Our broken souls fight what’s naked to the eye. We’re warriors wrestling with invisible battles. Our adversities strengthen us after winning arduous rounds of sparring with despair and uncertainty.
We combat illness every day with as much grace and dignity as possible.
We dream of living somewhere over the rainbow, to walk in Dorothy’s shoes where black and white turns into color, and the world looks full of promise.
We long for a normal life.
Last week these thoughts filled my heart. Waiting to write about them here felt impossible so I created a short post on Facebook.
The response I received was overwhelming The outpouring of love and compassion made me feel less alone. Thanks to everyone who responded. You made a difference.
I wanted it to be a teachable moment. I hope it was.
Breaking yourself open to tell your truth isn’t easy. You wonder if honesty will be a sign of weakness to your readers. But I believe surrendering to adversity and sharing it with others shows great strength and courage.
As the often quoted (by me) Elizabeth Lesser eloquently wrote in her book “Broken Open”:
“Adversity is a natural part of being human. It is the height of arrogance to prescribe a moral code or health regime or spiritual practice as an amulet to keep things from falling apart. Things do fall apart. It is in their nature to do so. When we try to protect ourselves from the inevitability of change, we are not listening to the soul. We are listening to our fear of life and death, our lack of faith, our smaller ego’s will to prevail.
To listen to your soul is to stop fighting with life–to stop fighting when things fall apart; when they don’t go our way, when we get sick, when we are betrayed or mistreated or misunderstood.
To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty and to wait.” ~Elizabeth Lesser
But resting for weeks on end can leave you feeling lonely and isolated. You watch the world go by without the ability to join in.That can break your spirit into tiny pieces.
When that happens to me I have time to think. About aging and MS and what that will mean for me. About the future of healthcare in our country. About finances. About Medicare covering my revolving door of doctors. About whether I’ll travel again and enjoy life as I once knew it.
And sometimes I wonder if the people I care about will go the distance with me through the worst, and best, of times.
When you lose pieces of yourself to illness these thoughts cross your mind.
If you want to know how we feel walk in our shoes a little. We don’t want to be sick. We don’t want to complain. We don’t want to be different. We just are.
Here are four suggestions on making a difference in the life of a chronically ill person. Kindness and compassion are never out of fashion:
- Reach out – A text or private message is nice but it’s not the same as a phone call or old-fashioned snail mail card. Being chronically sick can be lonely. Feeling forgotten can be devastating. If someone’s not feeling up for a phone call send a card to show you care. A friend of mine living in another state felt sad to miss the changing seasons. In the fall I gathered a bunch of beautifully colored leaves and mailed them to her with a card. It made her day.
- Pay a visit – If someone is up to it giving the gift of time (in person, Skype or FaceTime) shows someone they matter. Schedule a convenient time and ask if you can bring anything. Be a compassionate listener. Let them know you care. A visit to someone in need can be just what the doctor ordered.
- Offer to help – Ask if you can cook a meal or two, do their laundry, run some errands, drive them to the doctor. A helping hand can take a big weight off someone’s shoulders.
- Be consistent – Make a point of staying in touch. Follow up. Ask how they’re doing. Stay in their life. Be a friend. Everyone is busy, particularly at holiday time. But the world would be a nicer place if today, right now, this second, you reached out to someone in need. Be that someone who makes the world a brighter place.
NOTE: This post is based on my experience of living with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis. There are four types of MS and mine is reported as the most common, least progressive type.
There are millions of people living with invisible illness, from Graves Disease, cancer, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and many others that include symptoms like debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders.
I don’t have the corner on illness. Not even close.
I don’t have all the answers. So I write what I know. I hope you let me know what you know.
Thank you for listening.