Choosing Acceptance Over Fighting: Pain Warrior no Longer

Choosing Acceptance Over Fighting Ehlers-Danlos, Mitochondrial Disease | The Mighty | Apr 2017 | By Maria Stebbins

“She’s a real fighter.”

I have such mixed feelings about that phrase. Yes, my body presents plenty of challenges, which I face constantly. However, the language equating this life to a violent war doesn’t quite fit.

You see, genetic conditions can’t be vanquished like nasty infections. For better or worse, they just…exist. I wrestle with treating individual symptoms and eking out a little more energy, but the root of all that won’t retreat under heavy fire.

If I’m fighting a battle, it’s against myself. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d prefer not to spend my days at war with myself, physically or spiritually. 

Optimizing or making the most of it requires accepting whatever “it” is in the first place.

Mitochondrial disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, big parts of my health picture, aren’t going away.

As much as I continue to take care of this body, the ultimate goal is not “getting well.”

My conditions won’t be prayed away with more fervent words or cured by powerful drugs. Medically, my team does its very best to treat the symptoms, though the cause is beyond the reach of science today.

This flawed and weakened vessel is mine for a lifetime, and speaking that truth tends to ruffle a few less-understanding feathers.

Real acceptance is liberating, and it opens me up to appreciating the gains, or the attempts

Reading that first paragraph, you might be sad or assume that I’m super down. While mental health is a huge issue within the chronically ill population, that’s not the story today. Actually, this mindset allows me to accept every beautiful, exhausting and “flawed” part of me.

Now that life isn’t all about fighting, I can focus on optimizing. This is what I have, and I can choose to make the most of it.

Few people have ever understood this idea; not “fighting” is different from giving up.

Quality of life, abundance of joy and meaningful relationships are so much more valuable than a pat on the back for putting every ounce of energy into the fight

Chronic illness, or life in general, doesn’t have to be a chaotic, panicked war. The hard parts will continue to pop up….and likely grow in number.

Accepting the light with the dark, resolving to make the most of it and appreciating the sculpting power of otherwise agonizing chisels makes for a worthwhile life.

I came to the same conclusion as years ago, but could never describe it as well as Maria has here. I’ve always had an aversion to fighting and I don’t like the idea of battling what’s going on in my own body.

While so many call themselves “pain warriors”, I’ve become a “pain pacifist”:

Pain Pacifist

Pain warrior no longer,
I surrender, give up the fight,
become a pacifist.
Pain is far too big, too strong
for me to stand against,
curb or contain.

It spills over the edge of my meds,
trampling barriers of mind eroded
by long-sustained assault, it gives
no pause, no rest, no redemption.

I’m worn down, and exhausted,
sick from fighting this endless war,
against the haunting, invisible torment,
running wild in my broken body.

Dreams for the future lie broken,
love of life destroyed, lost to pain,
the way ahead looks even worse.
I change my view, try something new.

I declare a truce, one-sided, still
it brings me moments of quiet and calm,
a shutter opens for just a moment,
gives me a glimpse of possible peace

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