The pursuit of something more in life as a broad picture, and in the moment, seems to be something engrained in human DNA. I don’t like to speak for others, but in general, I think that wanting something more is not uncommon. I’ve always been a person to feel this way. This drive and motivation may have contributed to my current state of poor health. It is, after all, because of this drive for accomplishment, and my perfectionism, that I spend more energy doing certain things now, like brushing my teeth, than I did when I was healthier and had more energy to give. I want to do what I’m unable to, and will always try when I’m told I can’t do something, especially when it’s my body telling me. I have pushed my body and mind beyond limitations in the past, and I continue to do so to this day.
This mentality is a double-edged sword. It ensures that I will never be stagnant in my pursuit of accomplishment, even when my body is forced to be stagnant. When I was too sick to accomplish much of anything, I shifted my focus to just staying alive — a major accomplishment given the state of my health at the time. And once my health stabilized, I began to focus on visualizing the things I wanted to accomplish at a future point in my life after I regained some health. I still may not have been able to accomplish things with my body, but at the time I could at least lay the framework in my mind. For months, I wrote short stories and novels, remodeled houses, drove city streets, flew over beautiful landscapes. In many ways, it was this visualization that kept me alive. I’m writing this not to preach some new age, pop psychology wisdom. After all, if you’ve read my other posts then you know how cynical I am about unsolicited advice. So I’m just talking here, no agenda.
Anyway. Now that my health is on an upward albeit still stunted trajectory, I find my yearning for accomplishment to be a dangerous thing. Minimally, my drive has the potential to use up all of my energy, at worst it has the potential to deplete all of my limited health, in turn, making me sicker. So far it has only managed to do the former, but I constantly fear the latter. The fear of becoming sicker is something I encounter everyday. It is a very real, often visceral, maybe even existential, fear that compares to that sinking, zero-gravity feeling one gets when remembering that life will one day end. For me, it feels not only like an eminent death, but a painful one as well. I catch glimpses of not being able to eat — having to swallow nourishment through a straw — and being blinded by the smallest amount of light — like staring directly at the sun, except in my case the sun is a tiny ray of light sneaking through my blacked-out windows. I see myself barely being able to move and struggling to communicate my needs — water, food, bathing, etcetera. These glimpses seem so real I can almost feel the misery of those unbearable days when my fears were reality. Then, somehow, I find myself grateful for the small amount of health I have regained, and thinking how my current health could tip up or down without warning, but perhaps I shouldn’t think about regressing — yes, good point, it only makes me cringe.
When faced with this, or any fear, I try to remind myself that it’s okay to be afraid — it’s only a feeling that will eventually pass — so long as it doesn’t hinder my dreams. I may have borrowed this sentiment from a wonderful, and rare non-comedic quote by Charlie Day — “You do not have to be fearless, just don’t let fear stop you.”
The truth is, because of everything I’ve been through in my twenties, I feel so flipped over and turned around I have no idea which direction I’m facing. It feels like I’ve been capsized, pulled deep underwater and I can’t figure out how to resurface. All I know is I want to find the surface so I can take a big gulp of air and hopefully stay afloat. I’m not exactly sure what resurfacing would mean for me, but it would certainly feature better health.
I realize that, to a certain extent, people always want to feel better than they do in any given moment. But I think anyone in my situation would want to be healthier. Although for me to say so is not unusual. I cannot honestly think of a time in my life when I thought: “I’m content with how I feel.” Even when I was healthy, I wanted to be healthier. And now that I’m so incredibly sick, well, I would gladly take any semblance of my prior health. But then again, I’m not sure I know what being healthy means anymore, maybe I never did.
Some quick housekeeping:
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**Speaking of articles, I recently had an essay published about how doctors rely on psychosomatic diagnoses when faced with a disease like MECFS. It was featured by the wonderful people at QUARTZ.
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