When I founded The Wellness Boulevard, I wanted to help others live and thrive with autoimmune disease. But as soon as I started building this platform, I noticed a problem pop up.
I wanted to talk to folks who were living with autoimmune disease... but only if they weren't defined by their diagnosis. I didn't necessarily want to use words like chronic, or pain, or illness. I wanted to reach the "warriors" rather than the "sick ones".
I wanted to write about my experience with Takayasu's Arteritis (a rare autoimmune disease), but I didn't want others to think I was using my diagnosis as an excuse.
I wanted to talk to and about autoimmune disease... but only so long as I continued to look "strong", "tough", and "impressive". As soon as it came time to get vulnerable -- to write a post about things people with illness would rather not hear or talk about the life I lost and who I used to be -- I froze.
Apparently, I felt it was okay to be sick... but only when I was thriving.
Only when having an autoimmune disease heightened what I'd accomplished.
Only when I'm sharing the experiences I've made happen in spite of illness.
Only when "being sick" makes me look good, stand out in some positive light, or is my "claim to fame".
It's as though I felt it was okay and safe to be sick... except when it made me vulnerable.
When there was weakness attached.
Or I couldn't just "get over it".
Like it was okay to be sick... until I started questioning whether or not I was enough.
Enough for my husband.
Enough for my clients.
Enough for my parents.
Enough for my (future) kids.
Enough for my friends.
Enough for myself.
I felt like it was okay to be sick... until I started questioning my strength.
Because if only I was X, or if only I did Y, or if only I tried Z.... I could overcome this illness sooner. I could have prevented this to begin with. I would not have deserved this pain at all. I would not have let this happen.
Or that I was allowed to be sick... but only when I wasn't actually sick.
Only when I don't have to change my life to accommodate for how I feel.
Only when I don't have to inconvenience someone else.
All in all, I was acting as if we can only speak out or share about illness when we're sharing about how to live or thrive in the face of pain. (Or worse -- only when we've eradicated that pain.)
While I agree it's a beautiful thing to experience joy in the face of pain, to work towards feeling as best as we can inside our own bodies, we all still need a safe space to get there. We need time to feel the injustice. Time to bring to light the pain. Because when we push it down, when we berate ourselves for not bucking up or "man-ing" up or handling it well from the get go, we push down our capacity for love as well.
It's okay to be sick... and also to be tired.
Tired of dealing with illness and tired of pretending. Pretending that this isn't an undeserved pain from a thing we cannot control. Pretending that we're unique or different or the only ones feeling this way. Pretending that we all haven't felt this shame at one point or another. The shame that comes from suffering.
Because while my suffering is often invisible -- autoimmune disease, anxiety, depression, chronic pain -- suffering comes in all forms of all shapes and sizes and hits all types of people.
Replace the word "sickness" above with your own suffering, big or small, and you may have felt, said or thought what I've written at one point or another.
These were the cards we were dealt, but not the cards we asked for. While what we do with our hand matters greatly -- how we choose to approach it for the collective good is important -- we still need to ask ourselves whether this shame we so often feel is doing more harm than good.
To ask ourselves whether we can extend grace and compassion to pains in life that we do not understand. We have to decide whether we believe people are generally doing the best they can with what they have -- and therefore whether we can rest in the faith that we, too, are doing the best we can with what we have.
Life doesn't start once we're healed. It doesn't begin when we're in remission. Or when we're no longer anxious about anything at anytime. It doesn't pick back up when we're "over it", when we've moved on, don't get triggered, or aren't suffering any longer.
You don't only have a voice when you're healthy.
You don't only get to share once you're healed.
Life begins now.
Our power is up for grabs today.
It's not dependent on a test result.
Or a doctor appointment.
Or a word such as "cured".
We don't have to be fixed.
We're standing in our power NOW.
We can thrive AT THE SAME TIME.
You can be the warrior AND the sick one.