Oh, how proud of myself I was: look at me, look at me, I’ve found acceptance, a place so elusive I was starting to doubt its existence, or wondered if it was simply by invite only, for the VIPs of life. But I made it! Me! And I allowed myself an extra serving of smugness for how well I was coping with everything, finding a way to be at peace with the situation, finding a way to hook-up with smiling and laughing each day. But… what’s that saying? Oh yes, pride comes before a big fat fall. Because life, being as hilarious as it is, greeted my newly declared smugness with a laugh so loud it echoed round the apartment, ‘oh yeah, you think you’re calm, relaxed and at peace with everything, let’s see what happens when…’
You see, it seems, when I said I’d reached a place of acceptance, I meant I’d reached a place of acceptance, as long as… I accept you, my badly behaved health, as long as this is all I have to deal with, as long as you, health, don’t get any worse, and on the understanding, health, you will kindly start to improve. A kind of, okay, I accept I’m here, but I’ve parked in short-stay. Yes, I can see now, in my wonderful, rear view hindsight mirror, that I hadn’t really grasped the true essence of acceptance, that acceptance isn’t supposed to come with a list of conditions. My acceptance was like that of a desperate lover craving commitment, telling the outside world, ‘oh, we’re very happy as we are, marriage is just a piece of paper, isn’t it?’ but inside coming up with plans of how to get him to commit, keeping wedding magazines hidden under the bed, and already having a plan for the big day in such detail it would scare a wedding planner. I accept my poor health, as long as there is a happy ending, and a life long commitment made to the love of my life, energy.
And this fragile relationship with acceptance was just not up to what life, and its GSOH, had in store for me. Over the last few months, things kept, well, going wrong. All kinds of challenges (ah yes, challenges, the middle class word for problems) came my way, some health related, some not, but all just a bit too much, quite frankly, and all having a negative impact on my health. To be honest, I was already finding ‘just’ being as ill as I was enough. That was taking all of my coping capacity, and anything else quickly and easily pushed me over the coping edge. I kept falling into a black hole of not coping, of despair, of frustration. I would lie at the bottom of the hole, have a good cry, then give myself an award-winning motivational speech, determined to climb out and reconnect with peace, calmness and positivity. But every time I got to the top of the hole, ready to pull myself out, something, or someone, was waiting, ready to stamp on my fingers, and I would feel myself falling again.
And my health is simply too fragile for such drama. Any stress on my body, whether the cause is physical or psychological, sends my body into crash status. My relationship with acceptance became more and more fraught as the parameters of what I was having to accept kept shifting, and I was distinctly unimpressed with what I was being asked to accept.
I want to be the person who handles her challenges with grace, who can always find a smile, who can always find a way to find joy, who can always practice gratitude, who is able to keep a sense of perspective.
Well, I’m not sure where that person was, she certainly didn’t show up when I needed her, oh no. I have actually been the person who cries a lot. I have been the person who watches herself act a little – okay, a lot! – crazy. I have struggled to find the light. And, as for perspective, what’s that? I would say – not smugly, or proudly, but more with my head down in an embarrassed fashion – I’m lucky I’m not getting divorced after the way I have been over the last couple of months.
And all this black hole-ness has made me feel so far away from health and wellness, from working again, from all the other dreams I have tucked away for when I am well enough. For so long, this had all felt like it was just round the corner, that it was something I could work towards, that it was achievable. But now… well, after these last ten months, the gap between where my life is and where I would like it to be just seems enormous. A gap that is so big it’s almost impossible to imagine ever finding a way to the other side. A gap that is simply too painful to think about.
But as my fingers clawed to the top of my latest black hole, there wasn’t something waiting to stamp on them. I climbed out and breathed in the beautiful, refreshing air of hope and possibility. God, how I had missed that feeling. I just don’t function without these feelings (I refer you back to potential divorce proceedings), the feelings I take for granted, as I can normally locate them with ease, the feelings that are a part of me, part of my coping strategy, part of my sanity.
I felt well enough to go for a walk, and popped into town to pick up my prescription (oh yes, I know how to celebrate the return of hope and possibility). As I chatted away with my favourite Boots lady (this is what happens after nine years of illness, where prescriptions are picked up as often as
wine food) we caught up on each other’s lives. When she asked me how I was doing, I told her I hadn’t been that well recently, but I was doing all the right things and I’m sure I’d soon be feeling much better. She started laughing – apparently I had been saying for the last nine years ‘I’m sure I’ll be well soon…’ And, apparently, I’m always very convincing. For the rest of the day I kept laughing to myself, now that’s that Karen I know – annoyingly optimistic, always able to find hope, always with her trainers on standby ready to bounce back. Yes, I was BACK. In the words of my favourite self-development guru, Paul, from The Big C, I had managed to flip that switch.
As the mental switch has stayed on light, everything has felt easier, and I have made up with my friends peace, acceptance, hope and possibility. It’s good to have them back on side, and the days are certainly easier when I’m hanging out with them.
The physical switch is not so easy to control, it’s more like a sensitive dimmer switch. But there is no doubt that I’m not as unwell as I have been over the last few months, even if the shift is small – possibly tiny. But, as a born again optimist, I would say, we’ve moved from darkness to subdued lighting.
For now, I’m just happy to be out of the black hole. Although, I am stating very loudly, life, I am not saying this in a smug way.