Identity, Identity & Beyond.

Originally posted on Barefoot Baroness February 10, 2011.

I was reading another blog, a very different kind of blog than I have been accustomed to coming across.  one of his posts got my mind a buzzing “My glamorous, More Interesting Clinical Identity”

This post  stayed with me even once I had moved on to other things. I could not shake the thoughts that were flooding my mind and connecting with that he spoke of.  For days, and now into a few weeks I have not been able to shake the thoughts this post provoked. But in different way.

Before I continue any further let me give you the link to my point of reference below:

This incredible anecdotal clinical session brings to the fore front of my mind that although my circumstances are different ( are not they all?) I am different from his client that he speaks of here. But I get it. I see it. Give some people a way to define themselves when they have discovered little else about themselves and a new creature is born.
Albeit Dr Micheal’s post refers to Mental Illness  in this case I still get it. I am relating his post to physical illnesses. I think the two can mirror one another so for me I am allowing this article speak to me in this way.  Body & mind. So I could not shake what I’d read. It stayed with me even long after closing the lid to my laptop. As I said weeks later its still with me.

Having been (and currently still am) a member of the Doctor’s Appointment Club for the vast part of 28 years and participating in support groups of many forms naturally I come across others who like me live with a chronic illness. I hear them talk amongst themselves, including this lady with hair to her hips,  and skirts to her bare feet. While the book is in front of me open to page ?? my mind wanders as I listen to their vivid descriptions of themselves in this doctor‘s waiting lobby. Descriptions of their pain, their fatigue,  their husband and families, theirs UN-acceptance of the intrusion in their lives, their whatsoever…. I wondered if this the only way they see themselves.
Maybe I should not hide it  from others when I am in severe pain, maybe when my symptoms are up to no good I should be sharing this with all to hear.  Allowing myself to be part of my outside social circle when I hurt so much concentrating and focusing on a conversation is not possible. Hmmmm??… I think not. I think that I am far more “Emotionally Intelligent“. And I know that I am much more than an illness that has invaded my body. Uninvited.
I am not my illness. Yes I am not always well, I have a chronic illnesses, I have chronic pain and fatigue. I get it. My family gets it. My close friends get it. These people are more important to me than me being ill. I hate that my symptoms affect them. But they get it. And they get I am doing all that I can to manage my life despite having this illness that happens to disrupt my life on a regular basis. It is, what it is ,and nothing more.
I need not address or announce to others that my body bares the scars of past surgeries that have left me often fighting for some sense of comfort. Feeling pain anywhere on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being no pain, 10 being the worst) everyday of your life is having to re-learn how to navigate your life through the sometimes wild seas of everything else that comes along with being in pain everyday. But should I wear some kind of badge? Some kind of “Comes with Warnings” label? Would you know walking past me in the street?  No, No, & No!

I do know when we do not have all the answers it can be tough on loved ones. For that I am sorry. I wish for them to find ways to manage their own thoughts and feelings on this matter. But I am wise enough to know that this is their own baggage, if you will. Not mine.
This has nothing to do with being right or wrong. My reluctance to share or display my symptoms to those who have no need to be in the know is spot on. For me. I am not comfortable with people seeing or even knowing about the times I am down because I am unable to cope or manage well. Sometimes chronic pain levels take me to a dark quiet room where I alone without any distractions can get a hold again of my pain cycle. Through much alternative therapies such as imagery, meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques, to name a few help me get grounded again. Sometimes I am not able to get a hold of the cycle as fast as others, yet I have learned to not beat myself up for this and to continue instead and follow the processes that I trust will work. And if that all fails I turn to prescription meds.  But this is really a very private time. This is not how I want others in my life to see me. This is not at all how I want to be known. This IS NOT MY IDENTITY!

This is not who I am!

I am so much more than a diagnosis in a chart. Even those who are part of my team that help me manage my illness can see beyond the medical jargon and look me in the eye. I refuse to be placed or even to place myself into a category of any kind. I have never liked “labels” and I am not starting now.

Defining one’s self by any one or two things can be dangerous. Being labeled, or labeling yourself can be an emotional suicide. Seriously. If I should start thinking and referring to myself in terms of just my medical diagnosis I’d be in trouble. How on earth could I see anything else beyond?

I have too much to do, too much life to finish on this planet. I refuse to waste one more breath than needed on the illnesses I have. They are there. Okay I get it. I can not ignore the many faucets of my symptoms.  But I react in a much different way today than I did some 28 years ago. I know now that to have a knee jerk reaction to a flare-up will be my undoing. I make things worse. Calmly and with great spirit I know what to do and I do not over react. In a matter of hours, days, or weeks I will be okay. Even if my days are not as “perky” as I would prefer them to be I am grateful to have the wisdom and learned methods of coping with flare-ups now. They are part of my life, but they are not my life. They are not me. I am not my disease.

I get that it’s easy and sometimes maybe even comfortable to define yourself by what your mind and body may have manifested. But this is just all part of life, is it not? This is all part of living and after having looked at the alternative long ago of not living when I first began this journey of chronic illness I’ve decided it’s so worth it. This life of mine will be final one day, yet in the mean time I plan on creating so many others ways to be defined by. Anything else but an illness.

I am a woman of means. Many means. A woman who loves fiercely & hard, who cherishes life’s precious moments for what they are, lives for this generous moment and stays mindful of only the now. This is how I would like to be defined. This is just part of who I am. This is how I choose to identify myself. When I meet a new friend I do not shake their hand and say, “hello, I am Illness, I am in pain”.

How absurd!

This one little Ole post from Dr Michael really got my mind a buzz with his topic. Like I said above, he was referring to Mental Health but I so believe in body, mind & spirit are connected, not separate from themselves.  I know this theory works both ways. So I am sure he will not mind that I twisted his post to fit my thoughts, that his words provoked, and his clinical antidote to fit a physical health. It’s all relative after all, yes?

I am a grateful woman who has a chronic illness & diseased spine. So be it. What one of us who has lived 5 plus decades does not have something a miss? I am grateful for my illness and the pain I have encountered for 28 years as it has taught me so much about myself, about this world I call community that I live in, and live with. I am most grateful for how in tune I was forced to become about my body. I am grateful for the spiritual wisdom that I have garnered through-out the years in finding ways to cope. I am no different from anyone else and for that I too am grateful.
I am a woman of substance.  I am passionate. I love fiercely and I wish for all those in my world to be content and happy. I am not my illness!

Nor will I ever choose to be.

©tjtaylor 2011


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