I’ve been sitting on a draft for days that doesn’t seem to want to be cohesive enough. Not enough for me to click on Publish anyway.. so I am starting over. The last week of events scrambled my processes a bit. The country has been rocked by the loss of a beloved entertainer that brought joy to millions. The thought that I keep repeating is that for some of us that have struggled with depression over a lifetime, it just makes us reevaluate and wonder… am I really okay? Adding the new info that he was facing down a catastrophic illness as well made it just that much more personal for myself and many of my friends in the rheumatic autoimmune community. The dirty little secret that I’ve talked about on my other blog a couple of times is that a large percentage of us have stood on that very same edge of despair. Some have even stepped off. It’s still a stigma saturated and practically taboo subject to broach. Some of us with a readership following are choosing to come forward and do it anyway. It’s never easy being a rock star, is it?
One of the reasons that I have such an abiding need to spend time in the woods, “communing with nature” as it were, is because it keeps me sane. It gives me a place to disconnect (from modern life), and reconnect (with myself), and reboot everything. Having absolutely nothing to do teaches you that there is so much more to experience that matters than you realize when you’re caught in a modern world routine of financial survival. I am not one of those expensively outfitted campers that unfolds a household when I get to a site. I accommodate my needs for comfort to prevent the stressors that can trigger a disease flare, but that’s about it. I don’t take along a radio/CD player and listen to music – I can do that anywhere else. I would rather listen to the wind through the tops of pines, and the trickle of water if I am so blessed with a stream, and whatever birds, crickets, and various other bits of wildlife that may appear. I keep my mobile along for safety and contact, but I do not bury myself in it when I have a wide open space of beautiful outdoor creation to view. People that transport all of their modern conveniences and just cannot shut it down.. they are not there for the same reasons as someone like myself. In fact, I have yet to figure out why they are there – having had other campers disrupt my peace with loud radios. Why? My father used to tell me when I was a child that not many people are equipped to handle a night alone in the woods. All you have is yourself to face, he said. He is right. Having done it a couple of times, truly alone, I can tell you that it is an altering experience. I recommend it if you are on a path of transformation, but I do not recommend it if you are uncertain about facing your own demons. They will surface. You may not be the person you believe yourself to be. You may not be as emotionally equipped and stable as you think you are.
Transformation of self is a long process. Even if your goal is a physical overhaul, that decision has to start with who you are as an individual. You may be looking for an end result of weight loss, muscle tone, or better physical health, but your foundation still has to be an internal sense of being that you have chosen to discipline and mend. A common complaint of Fibromyalgia patients is that they are often told that it is “all in their head”. Wrong, because it is a genuine neurological condition.. but I want to point out that how we manage these illnesses actually is something in our heads. Our resolve to find a positive focus, and become a centered individual – that begins and ends with our mental processes. There is no cure for Lupus, RA, Fibromyalgia, or any of the related conditions, but we are capable of managing them much more effectively than the medical community has led us to believe. Most especially when caught early, before serious damage has taken place, there is a lot that can be done to take back your life. It requires a decision, a commitment, and consistency, but it can be done. I do bring this up often. It’s because I want the newly diagnosed out there to know their life is not over because the Dr said the word “Lupus”. It’s time we stopped picking out recliners to spend the rest of our lives sitting in. It’s time we stopped projecting ourselves into an early grave because we feel hopeless about the future. It may sound cliché, but the future is what we make of it.
A chrysalis is a dark, quiet, immobile place. It is intended to be a safe haven for growth and change, but it also restricts and confines. It requires that the one entering into it to abandon their former self, and to commit to being alone with ones self without deviating from the process and without trying to break free before completion. It requires giving up control. It forces calm and self-reflection. It removes the view of the outside world and all of it’s attractions. It is also an opportunity for rest. Struggling and interrupting the process leads to destruction. We are all given these choices… Change and let the former self go, or fight with your true nature to evolve and die there. I speak of adaptation often, for this reason. The same as my physical illnesses, I may have my demons to face from time to time, but face them I do. Fear is embedded in human nature. That does not mean we have to let it make our decisions for us. In an ironic twist of universal oddities, choosing to give up our illusion of control is the one sure way to regain the stability that we crave (what we believe to be “control”). If you want to fly, you will have to grow your wings first… and then you will have to leave the safe cocoon and leap. It may be uncomfortable. It may even be frightening. It is also, I assure you… both natural and amazing.
I have good friends. I have a good life. I go through ups, downs, stresses, disasters, changes, and opportunities the same as anyone else, and there is nothing out of the ordinary about that. For whatever “moments” I had in the past where I felt complete despair, lack of hope, and saw my troubles as insurmountable, I now have a world of possibilities in it’s place. They were always there. My life experience has simply brought me to an awareness of them. In a perfect world, everyone would come through their dark times unscathed and in tact. The reality is that some of us end up with fairly profound scars, others carry wounds that just won’t seem to heal, and still others slide into the abyss without ever screaming for help. It pains us to see that happen, but if you have ever been to that edge then you know there is no justifiable way to judge them for it. It is said that everybody has a price. I would offer that everyone has a breaking point. EVERYONE. For each individual, in each passing moment, that differs. In trying to make sense of a tragic loss – one that seems unnecessary – we look for justifications and contributing factors. They are there. They just won’t make it sensible. Stop trying.
I can offer reasons for hope. I can demonstrate paths to success. I can share examples of inspiration.
In the end, you must choose on your own to crawl into your chrysalis and transform. You will choose what you leave behind. You will be the one to release your grip on the illusions of control and let yourself grow. I’ll be your cheering section. I’ll be your shoulder to cry on if need be. I’ll even be the drill sgt. telling you to keep going when I know you can. But that dark place is yours alone to face. Just know you are capable. Every single day is a clean slate. The light always returns.