In the past four years, I have lost my home, my car, and my ability to take care of myself.
My bank account holds a whopping balance of $20, and I have not been able to receive disability. I live off literally no money, but just food stamps and credit cards.
Having a chronic illness, and treating it, is quite the long process. After four years of treatment, I am nowhere where I thought I would be, and this is going nothing like I thought it would. But how can you gauge an experience like this? Something you have never gone through and something not many people do go through? The best you can do is prepare yourself mentally for how you think it will be, just to get through.
As terrible as this sounds, now is not my rock bottom. I hit rock bottom a few years ago, and this is the way out. When I was first diagnosed, I knew in my heart that it was not a six month easy fix. I knew in my depths that it would take a very long time and my life was about to change drastically. There was no way to prepare for what I was about to go through, and I also had no choice.
My body stopped functioning on its own, so the only option was to move forward. It was as if I was standing on the edge of a cliff and the stable ground behind me was crumbling, leaving me with no other option but to jump. So I leapt. I plunged, and I closed my eyes really tight and began this journey.
There were numerous times during the last four years where I wanted to give up. Where I went to deep, dark places and convinced myself that after one more day without sleep, I will give up; one more day with this intense pain, and I will give up; one more loss, and I will give up.
But I didn’t. Somehow I kept going. There is something inside each and every one of us, this will to survive, and it is the strongest thing we can experience. Something keeps us going.
In those depths when I figured nothing could get better…and, nothing could get worse, there was something I did not realize. Once you hit rock bottom (or whatever you want to call it) the way back up is like a blank piece of paper. It is like finishing a previously written chapter of your life, and then be given a pen and the ability to write the future chapters on your own. It is like wiping the slate clean. After something life shattering happens, after the debris clears, and the sun shines through the thick, dark clouds, you can take a long, hard look at what you’re left with.
What I am realizing now is that I have very little left, but what remains is all that I need. I am left with solid people surrounding me and the ability to put up boundaries with others more firmly. I am left with a body that I can rebuild from this point, one day after another. I am left with confidence and knowledge of how the world really works, not how I want it to work, or how the media and television tells me it should work. I am respected by the doctors and nurses that I work with who have watched my dedication to my health journey over the last four years. I am left with a solid foundation to build from: a blank slate, the ability to create the life I want for myself.
Living this period of my life is strange. Where I am at now is an opportunity. I am not in remission yet, but so close I can see it. I know it is my option to take the lessons learned through this experience, and start putting them to practice. I now know that this is not something temporary, but a lifestyle change that I will have to honor the rest of my life.
Meeting with my doctor earlier this week, and seeing how after so much time, so much dedication, I still have a good deal to work with also showed me that illness is not a black and white situation. In order to get to optimal health, I need to add life back in while still being sick. It is like going in reverse of the 20 years it took me to get a diagnosis. Instead of losing my pieces of myself, I have to regain them. It is both terrifying and exciting at the same time.
Now that I know what it is like to lose everything and now that I have faced every fear I have, I realized the fear of those things was worse than the reality of actually going through them. I am still here to talk about it—and with a smile of confidence on my face. Having been through all of this can only help me approach trying times I have in my future with grace and ease. Knowing that can help me share with others beginning any journey that you can get through the unimaginable, and when you do, the person on the other side can hold your hand through anything.
Author: Ann Marie Perkins
Image: EcoFolks Instagram
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson