the bad days

there are days when you’ve been sick for so long where you just want to unzip your body and step out. wake up from the bad dream that is happening. make it all stop for just a moment.

yesterday I got some test results back for yet another positive chronic disease. it’s not a hugely big one, more a piece of the larger puzzle in understanding why I have not been able to get better, but it still knocks you down. the last few weeks I’ve finally been getting settled and feeling like Boulder is a home. I’ve been able to take walks with the dog, go to the grocery store and feel semi normal. and in those moments it becomes a lot easier to drown out the reality of illness with the distractions of life, but there’s always something that brings you back, whether its having a flare up, an emotional trigger, or just pushing your body too hard. today it was another diagnosis, reminding me that I am still living in this fragile, tired body that must be cared for and monitored, and that I am not yet at the point of living the life that I want to- however much I’ve tried to forget it.

for me, I go through a series of steps on these bad days. first, I simply shut down. I don’t want to speak to anyone, don’t want to talk, I just want to sit in silence. in this solitude, my mind goes to a dark place, remembering all the things I could do and loved to do before I got sick, the freedom of having a capable body, the happiest parts of my life before. this leads into the anger phase. there’s nothing worse than being full to the brim with anger and not being able to do anything about it. usually, I would take a run, punch a punching bag, physically do something, but now I can’t. now, I simply have to sit there, feeling my anger and sadness run through my veins, and do nothing. often times I clench my fists and every muscle in my body as tight as I can like a tensed ball and just scream, but it really doesn’t help. being trapped inside of a body that does not allow you to physically release your anger when you’re upset is possibly the worst feeling. usually I simply break down: whether from the anger, the pain, or just the overall sadness of the situation. and I just cry and cry until my head hurts and my eyes are puffy and there’s nothing left. and eventually, all that grief comes out. you just have to sit there, in your sadness and misery, and wait for it to pass. eventually it does, as all things do, but damn these moments are really, really hard.

on these bad days, its easier to try to dissociate from the body that has turned on you, to step back out of your mind into that comfortable space of denial, to not feel the weight of reality that is crashing down. as tempting and relieving as those options are, I have learned it’s so much more important to let yourself experience the grief; to truly allow yourself to sink into the emotionality of your experience and honor it. give yourself permission to cry, to throw things across the room, to punch pillows, to sit in your car and scream at the top of your lungs (my personal favorite), because in bottling it up you are denying your body and soul the ability to process the trauma that is occurring, and it is a trauma. I used to hate that word- I thought it was too strong, serious, that whatever I was going through was not ‘bad enough’ to warrant such a word. but let me make this clear to all of us chronic illness survivors out there: this is bad enough. having your life ripped out from under you, living in constant, debilitating pain, fearing for your ability to survive another day, scared because you cannot escape a body that has turned on you, scared because it feels never ending- these are significant, and they deserve to be recognized as such. do not belittle your own experience for the comfort of others; if you are pissed as hell that they can do whatever they want in a day and you cannot even plan for the next one because you have no idea how you’ll feel, that’s okay. if you’re fucking sad that you can’t do the activities that made you the happiest, can’t partake in social events and see your friends, can’t live the life you planned, that’s okay. if you want to lock yourself away for an hour because you are the only one that truly understands what you’re going through, that’s okay. give yourself permission to recognize the weight of this experience, this illness, this trauma. give yourself permission to grieve, scream, cry until you can’t anymore. because if we do not allow the gaping hole that this experience has created inside of us to heal, how is the rest of our body supposed to?

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