Originally posted 5/17/16
"If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”
Obvious, right? For me, it was a memorized platitude (fortunately, not one that I ever spoke aloud). Important words, but to be honest, they landed inside me but just rested there. They didn’t register. Today, I get it. Not at all empty, these words are TRUTH. What they mean is this: you don’t have--anything. Nothing feels solid. What you held firmly in the past now crumbles and slips through your fingers. Let me explain.
If you don’t have your health--
There is no certainty. Will you get better? Worse? Stay like this? When? Is this the best treatment? Should you find something else? There’s a constant conversation in your head. Life becomes more questions than answers. I’m convinced that eighty percent of the challenge in my illness has been anguish. Pain is bad enough, but uncertainty is torturous.
You don’t have time. Fighting for wellness is all-consuming. Making appointments, going to appointments, telling people about appointments, arguing about bills from appointments, paying for appointments.
You don’t have money. Well, maybe some people still have money, but they sure have a lot less of it than they started with. Whether it’s loss of income, medical bills, early retirement, outsourcing tasks you’d normally complete on your own…it slips away. Fast.
You lack self confidence. Your body is failing you, and it can become hard to trust. You’re insecure in ways you weren’t before. There is a vulnerability that is unspeakable, somehow invisible and glaring at the same time.
You don’t have your identity. You become the sick person. Everyone is concerned, everyone asks—your health becomes a shared priority. It makes sense, then, that people discuss your situation in your absence, as well as in your presence. Your body becomes public property—people discuss your weight, your skin—they comment on appearance in a manner that does not usually take place in polite society. You can’t do things you did before, and would reinvent yourself…if you had the time and the money. And the self-confidence.
You don’t have your friends…sometimes. It’s hard to be a friend to a person in crisis. Way less fun. Many rise to the occasion and are rock-solid. Others are more good-times friends. They’re frightened or overwhelmed by your situation. Or just plain worn out and need a break from being a primary support person.
You don’t have spontaneity. While in the past you’ve made plans thinking, “…barring anything unforeseen”, today the unforeseen has a shape and a name. It’s challenging to commit to events (see anguish, above) and sometimes feels simpler to just not make any than going through the emotional effort required to plan for eventualities. Day to day spontaneity falls away as well. There’s self-care and med times and endless rituals and limitations that can somehow arise as focal points of the day.
There are positives to be gained, certainly. Patience comes to mind first and foremost. Adaptability. Grit. Gratitude. Would I trade them all in a flash to have my certainty, time, easy friendships, money, identity and spontaneity back? Puhlease. You bet your ass, I would. In the meantime, I offer the above as my effort to provide perspective and perhaps harvest a tangible positive for myself while doing so.