For all the people in pain, or who have been through pain, I hope this post gives you hope and validation. Your suffering could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. And for those of you who don’t usually read my blog, I encourage you to read this one. The words just flowed out of me, giving deep insight about the person who I was, am, and am becoming. And finally, for those who have ever been hurt by the judgments of others only because they can’t understand your pain, this blog will give you the courage to leave what isn’t serving you.
When I think about periods of significant growth in my life, I think the about pain that got me there. It’s truly the pain and suffering that I have gone through that has shaped me. I’m not saying that everyone has to go through pain to grow, or that I never experienced growth outside of painful situations, but I’m talking about faith questioning, life contemplating, world shaking, perspective shifting change that has only happened for me through deep suffering. Deep pain either makes you or breaks you- I don’t feel there is any other option. You can bury the pain deep within for awhile, but at some point, you must choose the make or break.
There are a few life changing seasons that I have gone through that have been particularly impactful: my parent’s divorce, the death of my father, years of deeply shameful and fear-filled emotional abuse around religious practices and punishments (which I eventually broke free of when I was old enough to), and a period of undiagnosed Graves disease (which I believe to be caused by earlier trauma) and then the following RAI that took me a year of medical leave off of school to recover from. Now, as I sit at home for month 3, contemplating a full medical leave from work, I feel what might be the greatest perspective shift of all - and weirdly, the disease that currently plagues me and has plagued me for the past 3 months...well I wouldn’t change the suffering I have undergone for health if I could wave a magic wand.
I feel that each painful experience has been a blessing for me. I have built unshakeable strength, unwavering resilience, an undoubtable understanding of my self-worth, a deep compassion for others and their pain, an ability to see past indiscretions and into the suffering that drives people’s actions, an appreciation for peace that springs from my soul, and a sense of knowing that if I come back to kindness and honesty, I will never fail. I have many many faults, but I am grateful for the lessons that have taught me the traits above -the traits that ground me and give life meaning.
All that to say, I have practiced learning to come out of painful situations stronger, and now as I have suffered greatly, not a second of it is in vain. I have used the skill of positive thinking and embracing the pain for the sake of learning, and this approach has been quite beneficial for me. You see, it isn’t breaking my spirit this time, instead it’s changed my perspective so much that I felt compelled to share.
So for those of you who currently suffer or have suffered...You are not alone. And this pain that insufferably haunts you, will one day make you great if you let it. Pain is my greatest teacher.
Here are the lessons that this period of suffering has taught me:
1. Don’t judge. It sounds so simple and we have heard it too many times, yet we do it without even realizing anymore. Like judgement happens on it’s own in the body- similar to a heartbeat or anxious thoughts running amok. I feel judgement so very deeply now as I suffer invisibly. Never before have I been so judged, even by those who are close to me. I get it, if your health hasn’t been taken away from you, you just don’t understand. But what they don’t see is - I wake up and feel like I’ve been hit by a bus, even though I do everything right. When I have a moment of feeling good, they think I’m better, and judge me for being “inconsistent” when I’m bedridden the next day. Which one is it…..are you sick or better? Sick...very sick is the answer. My mind has a mind of it’s own- fighting my conscious thought, sometimes plaguing me in a way I’ve never experienced due to a very problematic regulation of serotonin and my adrenals acting in overdrive or simply lying dormant.
Yes people judge me. I can feel it, and it hurts more now than before. Being judged for something that you can’t control is hard. People should not mistake misunderstanding as fact.
This is important: If you haven't suffered from chronic illness it is hard to understand one of the biggest mistakes of our time- the mistake of telling people that their symptoms are not as bad as they think they are. Or that they need to "suck it up", "try harder", "get on antidepressants", or "get a hobby". The single most hurtful thing you can do to someone who is suffering because of a lack of knowledge in the medical field to identify the root cause of their problem is to doubt or invalidate their pain. There is nothing more hurtful. Just because you don't understand and haven't been in their shoes, doesn't give you permission to apply your reality to their reality. Consider yourself lucky. For this reason, I have developed the deepest, most sincere compassion for others. My mind no longer judges. I felt it most this week, this cosmic shift with my perspective. Don’t judge, for you never know the battle that others are facing within.
2. Listen to your body and ADVOCATE for it- you are the only one who will. Having an autoimmune disease makes you feel like you've slipped through the cracks of the healthcare world. Before this relapse, I used to go to the doctor when I was sick and they would help me. They are the expert. They would diagnose me and give me a solution to the problem. Now, I go from doctor to doctor and specialist to specialist. I cannot tell you how many doctors have looked me in the eye and said "I'm sorry, there's nothing else I can do for you". Probably 15, if not more. And then what? What do you do when nobody can help you and you feel your life has been taken away from you. It's actually horrifying in the beginning because you start to think that you might never find relief. But then, then I learned that actually, I have the most brilliant tool at my disposal- my body. And unfortunately, doctor’s don’t have all the answers and EVERY BODY is so intrinsically different. Your body is infinitely more intelligent than any human being will ever be and it speaks to you - if you listen. I have learned to listen to my body and advocate for it. I have learned that it's not about the symptom, because as life is so interconnected, so of course are our bodies and our symptoms- mind, body, and soul. It's in deconstructing the idea that symptoms can be suppressed with a pill that I fight for healing, for my whole body, and I reject the diagnoses of chronic fatigue, ADD, depression, anxiety, etc. My body tells me without a shadow of a doubt that this is all connected and I will continue to advocate for whole body healing and reject what I know to be false. It’s unpopular opinion and people might think you’re crazy, but the truth is often unpopular, and doing the right thing is usually hard.
3. People who get on the wellness train aren’t doing it to be trendy, they do it because they’ve suffered and traditional practices stopped working for them. I used to think that people in the wellness industry were celebrities or bloggers who did it for free products and to get paid to be healthy essentially. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I myself was thrust, with full force into this whole “wellness” thing because nothing else was working for me. I got so desperate and started educating myself about what people do when traditional medicine fails them. Until you have been to a doctor, gone home and realized that your problem isn’t going away with a pill, you don’t know what it’s like to have to turn to less traditional practices out of necessity. I have been judged by people who think I’m becoming “obsessed” with self-care or the trendy wellness fad. In a way, they’re right. I am obsessed with self-care, because I’m obsessed with figuring out how to gain my health back. As this disease or virus or relapse or whatever it is rules my life, I have made it my mission to spend every waking moment trying to figure out what the heck to do to get better. The only thing that has helped so far are the holistic wellness practices I have learned from non-traditional doctors and bloggers with chronic illness. I started my blog and instagram to help others the way that others have helped me. So no, it’s not a “trendy thing I’m trying to do”...and it’s not for others either. Ask one person in the wellness industry why and how they got there. Their story won’t be different than mine..that i’m sure of.
4. Be unapologetically yourself- it’s freeing. I don’t have the luxury of really leaving the house or doing normal things most of the time, and especially after 12 or 1 I just feel spent, although of course I have my good days where this is made possible. Being around people is actually quite difficult because of how I feel, so even if I am out, it’s not usually around people. Because of this, when I do surround myself with people, I choose only people who fill my cup till it overflows. People who make me a better person and help me grow. I’ve learned that I don’t want to waste anymore time with people who don’t do this. Sure, this means fewer friends and engagements, but I’ll take quality over quantity everyday. Here’s the thing- I’ve felt super compelled to put myself out there since I’ve been sick to help other people who are struggling, to validate people’s pain, and to share the journey. I used to think only weird people did that on social media, but I’m so glad I got over that. As soon as I let the stigma go and put my disease and suffering more out in the open, I have been FLOODED with messages from people, and I have already helped so many people. I’m even starting my own support group for Graves disease sufferers all over the world. So who cares if prior friends judge me or think it’s weird. If it doesn’t serve you, remove it from your life. I feel that I'm finally authentically myself, letting go of stigmas that once held me back, and it's freeing.
5. People often forget that it is your own choice how you want to spend the rest of your life. Yes of course, you can't control the people around you, and you can't always control unforeseen circumstances, but you can control how you respond. During the past 3 months I felt a sense of loss of control- control of my body, my time, my life. In the same way, I found a way to regain control by changing the way I think. Your thoughts do become your actions- this wise old saying is true. Instead, I have drawn my focus within. Through meditation, mindfulness, manifesting, yoga, and deep rest, I have learned the power of positive thinking to change the way I perceive reality. Even in what could be a difficult situation I have found peace and happiness. It could be one of the best times of my life because I have connected deeply with my friends, learned so much information about health and truly changed the way I treat my body, I have launched my website and instagram to share what I am learning, I have started a support group, and I am laying the foundations for my business that I hope to launch. It was my shift in perspective that allowed me to choose the way I want to spend my life, despite the circumstances, and what a beautiful lesson this is to learn. If life gives you pain, make gold out of it.
My life is a series of seasons, some for growth, some for fun, some for exploration, and some for resting. This season is a season of growth. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m here for the ride. I wouldn’t change it because I’m better for it. I wish you all peace as you currently suffer or will suffer, for it is through pain that we can become wiser, and through compassion for ourselves and others that we heal.