eventually denial is no longer an option for even the most dedicated of self-deluders, and you end up with:

Otherwise known as whyyyymeeeeee-itis, this is not a very comfortable stage for those around you, but it's actually reasonably energising in its own twisted way. It leads into:

Wherein you try to make deals with life. If I do X, then I will feel better. If I don't do Y, then GODDAMMIT I will be better. If I take this drug and not that one, if I change my diet and my work habits and my entire personality, then I WILL get better.

Except you don't, always. Or you don't consistently. Or you don't fast enough. Which brings us to the worst of all the stages, to wit:

I'm stuck with this, it sucks, my life therefore sucks, and nothing is ever going to be any better. So therefore I will watch every episode of Escape to the Country ever made and cry into my teacup for approximately infinity days.

Slowly, slowly, oh so painfully slowly, you might start to have flashes and moments of:

So I have anxiety, panic disorder and CFS / ME, with a probable hormonal component. This is my reality; this is, in fact, what my life is like at the moment, and may be for some considerable time to come.

All of these things should improve to varying degrees over time, but I may never again have the capacity and energy I had before they all kicked in, and you know what? That is OK. *I* am OK. I am alive and I am loved and I have many moments of joy. I am the best person and parent I can be in my circumstances. I accept me as I am, with all my fault-lines. I accept my body's challenges and I accept that I have to make adjustments, to preserve my spoons, to say no and be comfortable with my own tears.

I don't think people (well, *me*) ever achieve a nirvana of complete acceptance. Chronic illness is a shitty thing to deal with, and it doesn't become less shitty because it becomes less novel. Angry moments, bargaining attempts, and blue days keep coming. (Although I think once you leave denial behind, it's usually gone for good).

But cycling back to acceptance ... maybe that's the hard and painful lesson that I'm being taught through all this. Maybe I am learning to live with an openness to daily vagaries and uncertainty. Maybe I am coming to terms with the fact that "most of what will happen now is way out of our hands / So just let it go / See where it lands..." (Indigo Girls)

I am learning myself, here in this shadowland. I am remaking myself. I would never have chosen it, but now that I must go through it, I will try to take something out of this process that is taking so very much out of me.

And maybe that, after all, is what acceptance really means.

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