No, I have not taken up a new hobby. Nor have I had a sudden healing. I didn’t leap out of my chair yesterday and grab a dumbbell. This is about a different kind of weight. Oh, you’ve all fallen asleep or stopped reading. Come back! It is worth reading.
Ever been flattened by life? You know that feeling when everything crushes down on you and life is too much? You may be feeling it now. If you are, don’t give up. Life is worth living.
I know that feeling. I understand it. Yet people see my smiling happy face and assume I don’t. I want to explain how I can smile in the midst of pain, frustration, and anguish. What keeps me going in the depth of despair.
Don’t worry, all you atheists can relax. I am not going to say God or Jesus. Oops, I just mentioned them both, and of course, they are my rock. But this blog is not about God and Jesus. There we go again.
Imagine the scene, I throw a fully loaded rucksack at you. Hang on, this is not a threat. It’s a thought experiment. You are imagining the idea. I throw a fully loaded rucksack at you. One so heavy it is at your maximum lifting capacity. You would buckle or collapse under the weight. Because at your maximum lifting capacity, you need to adjust and take the weight on board. Distribute it and brace yourself. Throwing it at you, gives you no chance to do that.
Now suppose I gave you the empty rucksack. You put it on and adjust it. Then I added things bit by bit. You keep adjusting the straps and getting used to it. I take it right up to maximum load. You will keep standing. The rucksack will be heavy, but you will manage it, if it is your maximum load.
The difference is gradually adding the weight. You have a chance to brace yourself and adapt to the increasing weight. Some people could probably go beyond their maximum weight. A slow addition of anything gives us a chance to get used to it.
Long term illness, pain and disability can be like that. It comes on over time. It is chronic (long term) and so the illness itself, the pain and disability increase over time. An aside here, there are still periods of sudden acute and increased pain in this picture. I am only talking general principles. Those bursts of intense pain would be akin to me dropping a very heavy weight in the rucksack part way through loading it. Your knees would buckle.
How do I and many others with long term illness cope? Because the limitations, pain and illness have come on over time. That does not mean it is easy. Take on board what I said about sudden bursts of pain. Also remember that someone with a long-term illness or disability must wake every morning and take that rucksack back up. It is not easy, just because we have adjusted to the weight. The background pain is still there. The illness has not gone. The disability stays.
Chronic pain and limitations have their own unique agony. They grind you down. Pain is exhausting, it makes you feel miserable. It is the thing I refuse to give in to. I will not act the way I feel. Why should everyone suffer, just because I am.
Perhaps the clearest way to express it would be like this. Very occasionally I wake up free of pain. It is so rare that I lie there for a moment waiting for the expected pain to return. Then having raised my bed. I look around and feel something that is almost indescribable. An inner joy that bubbles up and overwhelms me. There is a side of me that does not want to move in case the pain returns. Another side wants to dance (I can’t of course, as I can’t even walk) A massive smile breaks out on my face, and I enjoy the moment. I’ve not known this to last longer than a couple of hours. But it is a blessed relief.
To finish let me look at my rucksack analogy. This assumes you don’t already suffer long term illness/disability. If it were possible to instantly pass what I am experiencing to you. All the pain, limitations, and yuk. It would flatten you. You would have no opportunity to adapt. It would be like having that rucksack thrown at you. But when you experience these things yourself, they come on slowly. I am not saying that makes it easy. Far from it. Many days I struggle to keep going. I know that lots of people with long term illness struggle. My analogy is just to help you understand how I can smile and laugh in the face of adversity. Chronic illness and pain are really tough. Don’t assume that my smile means I am not suffering. I am just choosing not to be miserable.
I should make one quick finishing aside. Accidents are a whole other thing. I have had a life-threatening accident, so I know. Your body uses a mechanism to delay response to sudden accident. It is still a very traumatic event and causes great long-term distress. This blog is not looking at accidents.
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