On being ill

[Prompt for Day 19: Write about being gravely ill or being in an accident]

Light dims. Things become darker, more grave. The motivation for doing anything gets lost in the agony of the illness, and you want life to give you a bow-out card, some slip or sign or all-expense paid vacation from having to participate in the functions of daily living. Sometimes people are there to provide a reprieve, but all too often it’s just you, and life doesn’t stop making demands. If you want to eat, you have to work. This world was made for the well, and well you are not. You have to go along with it.

Living with an illness can feel like living inside the illness— it is the lens through which you see everything, the filter through which every idea or invitation or desire must pass. You are its slave, not the reverse. But that sense of helpless devotion is only acceptable in love, and love this illness is not. You do its bidding anyway.

It becomes your only friend, the only one who truly understands what you’re going through. This sucks because it’s a manipulative, domineering friend that has isolated you and forced itself on you. You would never have chosen it, but now that it’s chosen you, it’s hard to find a soul that gets it. Former friends go; it stays. The constricting loneliness is suffocating.

You start looking for others whom it has chosen. You seek out kindred spirits whom you never would have met otherwise. You do this because you feel like you’re dying— and, in fact, you are— and you can’t stand this, can’t stand the possibility of dying without at least someone understanding.

This is where it starts to lose its stranglehold, just a little bit— because even though you would like life to hand you a bow-out card, and even though you can’t seem to take off the illness glasses, you start seeing a tiny light. This clan you’ve found, these people of your ilk, they are the crack in the airtight safe you’ve been living in. They are the ones who simultaneously sit in it with you and just outside of it. They say, We get it, but also, What about this? And you trust them because they really do get it; they really have seen the other side.

You go on living. Life is not what it once was — it’s bigger now. It just had to get a little smaller first. You wouldn’t say you’re grateful for this thing called illness. You wouldn’t choose it if you actually had the choice. But you know that without it your perspective would never have expanded like it did; your depth of awareness would have remained shallow. Your illness still sucks, of course. But you can finally see that life itself is mysterious, and that, instead of suffocating, you’re breathing.

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