Another story of my illness, and what it taught me… about me.
A Heavy Topic in the Realm of Joy
One of the heaviest questions I am ever asked is “What challenges have you overcome?” Obviously, there have been a few huge ones. But, given the state of this time in human history in general, the question can become even bigger and more complex itself. Yet, thinking back during my lifetime, I have, in fact, had to experience quite a few challenges. The biggest one I would say, considering the way it affected me emotionally, is my mother’s passing about ten years ago. I am so privileged to have had a loving and caring mother growing up; plus her being a medical professional was certainly beneficial in my case especially. Losing such an insurmountable amount of support was (is) devastating. It felt so quick – like a shock – even though her illness did progress fairly steadily over the course of 12 years.
What have I learned from this challenge? The biggest, and probably the most important lesson is how capable I can be when devoting my heart and mind to something fully. Of course, wherever this capability leads, it does not always find perfections; and it doesn’t have to, thankfully. I have had to take on solely many things my mom used to help me with: finances, medical needs, mental and physical wellness, etc.
My strengths, and even my knowledge base, has increased considerably, though it was, of course started by my mother. I hate to say this in a way, because it almost makes it sound like it was a good thing that my mother passed away. While I did have to learn and do things on my own faster with this loss, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss – or need – my mom at many critical times still today. It will never be my opinion that her death was fully necessary for any reason; at least for me. However, I also will not let her death be in vain.
But Wait, There’s More!
Another long-term challenge I have been dealing with for as long as I can remember is the autoimmune illness with which I still live. I was diagnosed first with Lupus (SLE) at the age of five years old. When my parents learned it was not Lyme Disease from being outside in the woodsy area of my hometown at the time, but that it was, in fact, SLE, they knew we were ALL in for a life wrought with challenges. Of course, no one can ever really predict how much, so it’s hard to plan ahead. Still the difficult times were coming, and they did. I was later diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder, with biggest presenting illnesses of this combination of many diseases being Lupus (SLE) and Scleroderma. A higher level of pain and complications were now added to the mix.
I was forced to stay inside a lot as a child, as cold temperatures were a major trigger of pain and flares. I felt worn down a lot more than a young child really should with the slightest activities, tending to keep me out of certain friendship circles many times; kids who just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t hit the ball with my hands or ride my bike down the street. Additionally, to my chagrin, I was required to take many medications, handfuls at a time, and sometimes infusions, usually just so I could maintain function or life. The challenge of having this illness created many of the other issues I have experienced throughout life.
Sometimes Life Can Be a Loss…
Spending countless days in the hospital – at times fighting for my life – created in my mind the notion to sometimes refer to it as my ‘second home’; for better or for worse. So many doctors, nurses, and pieces of medical equipment. Numerous pretty intense surgeries and rounds of chemo drugs. All of this in the name of getting me “better” or keeping me “well”. I had life, thank God, but sometimes, I didn’t really feel like I had A life. Staying inside on Halloween, or cooler fall evenings when friends wanted to go out and walk in the center downtown, or ride bikes through the neighborhood amidst beautiful, colorful foliage outside. Losing the opportunity to do many of the crafts I loved involving my fingers – which tended to throb and sear in pain, covered in ulcers at the tips. Insurmountable pain spikes that began in the hip joint where – abnormally – bone met bone, and continued down and beyond my leg. All of this, of course, constitutes a challenge and, at times, I feel robbed of what I believed to be a proper childhood.
Thank God for the Lessons!
Then I tend to realize how much I’ve learned from these hardships in life, just like with any other. I take the good with the bad and somehow make it a positive as humanly feasible for me many days. My biggest lesson in life from both of these challenges is how important and incredible mental strength and acuity can be, especially when physical strength falls short. I hold so much gratitude for the strength that doesn’t always feel like strength in the midst of pain and suffering. I am thankful for mental fortitude that allows me to come out of the low places that physical sickness may put me into.
What do you find yourself learning from your life challenges? I can’t wait to hear! Comment below.
Blessings and peace to you all as you continue to activate your joy.
- KrisE Guest ❤