It will dig your own grave for you faster than any person ever could. It will build your coffin. It will read your eulogy.
In 2008 I had just moved back to the east coast, leaving my junior year at a Midwestern college and transferring to a university in my hometown. It was fall. The world appeared through a sepia filter.
I was in a relationship that was built on a foundation of fear: Fear of being alone. Fear of womanhood. Fear of the future. Fear of living up to society’s standards. Fear of myself.
My partner was a nice guy, but we were not compatible, and I avoided my gut instincts. I moved in with him, ate what he ate, and lived his lifestyle. I ignored my own needs and, ultimately, I ignored my soul’s truth.
Allowing all of these fears to compound was poison, and choosing to exist in a relationship based on these fears was even more toxic. Autumn became more stressful with the divorce of my parents, the death of my dog and the heavy load of my senior year.
My body broke.
I was diagnosed with Lupus in November. It started with swollen knees, progressed to blue hands and feet, and eventually chest pain and extreme fatigue led me to the hospital.
I was familiar with autoimmune disease—my mother has scleroderma—but I never thought I would face one myself. I was an invincible, healthy 20-year-old up to that point, so the diagnosis rocked my world.
I now not only had fear; I was terrified, walking myself to my own funeral through an illness bred and fed by fear. My boyfriend, a simple guy, did not know how to handle me during this trying time. I was highly medicated, missing classes and often too sick to get out of bed in the morning.
After a few months of escalating tension on our relationship, I had a moment of clarity I will never forget. I was driving home after class and the sky was so beautifully pink that it struck me in such a way that made me gasp.
The sun was about to set, snow was on the ground and it was a quiet evening with not many people on the road. I remember the exact hue of the sky, the air, the trees.
It was beautiful.
My heart spoke to me, and for once, I listened:
“Be independent. Travel. Follow your heart. Finish school and do what is good for you. “
It was the first time I had listened to my heart in years. I amicably split with my partner, graduated college in the spring, quit my job and began to travel. I started to grow my own food. I lived on fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and berries, fruit.
I went fishing on the coast on weekends with a new lover. We ate our catch and our bounty from the garden.
After nine months of illness, I felt normal again. I eventually was able to go off all of my medication and treat my lupus with herbs and medicinal foods and by reducing stress in my life.
I moved to California in 2011 so I could have better access to the lifestyle and food choices my body was craving. I began to turn my life passions into professions, teaching piano and yoga.
I have learned detachment from money and have used my savings to travel to Asia, the Middle East and South America with the trust that upon my return I will find work and build my resources again.
I have abandoned the fear that I should have a “normal,” steady job, get married and do whatever society thinks is the “right” thing to do. It has been six years since my diagnosis, and I have never had symptoms since I began to live my truth.
For many people, autoimmune illness is much more serious than my case. It is life threatening and heartbreaking. I do not wish to undermine their experiences or to suggest that a cure for these illnesses is as simple as eating well and quitting your job.
I do believe, though, that my illness was a manifestation of fear and neglect of my heart and body, combined with a predisposition for autoimmune reactions. I am extremely lucky for being able to conquer those fears before the disease progressed in my body.
I do not consider myself somebody who has lupus, an incurable disease. I consider myself somebody who has cured my lupus, an “incurable” disease.
Find comfort in the unknown, peace in change and happiness in scarcity. Build a life based on trust.
Abandon fear—it was only trying to kill you anyway.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Amanda Fleming Taylor/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Katrina Silva