How could this happen to me?
How could I develop an autoimmune disease at the age of 36?
This was not supposed to happen. Not to someone in their 30s, not to someone who had dedicated their life to health, wellness and fitness. Not to a microbiologist turned personal trainer and yoga teacher. Nope. That’s not how things worked. I had practically guaranteed good health and quality of life well into my 90s.
Although the first 3 decades of my life hadn’t necessarily been easy, I had faced, and triumphantly overcome, varying challenges including caring for a terminally ill mother, a mentally ill sibling, and owning my own business in the mix.
I was capable, resourceful, intelligent and had a proven track record I could deal with some of life’s ugliest moments.
But… I did have this one requirement underlying it all… One necessary ‘condition’ that allowed me to be the ruler of my world: my health.
My personal credo was:
I can deal with anything life throws at me
So long as I have my health…
One must have health if they want to be in control of their life, right?
The one thing I believed was absolutely necessary for me to face any and all challenges life threw my way – my health – was taken away. Never to fully return to its prior pristine state.
My new norm included extreme, mind-boggling fatigue, memory loss, severe migraines, fevers, swollen joints, extensive hair loss and throbbing pain throughout my body.
All these symptoms and more appeared in an unpredictable pattern that made it impossible to figure out a way to manage.
Interspersed were days where I felt relatively ‘better’ (as in, being 75%).
Gone were the days where I experienced a pain-free day.
My life spiraled into one continuous chaos.
I could not care for myself – basic self-care like showering, laundry, dishes, groceries, putting gas in my car, not to mention going to work… every single thing required inordinate amounts of energy of which I had none.
I’d try to do my dishes and tidy up but the exertion was too much and would land me in bed for days. Doing groceries AND carrying them home became a herculean effort. I’d force my body through my Mon-Fri job only to lay comatose for 48 hours before repeating the torture.
I fell into a deep, dark hole.
My future looked grim and my hopes began to dim.
I had no assets to fall back on, I wasn’t married and my family had distanced themselves, while the prospect of being able to work in any career was looking difficult.
If I couldn’t maintain a job and basic self-care, what was next? A caregiver? Social assistance? And further than that? What would the rest of my years look like?
I felt doomed and hopeless. I could see no possible positive outcome for my future.
I kept waiting for the universe to shift, for some external force to change my life.
My thoughts consisted of “if only” statements.
If only… I had enough money I could hire help around the house with domestic duties.
If only… I had a different job, one with a less toxic environment I’d manage better.
If only… I didn’t have to work at all, that would be the answer.
If only… I had a spouse, someone to lean on, my life would be easier.
I was angry. Bitter. Pissed.
I kept wondering where was all that good karma I had put out into the world all those years? All those countless acts of kindness and being a caregiver for family – didn’t they count for anything?
I was a good person. I had assumed that good karma meant what goes around comes around and now that I desperately needed help, it ought to appear.
One of my pivotal moments (there were several in a series over time) arrived in the form of a quote that I saw on social media:
A bird sitting in a tree
Is never afraid of the branch breaking
Because its trust is not on the branch
But on its own wings.
I realized I was focusing only on the branch… on the earth being taken out beneath my feet, on some external force changing my circumstances and hadn’t for a moment considered my own power and role in my life.
Because of the assumption that health equaled freedom and power I took the absence of full health to mean imprisonment and powerlessness.
I realized I thought I didn’t have wings because I didn’t have my health.
I thought my circumstances dictated my destiny.
But I was wrong.
The power lay within me, not outside of me.
My life was determined by me; how I reacted to those circumstances, my perspective, my mindset, and choices were all up to me.
Health, while being precious and a privilege, was not everything.
I stopped worrying about the ‘branch’ and began cultivating trust in myself.
Instead of looking ahead to the future and wondering ‘How will I manage? How can things get better?’ I chose to focus on my strength and resilience; on the fact that I was still on the planet and breathing in spite of it all.
I have wings. I have power.
Maybe not the way I used to or how I imagined it, or what I would prefer, but so long as I am breathing, I am a living force.
The same is true for you, dear friend.
The life force that you are is everything. THAT is what directs your life.
You are a conglomerate of cells; a conglomerate of energy; you direct that energy whichever way you wish… so spread your wings and trust in the power that you are.