After a year long hiatus, I recently returned to therapy. And one of the first things my Therapist asked me was if I had finally let go of looking for jobs. It was something I did, almost weekly, for many years after becoming too sick to work. Inevitably, it always made me feel worse, not better and gave me copious reasons to attack myself with unkind rhetoric. All of the self-doubt and self-deprecating thoughts would run on loops through my mind. Why can’t I just be stronger. Maybe it’s all in my head. So and so is much sicker than I am and they work. What was so interesting is that these defeating thoughts actually applied to everything in my life, or well, I was an expert at attaching them to my life. After nearly 8 years of being sick, I was finally able to tell my Therapist that I had stopped that. As we concluded our session, she said I’m so happy, Stace. I feel like you’ve turned a corner since we last met. And in that moment, I realized that much of what has changed in me is a resignation that this is now my life and I had finally let go.
There have been oh so many ways and things I’ve had to let go:
My old life: how many times have I looked back at my “old life” and missed it, terribly. Who and what I was, all that I did, all that I thought I would do. The beauty of letting go of that “old life” is that now there is room to embrace the life I have now.
Family: My Husband’s favorite saying is that family treats you worse than anybody else would ever dare and we forgive them because we share genes. The thing is, family or not, they don’t reserve the right to make you miserable or feel lesser about yourself. Genetics don’t give you carte blanche to be awful. So most of my family went. While initially it was awful, it was much less awful than how I felt in their presence.
Financial freedom: This has been a tough one. Going from over six figures to relying on Disability put a scary, terrible drain on our family. Inevitably, we had to declare bankruptcy, which was also a demoralizing, hurtful process. Especially after all we had worked to attain.
Predictability: Oh boy. Nothing in life now gets to be unpredictable. Moreover, there are no more plans and planning. Now, we solely base whether or not we can do things based upon how I am feeling at that moment. When we do decide to go, everything needs to be carefully packed and accounted for. I have had to bail on weddings last minute and put off getting my Aunt unpacked for weeks.
The guilt over getting sick and “ruining” our family and the shame that I can’t get better.
Expectations: Both those I put on myself and those that others place upon me, as well as, that any one Doctor or medicine will fix me.
My goals: ah yes, the glory of losing all you anticipated achieving. Except, I still achieve things. It’s just different than those I originally set. Now, I make new ones that are actually attainable.
Friends: Those who are unsupportive or toxic. I cannot have such extreme drama in my already dramatic life. The friends I kept love me as I am, warts and all. (I’m relieved to say that warts are actually one thing I don’t have)
The anger over all I’ve lost. I don’t want to be “that” person.
The incessant fear of returning to how deathly ill I was in the beginning. Focusing on that, instead of how much “better” I am now only strips away my being able to enjoy it. How many of us live in fear of the next flare?
It isn’t a wake up one day sort of thing. It’s taken me near 8 years to even start this process and a process it is! I take one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. But, clearing my mind and heart of those things that only bring me lower, has made way for better, more positive and constructive thoughts and feelings.
I still have a life. I still have my own story to write. With no one else writing it for me. Let go of the old and allow the new to be ushered in.