I went in strong and determined and I left confused. It was supposed to be easy, and just a thing. The days were indeed easy, but the nights were hard. Being back there, like that, it was painful really. It was everything I had worked so hard to avoid and somehow I wound right back up there. It wasn’t the simple trip it was supposed to be. It dug everything back up that I had planted in the ground. It was exhausting, yet I physically did nothing. It was emotionally draining, yet I said nothing. It was lonely, yet I was surrounded. It’s that place you build a box for way way way under your bed and you label it with a date and hope you never see it again until you’re cleaning to go somewhere great. It was like falling in a puddle on the day you wore your brand new white canvas shoes instead of your rain boots.
It’s pretty funny when you think about it. We always plan out in our mind how things will go, or at least I do. I told myself that I would have plenty to do. I packed everything I could ever need. I even packed oatmeal, so I could have what I wanted for breakfast. If the pre-planning of oatmeal doesn’t let you know how ready for this I was, then maybe the bringing of my own water will help you. So I was planned, ready to go, I would bring my own pillow too, because we all know theirs are cardboard. I thought I had planned it all out, to make it as smooth of a stay as I could. After all these other times I had been whisked away in flashing red lights then this one should be easy because I was prepared.
I came home with all of my oatmeal, and a head full of glue. It didn’t go as planned. In fact it went about as opposite as absolutely possible. I planned to leave reassured and confident but I guess somewhere along the way that plan got shipped off to sea. I left confused. I left lost. But I think part of me left okay too. As we pulled out of the parking lot I told myself I would never go back. That was the end and it was time for a new beginning. (I tell myself that a lot.)
You see I’ve thought long and hard about it all and I’ve come up with is this: overcoming a chronic illness or any struggle is like overcoming an addiction. You’ll read this and call me insane but give me a chance to explain. (I must preface this by saying I am in no way an expert in addiction, as I myself have never had a true addiction but I believe this is a way I can explain and make a connection.) So in my understanding there are two components or aspects one would say, to an addiction. There is the emotional side and then there’s the physical side. Once one understands the physical component of their addiction they are able to begin to cope emotionally. So where is the connection I’m trying to make? It goes like this:
When someone’s chronic illness is physically controlled, meaning their visible malfunctions/ symptoms are remotely handled (and I say remotely because for some total relief is never found.) So when they are as close to normally healthy that they can be, then the emotional component of the addiction is what’s left. The physical part was easy to take care of wether it was excercise, diet, eating, etc. that was easy. But now they’re faced with the mentally challenging part. It’s like an addiction because as hard as you work to overcome what has so quickly taken control of your life it’s so easy to fall back and “relapse”. You get so far in overcoming and then there’s a trigger that sets you off and somehow instead of standing on the mountain you’ve found yourself in the valley.
Of course there’s no way to make a universal plan on how one can overcome a chronic illness because like addiction it’s so individualized and different in everyone. You can lay out the basics; get physically back in tact, keep yourself involved, talk to someone, and don’t lose sight of the little victories. Unfortunately there’s no personal coach to stand on your shoulder and whisper in your ear what you should do to overcome your struggles because well that would just make things too easy wouldn’t it? Maybe someone can work on making that happen. If so, I’ll take Maya Angelou on my shoulder.
So out of the long three days I’ve learned that I still am very vulnerable. That there still will be so many things that will be “triggers” to times I would like to put in the box under my bed, but for now they are still open wounds and I have to heal them before I can package them away. I’ve learned that when my brand new shoes and I fall in a puddle I have to go home and wash them, set them out to dry, and remind myself that I can try again tomorrow. I’ve learned that it’s still a road I’m traveling on and probably will be for some time but that doesn’t mean I have to make a U-Turn every time something goes wrong and return to the place I was and made comfort in. Instead I can pull over at a rest stop, grab some oatmeal, and jump back on the highway. Because eventually I will make it to my destination even if it’s minutes, hours, days, or even years after my ETA. I’ll get there somehow, even if I have to walk.