A Gift from the Abyss – Something People with Chronic Illness have in Common

IMG_2011(Written in 2015) I added a collection of pictures, I would never normally want to be seen, because I think it’s good to honor all aspects of the journey, no matter how unappealing.

I don’t really remember the first year when I was traversing into ME/CFS but when I look at the image of me with the painting I created, it still makes me shudder and I can feel quite physically sick. This was a time I wouldn’t want to spend much time dwelling on. A dark night of the soul, when recalled can often make you want to run, even from the memory. This anxiety is only normal and in fact not every memory or experience can be turned into a bright spark of positivity. That very feeling will be the thing that allows you to be the you that you are now.

Everything went on hold back then for me in 2013 until pretty much my diagnosis in 2014. There was some life happening in the shadows but it was melded so tightly with material from my unconscious that it was like a dream world, or a nightmare. This said, I’m even surprised I found any pictures, because this was the last thing from my mind. In most situations and photos generally, I tried to put on a face, but any person who has had a real health crisis, physical / mental, or both, will know that behind closed doors, the act drops and its just time with our difficulty.

It’s true what they say in psychology though, when for some reason you walk between the shadows of your own psyche, untouched gifts can arise. For that period only, I could suddenly create art, well at least pictures that didn’t comprise of my usual stick men and childlike flowers. Creativity has always taken the shape of writing, singing or design for me, but here I was unearthing images from my soul. I felt like I was dying and still something was moving me on.

If used wisely, a chronic illness or health crisis can create a change in you that you will cherish. Something that causes a life altering wake-up call can raise our awareness, bringing forth an opportunity for more depth. You, like me could be being awarded a chance to come to better know yourself, as you dig deep for things like courage, self-love, faith and acceptance.

I have known a few people around me, family and friends that have had a health trauma, and often, I can hear or even see a similar strain of something going on beneath the surface. There is a change. What do people now see behind our eyes, perhaps more awareness than was there before, a knowing of what it’s like to go to the brink and survive. You can be awarded more compassion for others as well as yourself. Maybe you have lost some naivety about the world. You could even feel more mature or grounded by the experience. There is no doubting that intense suffering can destabilize the ego in quite a useful manner. The trite concerns of a shallow life become less dominant, as our waning ability to control, has shaken us from the grips of holding on too tightly to life.

Often, sadly, there can be shame connected to our suffering. I know I felt that I wasn’t doing a “good enough” job, at fixing or healing myself. This internal self-attack just makes our situation worse. I blamed myself for what was happening to me. Even if in part, our personality has something to do with our health, and we know the body and mind our intriniscally connected, we can only do the best job we can, at any given moment, with the tools and knowledge we have.

Only now, likely because I’m in a much better place, I can see that I struggled with accepting my situation and giving myself what I needed at the start. Not being diagnosed for a year and a half took it’s toll on my opinion of myself. I held a lot of judgement about myself. Therefore being near others was scary when I was so ill, because to risk further judgement would have been heart-breaking. This is my main reason for hiding how ill I was from people, and now I know my husband also colluded with me in this, as we were just trying so hard to avoid further difficulty and rejection. There were only a handful of times where I allowed even members of my own family to see how bad things were. In a way, this is normal but it also sets up a need to please or wear a mask, which doesn’t translate your reality.

Not accepting or denying your reality, as bad as it is prevents the move forward. I hate to be thought of as a victim, and i’d rather be seen as happy, or it used to be the case. These days I’m much more able to be in my experience. I know that things can’t be in one state all the time.

I also learned that “no man is an island!” We each need to reach out at times and this can take courage to learn to ask for help.

Although not all of us are afforded the opportunity to recover fully or alter what has happened to our body. We can hope, take appropriate action and have the best of beliefs and intentions, but if we can’t always change the outcome, then maybe we can accept the hidden silver lining that has befallen us because of a tragedy.

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