Coming Out of the Dark
It’s been a long, cold, rainy few months up here in the Pacific Northwest. While the fall and winter times are usually cold and rainy, we’ve had even more rain than normal (I saw one estimate at 125%), and the spring has been slow to get here.
As the calendar moved into fall, I got a new diagnosis that hit me hard: fibromyalgia. While it explained many of the symptoms and experiences I’d been having over the past year, it is one of those conditions that has no simple answers. There is no known cure, and it comes with significant pain, as well as fatigue and brain fog.
The news crushed me, at least for a time, and I retreated into a time of reflection, trying to make sense of what this means for me. I’ve had a couple of significant flares of fibro during these winter months, and I’m beginning to learn what triggers them, what helps, and what makes things worse. I’m listening to my body more than I ever have before.
As a health educator, I’ve known what fibromyalgia is, at least in part. It was one of those not-so-clear conditions that I was always glad I didn’t have. Now, I’m learning about it at a much deeper level, but I’m also very conscious that I don’t want to attach to the label of it too much. It’s tempting at times to just say, even if only in our own minds, that what we’re experiencing is because of this or that condition, and that’s The Way It Is. For example, when I have one or more achy areas in my body, I can tell myself, “That’s the fibromyalgia. It causes pain.” And while yes, fibromyalgia comes with a lot of pain, each day is also different. I know our brains like to attach to ideas and predict the future based on the past (this is a specialty of the left hemisphere), however, I want to leave room for hope and for possibility. Sinking into the pit of despair of “I have fibromyalgia, and my life will be extremely painful from now on. I won’t be able to do the things I want to do, and I will suffer,” is not where I want to live my life.
So I’m holding loosely to the label of fibro. It is not how I define myself.
In addition to listening to my body more attentively, I am also getting an advanced lesson in surrender. Surrender, to me, is not about admitting defeat but is a spiritual practice that involves accepting what is happening in the moment and connecting to something larger than one’s self. For the past several years, I’ve been coming to terms with the idea that the life I had envisioned for myself isn’t what the Divine has in mind for me. There’s been much grieving. Much. Grieving. It comes in layers, as grieving likes to do, and while I’ve processed quite a bit of it, I’m aware other waves may be yet to come. I will surrender to those waves when they arrive.
As the weather is finally starting to change here, and although late, the flowers are finally beginning to bloom, I feel like I’m coming out of the dark period I’ve been in, too. There are lessons learned in the dark: wisdom that cannot be found through any other means. It has shaped me, changed me, and I will continue to listen and learn.