Kat Duff, Alchemy of Illness, (Pantheon)
It may seem the height of denial to “find the good” in any illness or suffering. And yet, over and over in the literature written by those who are ill, there are descriptions of gained wisdom and compassion. This may not be true on the days when we are overcome by discomfort, fatigue and irritability. But we all have something to share, all those who go through the day managing an illness or disability, we have the potential to be a hero to someone else.
We are not prepared to age this generation has the most longevity in history. We are not prepared to live decades with a chronic illness. Our current model of health is too superficial to contain these realities. Our picture of health and aging is too illusory, unreal and linear. For example, I wonder about the celebrities and fitness instructors who market their own physical perfection. While they may serve as an inspiration to us, more often they set an impossible standard, a standard that is, in fact, untrue. Even the healthiest of these role models hide their physical imperfections, sneak to the plastic surgeon, or profit by pretending to have achieved perfect health because of their advertised method. Even with the best intentions, this can be a deception and a disservice. You, with your scar, chemo complexion, your wheelchair, your prosthesis, your insulin pump or oxygen are the opposite. You are thrust into the role of teaching others that health challenges happen in life and life moves on. You are publicly out there living life the best you can, maybe wearing a medtee to show you can not only smile and laugh about it, but you can also talk about it to others.
Do you remember how alone you felt when you (or your loved one) received your diagnosis? We hear over and over that people are comforted just by knowing others have been through the same thing. When we are honest and public about our diseases or disabilities in an approachable way, we allow others to learn. We prepare others for the future. We show them how to deal with a sick mother or aunt or child. This walk we are walking is not in vain. You may not have chosen the role of disabled, patient, caretaker, survivor. It may not be all of who you are. But it is a chance you have been given to lead others, to help, to share your wisdom in how you live your everyday life. Acknowledge and honor the crucible you are being forged on, even if you would not have chosen it
Here’s to all of us finding joy in spring, despite it all, or maybe as a result of it all!
- Diane Fisher, Ph.D.
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