Most people in my life tell me that I am as tough as they come. That, if anything, is an understatement. I am very tough to a point where I can be emotionless. In addition, I find myself unable to empathetic. I try but it does not always come out the way it should because RA and FMS have made me numb to the point where I can’t feel anything or have any emotions.
I don’t know how everyone feels when they receive their diagnosis. Aside from the relief that I knew what was wrong, I felt like I had lost something. I still feel that way on a daily basis. It is something I know that I may never find again so I keep going assuming that I will find it when I least expect it. Like something that you have stashed away in a closet, you know it is somewhere in your home but you are not sure exactly where. It is not important enough for you to tear apart your closets looking for, but it is enough for you think about once in awhile. You tell yourself it is something that can get put off for now and you know eventually, it will be found.
A Whirlwind of Emotions
I used to wear my heart on my sleeve but lately, it seems like it is under lock and key. I am afraid to be weak to that point of numbness. There are a variety of emotions that come with chronic illness and most of you who struggle daily know these all too well.
In the beginning, you are always worried about what the heck is going on with you. Then, even though you are diagnosed, you fear that it may be something else and something much worse. Then, there is denial because we try to live our lives wanting to believe that we cannot let the disease win. Then, we go through periods of temporary relief, and we feel like we have won the battle until frustration sets in and symptoms return. The frustration is worst of it because we feel like our bodies have let us down. We envy others who are healthy and we wish we were. As we all know, society dictates the notion of progress. We have to work harder, endure, and push despite what we are going through. However, our illnesses somehow get the best of us.
Anger is common emotion as well. I think at some point we stop being angry and we become numb. We are angry at the doctors who misdiagnosed us or can’t help us. We have anger towards those who don’t seem to understand and we are angry at our bodies for rebelling. We also feel like we have lost control of our emotions in addition to our bodies. This loss of personal control means we have very little control over other aspects of our lives. However, we do eventually find out that we have control over responses and reactions.
At the same token, we feel devastated at all the losses we have faced because of our health. It could financial loss, the loss of friends and family who walked away because they did not understand, and/or the loss of function and disability. Illness destroys our aspirations and limits us from doing the things we want to do in order to have normal lives. We feel hopeless and we mourn and we have every right to feel this way because we have lost something. The irony of all this is that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Chronic illness has changed my aspirations, my expectations, my emotions, and my standards. I am not the same person I was two years ago and I don’t think I can ever turn back and ever be that person again. She is gone in more ways than I can count. I would love to turn back time to a day where I actually felt healthy and when every joint in my body was not inflamed. I realize that I cannot change time so I don’t dwell on the past. I just continue to enjoy the present and ponder the future. I don’t know what direction my health will take nor do I know where my health will be five years from now. The future to me isn’t as important as the present. I can’t look at six months from now, for a year from now, or six years from now, I can only see today. I used to be able to see to the future because I had plans and now, I don’t. It is not a bad thing. It is just about being realistic.
The whirlwind of bad emotions eventually comes to impasse. We learn to be humble because we realize that there is such much more that matters and money and status are merely for show. Our lives have a new perspective and we learn what really matters the most. We learn to cope and we arm ourselves with the tools necessary to live with our illnesses. We find support, we educate ourselves and we learn to ask for help. We also learn who our true friends are. In addition, we become “partners” with our healthcare providers and we keep our family, friends, and healthcare providers close by because we know the valuable role they play when it comes to successful management of our health.
Our impasse also includes acceptance, hope and understanding. Acceptance is part of coping. We learn to accept our illnesses rather than fight them/rebel against and we find ways to conserve our energy. We spend each day wisely, eliminate stresses, and we learn to prioritize. Everyday, we find strength we never thought we had.
We see that “hope” is as valuable as coping and accepting. We adjust to the illness in our lives and we enjoy life but deep inside we pray that medicine and research will find a cure, a better treatment and options for prevention. Hope helps to see through the maze of questions we have and difficult emotions that we face but eventually overcome.
The way I see it is that emotion and empathy are “gifts,” and having been both healthy and sick, those of us who suffer from some form of chronic illness know the value of empathy. We know as numb, as angry and as afraid as we become, the ability to feel something is better than the ability to feel nothing. Expressing emotions is what makes us human. Showing and knowing empathy is a gift.
My horoscope this morning reminded of the value of those emotions. So I started writing and thinking about the emotions that each of us deals with living daily with chronic pain and illness.
Your horoscope for October 18, 2010
You may have taken the risk lately of unveiling a few of your most heartfelt emotions. But today, Lana, you may think twice about that and feel like going back on what you have done. Yet, do you know that thinking too much about your emotions has a tendency to weaken them? You need to remember this because you tend to over rationalize things. This is a good time to find a reason to express your emotions