Chapter 6: Emotional Healing

My Healing Buddy, “The Dude”

 IMG_0354

This blog is dedicated to all people who have ever experienced chronic illness of any kind.  I deeply bow to your courage, your perseverance, your faith, your personal experience and your journey back to balance.  Thank you for the support and inspiration to keep on keeping on!

It has been many months since I’ve written and well let’s just say I’ve been busy surviving chronic illness and dis-ease.  I’ve missed my community as I have prioritized being at home and doing all within my power to return to health.  But I felt it was time to give you an update and to reconnect.  Maybe you can relate, maybe you also have a chronic illness or condition that has taken you more than six months to heal from.  I recently attended a workshop on chronic pain and I asked myself why am I here?  I don’t suffer much from pain on a chronic level anymore so much as chronic fatigue.  My heart answered this diabolical question with, “isn’t being overwhelmingly exhausted all the time painful?”  Holy of all holy a-ha’s I answered back, “yes, yes it is!” The teacher began the workshop with a definition of chronic pain that described pain as the universal state of being disconnected.  I could relate to this definition.  My pain leaves me feeling disconnected from my friends, my community, my family, my passions, my joy, my work, my Self.  Chronic anything is painful and by definition creates disconnect or we could say causes us to notice we are disconnected.

For me pain and disconnection feels and looks like this.  My first thought upon waking is “oh another day—hopefully I can pull myself through it.”  Getting myself fed and doing basic household chores is often a struggle.  I have my first rest between breakfast and lunch, but if I’m lucky I don’t take respite on the couch until 1pm for my afternoon snooze time.  My mind is so cloudy I can’t read or focus so I simply close my eyes and let the cats cuddle in close.  No tolerance for any phone calls or business or anything that asks anything of me.  My level of exhaustion feels just a few heartbeats away from the grave most of the day.  On a good day after “couch time” I may get a burst of energy and go for a 30-minute walk up the driveway and back.  Other days I force myself out for at least 15-min just so the sun and wind on my face can remind me I am still alive.  My 80+ year old parents call to ask me, “Are you rested yet” and I have to fight to find the patience to tell them there’s no quick fix, and that I am tired again today.  My mother says, “you should see a regular Doctor” and I answer bitterly with a lengthy explanation of why I don’t want to be shamed and given anti-depressants after a 15-minute review of my health by a system of “care” I don’t trust.

It has been one year since I stopped my life and decided to heal from this fatigue.  These past few months it feels like I’m worse.  It seems that just rest hasn’t been the cure.  I begin to slip into despair and darkness and then I realize I recognize this place—I’ve been here before.  I have, over the past two years, been writing my story of healing from depression and bulimia over a 17-year period in my life.  This spring and summer I ramped up during my “down time” and completed the story part of the book.  I even sequestered myself to the Central OR mountains for four days so I could write out my three most painful stories.  I wrote my guts out in hopes the demons would follow.  I raised a white flag on the long ride home repeating the mantra, “I surrender.”  Somehow the reminder that I’ve been here before, in a place where hope and oxygen run thin, gives me the courage I need to look back at my process and try to reproduce it now.  To heal again.

While the woman I am now is nearly unrecognizable from the young woman in these stories I felt urgently compelled to get her pain and her story on the page and into the center stage of my heart.  Why?  I asked that same question to my exhaustion, to my adrenal glands—why do we need to hear her stories again?  My young woman answered, “it’s time to let me go, it’s time to surrender my need to be rescued and validated from the outside.  It’s time to die to the pain of the past.  The guilt, anger, shame, resentment and all the PAIN, PAIN, PAIN—I’m ready to let go of this story and all of its attachments.  I’m ready to be free from the weight of this suffering.

The pain and suffering of fatigue felt incredibly similar to my experience during those near two decades of fighting off depressive episodes and the beast of bulimia.  So I began to work— day and night feeling the feelings and surrendering each story and emotion after their sting was gone.  One by one they began to peel away, to lighten my load, to bring clarity to my mind and peace to my heart.  Not an easy or clean process but a path I’d been down before one I knew and could trust.  Some might say I’ve experienced a turning point after hitting rock bottom.  All I know is that it was necessary.  The sacred timing of healing is everything, like knowing when to turn on the lights or when to simply sit in the dark.

So what is chronic fatigue?  I have no idea what it is for you or for anyone else except that it is a very personal and painful experience.  I am only certain that for me it is a process by which I am becoming free.  The emotional layer of my illness or dis-ease if you will was there waiting for me, waiting for the call to be answered.  I know it’s not done because life keeps coming but it is the process by which I can continue to engage with that will bring balance and joy back into my life.  My current mantra that is keeping me connected during this incredible time of letting go is …

“May this experience serve to awaken my Heart”

Please don’t forget to look beyond the body and the latest fad diet or health food if you are trying to get well.  I invite you to dive into the mind—the emotions and the heart.  Health is on every level and healing is too.  It will not be the way we looked or our perceived “health” that will be our greatest or final memory upon death or even in the minds of those we leave behind.  It will be how we felt about our life and how we made others feel that leaves the largest impact.  Our emotional life rules just about everything else we think, believe, say and do.  Tend to it like the most precious garden you’ll ever have.  You won’t believe the abundant harvest that awaits!

In gratitude for All that Life Brings,

Kari