Pain is a teacher of acceptance and compounds per our mental state. About a decade ago, I was struck with a mysterious illness that attacked my kidneys and caused a massive amount of inflammation in my joints and spread throughout my body. I was diagnosed with system lupus erythematosus and offered a variety of medical treatments, all of which sounded terrible.
During a routine visit with my rheumatologist, I was given a new perspective which in hindsight I do believe saved my life. The doctor told me that no one really knows why the human body would suddenly attack itself like mine was. But that he did know that the patients that no longer tried to get out of bed, died much quicker than those who forced themselves to move. He continued to say that the pain I feel today will eventually become the new normal and will no longer be as painful if I move.
The simple kind words of my doctor motivated me to try to do things differently. I started to push myself. Everyday I walked a little further and stayed out of my bed a little longer. I declined the treatment option of chemotherapy and started to practice stoic meditation. I accepted my condition as it was, not as I would have it be, and focused efforts on living in the moment.
The next few months we transformational. I invested in those around me and came to love listening to their problems and successes. I took time every day to focus on the movement of all things around me. I took comfort that life would carry on with or without me.
Then one day during another routine visit with my rheumatologist, I received a surprise; I was in complete remission. As fast as the illness had overtaken me, it had left. The doctor told me I’d never have children and that some of my joints were damaged but otherwise I could lead a “normal” life. At first, I didn’t believe it and spent a good six months waiting to get sick again. But I didn’t. I carried on with the practices I had developed while I was ill and continued to add on new healthy habits.
Within a year I was regularly walking 5 miles a day and lifting weights. I had a happy life with my husband and stepdaughter. I accepted that I would never have kids, so I made plans to be the best stepmom and aunt ever and I became overly optimistic about life.
Time passed and things changed. I started a new career and my marriage ended. While working on the divorce both my husband and I found new partners. There was no anger or jealous, just honesty and transparency. Our divorce was effortless, and we both settled in with our new partners and into our new lives. We are all still friends to this day.
That was over five years ago. Today I live with my new husband and our two healthy children. Both pregnancies were healthy with no issues. I’ve lived many lifetimes but this one is the sweetest. I savor my sleepless nights and exhausted mornings with our energetic children. I get to be the one that comforts them when they are sick or scared and the one to cheer them on and congratulate them when they succeed. In some ways, I feel my illness prepared me to be the mother I am today.
Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change”. When I was ill all those years ago, I felt as if it was the end when it was just the beginning. Life is ever changing, and it will go on with or without me. Today, I chose to participate in my own life.