I Can See Clearly Now

I've been thinking about writing a post for a while. It was going to go something like this:

I feel like I’m two people. One of me is working very hard to become positive, remain open to possibility and look at what I have instead of what I don't have - after all, the only way to change is by practicing, right? – but having a hard time because it’s constantly fighting the pull of the other part of me. The other me is lost in loss.

My motto last year, after I started taking Enbrel, was 'it took a long time to get this fucked up, so it's going to take a long time to heal'. I was going to be patient, take it one step at a time, be all about the baby steps. And it was going pretty well, especially since initially, every day gave me a new thing that I could do again. Then it slowed down to a couple of times a week, then on a regular basis and then sometime last fall, after the whiplash thing happened, I stopped improving and started regressing. Initially, I reminded myself to keep the faith, keep believing in my new healing powers - after all, up until then I had spent almost a year injuring myself (due to increased activity), yet healing much faster than previously, so if I just 'kept buying the ticket', then it would go away soon, right?

Except it didn't. Then winter came, it got cold, my muscles spent months permanently seized up and my energy drained. The longer the pain stayed, the harder it became to be positive. In the end, I did what I always do when the pain becomes too much: I hid. I hid away in my apartment, in TV, in books. I stopped being open, I stopped being a whole person - soul, mind and body as one - and I hid in my head. Pulled up the drawbridge, closed off the connection to the rest of me.

Outwardly, I kept trying. I knew that the way out of the darkness was to consciously choose the light, to focus on the positive, so that's what I tried to do. But no matter what I did, I couldn't connect to the optimism that came so easily last year. About once every 4-6 weeks, I'd realize I was stuck, have a baby epiphany - which would usually mean writing a post about 'the other part of me', about losing hope, about finding glimmers of hope - and then, within days, be pulled back into the place, the person I no longer want to be. The problem was this: I was losing the abilities I had regained.

I remembered from last year that my mood affects my pain levels: that the more unhappy and stressed I am, the more pain I'm in. So I tried to get happy. I went back to see my shrink, I increased the dose of Enbrel, I saw my naturopath, I meditated, I sought out positive, funny movies and TV shows and still, I couldn't connect to the joy. About a month ago, I realized that I was grieving. Grieving yet another loss, another disappointment. Beating myself up for hoping one more time, for again believing the other shoe wouldn’t drop. A full year and half after my first dose of Enbrel, I was thinking that it might be healthier for me to accept that this was as good as it got, that an absence of life-destroying pain was ‘good enough’. That, as long as the pain and the low energy kept within a certain limit, I should be grateful. And that thought tipped the balance and I felt lost.

And then, three weeks ago, Michele helped me clean out my storage room. It took 2½ hours and afterwards, I had to force myself to stop, because I wanted to keep going (but uncharacteristically decided to be smart and save energy for the next day). Later that evening, I remembered that last summer, when we had attempted the storage room intervention, I only had enough energy for one hour. That's when I realized that this stage in the long process of getting well is so subtle I can't see it on a daily basis, that it is now about healing from the inside, building energy and stamina. The realization brought with it such euphoria that I spent the next three days getting a lot done – I mean, a lot - and, naturally, stopped being smart, didn’t listen to my body’s request for mercy and not surprisingly, it then made me stop. But the last three weeks of hurting like a sonofabitch haven't fazed me. I know now that what I have is far more than what I don't have.

More than helping me clean, my friend gave me back my sight. Thank you, Michele.