on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

on the effects of being sick

I missed publishing a post last Sunday, because I was down with a cold turned migraine. I haven’t been sick for this amount of time since a long while ago, and it served as a reminder as well as a trigger. 

I started reading a lot of zen and buddhism at a time of my life when I was constantly sick, because being sick forces a person to learn how to let go. There is no choice, and the only thing I could do is to learn how to sit with the fact that I am powerless over the state of my body. I am still not very good at it now, but I do notice the effect such studies have had on the rest of my life during times when I am healthy. I am still not very good at being healthy either, but I know that I am less antagonistic overall, less of an enemy to myself. 

Being sick is to sit in endless frustration. There is the very noticeable pain, the discomfort of the entire body, the inability to do anything meaningful. I gradually learned to be more okay with being useless while being sick so often, though I definitely did not choose this lesson. But the past few years have been very enlightening on how much I saw other people and myself in terms of our productive value, and how much is actually left when the ability to work is taken away. I thought a lot about what does it mean to live, what does it mean to be a contributing member of society. It gave me the time I wouldn’t have taken to contemplate why things are the way they are, why do we seem to be swimming in endless vicious cycles. I am not sure what kind of person I would have grown to become had I not been sick so much. I think I would still be running headlessly around, trying to do more than I can do, hopelessly trying to build my sense of self-worth through professional and social achievements without stopping to think what is the whole point of it all, if upward progression is something I truly wanted, if that was the life I must live. I would continue to hurt a ton of people through the careless management of my relationships because I was simply drowning too much in my own feelings to truly consider theirs and their positions. I would still have a short temper that I would have no control over because I had never realised how terrible I was at regulating my stress and emotions. I would become old and bitter, without really understanding why, maybe then in the twilight of my years it would suddenly dawn upon me that I had exchanged my self-respect for societal approval, and what I mistook for self-respect was actually the silent soothing of the fear that I would be abandoned by my society.

I dislike being sick, and I cannot describe what it is like to try to sleep feeling as though a dull knife is cutting through my brain, but I have to say I am profoundly grateful for it. It cuts through all the bullshit and forces me to reevaluate my life.

I wrote in previous entries that I have been starting to contemplate of this is simply my new normal. I have been trying to get better for years, and days like these make me feel like I am not having much progress. I came across a lawyer on twitter who tweeted that migraine is considered a disability in the US: 

I think a lot of work I have done in the past few years is working up the self-compassion to accept that I may be living with a disability and yet I am still a whole person. Also, to cope with the profound loneliness that comes with people not understanding the limitations I have to live with or worse, people who simply don’t take my illness seriously. I often have to put up with the frequent jokes that my illness is a result of my imagination. I mean, first I have to put up with people telling me my depression is imagined, then the pain of a dull knife sawing through my brain is also deemed to be imagined. I would love to tell them why psychosomatic illnesses are real, but few people would take me seriously enough to sit through a 30-minute neuroscience pseudo-lecture.

I have disengaged a lot from people in the past year or so. I have realised that my issues are my own and therefore I have no obligation to explain my decisions to most people (well, except my patreons which I do send them updates).

I have to work through a lot of feelings of guilt and grief. I am grateful for this point in my life to reevaluate who I wish to become, but still I grieve over the person I was. I was a person who would work as hard and as long as I chose to, and that was such a part of me I cherished – mostly for the wrong reasons but it is really nice to be able to work long enough to enter the flow without feeling my head is going to split apart. 

Now I am a person who has to regularly police myself. Each time my migraine occurs I interrogate myself on everything I could have done wrong: sleep, diet, exercise, stress, over-exertion, stimuli, etc. Who knows? Was it the pasta I ate? Was it because I chose to stay out a little while longer? 

A lot of life is about being able to sit through things without letting it frustrate us too much, to be able to face things full on. My illness has taught me an invaluable lesson in sitting through difficult feelings and still trying to live as well as I can despite whatever is happening. Unfortunately I think this would be useful in the time to come because of climate change. Not only do I have to accept that I have little control over my body at times, I will have to learn how to live in a world that is decaying as we speak, to deal with the knowledge that I am also complicit in its decay, there is so little I can do about it, yet I have to try to do whatever I can in my limited power to live with my head held up high.

I would like to be able to look back at my life and know that however I lived, I met my life and the world with as much lucidity as I can muster, without denial of the truth.