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Chronic Snarkopolist: When the Tables Turn

Post Published: 10 December 2011
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Category: Chronic Autoimmune Conditions, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 4 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves!

Some days I consider what I have experienced with loss and pain and it angers me. Some days I am still experiencing moments of health and loss and I feel like it simultaneously brings up fresh emotional wounds during health crisis. And other days, I feel as though I can actually be useful with my experiences because I have developed reasonable and useful tools for dealing with it all.

I never considered I could have multiple moments like this until I read another woman’s story. Dr. Jen Gunter described her miscarriage of one child through triplets, and how she changed careers from being an OBGYN to pain specialist and how she is still healing from her woundedness. She healed me with her story, “When the doctor has PTSD,” by making it OK to be both wounded and a warrior; healing and damaged, yet capable of making a difference.

It helped me realize that sometimes I am so fragile from past memories of loss of control and being abandoned when I most NEEDED people that I have built up walls. And other times I am heroic and a champion because I am determined to be a light and make meaning out of similar situations. I can heal and still help and not be perfect and still need help all at once. (And it reminds me that people also showed up for me too. I just forget. It is easy to forget the good stuff sometimes. It is far easier to cling to the bad.)

I was just in the hospital last week. And all the walls came crashing home for me. I felt betrayed by my body. And a few friends stood by me and championed me in a way that stunned me. I did not realize they cared about me so much. And I did not realize some of them could be so strong as to carry me through and support me when I needed them. And a friend or two I thought would be there for me, even with phone calls or texts or messages did not show up at all. In fact, they ignored me completely. And it re-wounded me. It brought up the abandoned me and loss from the last major illness.

Though we have discussed it again and again, and logically I KNOW such things are about THEM and not me. And people all respond to illness in their own way – IT ALWAYS HURTS. We want to know we are safe with our friends. We want to know they can show up for us. We want to know we are lovable even in our worst moments so that when we are healthy and strong our time is not misspent loving them. And mostly, I just needed people and NEEDING PEOPLE makes me feel so vulnerable.  And yet people did show up for me. People did come through. Not everyone, but people did. It is time to remember that just as I can be a champion so too are other people. And they are probably capable because they have experiences that create a well of strength making them capable.  We need each other for a reason, even if we don’t like the vulnerability.  And I was shocked to see who to count in my circle of friends.  It is here where I choose to put my focus. I have to or else I will feel abandoned and betrayed more than supported and sustained. I need to remind myself to cling to the good.

The tables often turn.  A person very close to me had a surgery VERY similar to one I have had.  I was able to tell them about it, what to expect, AND even give them recommendations on a surgeon I trusted. I was able to sit with them through their surgery. And when they had complications I was able to support them, yet tell them about my own and that they SHOULDN’T feel good or “normal.” It isn’t normal to deal with such things. It doesn’t feel good to have such loss of control.

I also reminded him that even with our loss of physical control, there are things we CAN control. We can control our food and water. We can control our environment. And we can control our thoughts. Our mind is a powerful tool, but it is NOT our master. We do not have to give in to desperation or panic. People who are healthy and have no experience with the medical system are not used to typical errors or how things just happen. They don’t realize that bodies and reactions can be weird and that stuff happens. When we know this, it is easier to feel “normal” about feeling helpless at our lack of control.

During this time I reached out more. I remind him what he can do and what I have done in similar situations. I realize that stories are healing. I realize that right now I can be a light even though I am not in a good place. I have been through this before. And I have lived to tell the tale. I can either complain about it OR I can remind him how strong his body is and how well it is responding and how he can deal with the impending surgical events he will face. When even unpleasant medical news is broken down step by step, knowing the “facts” gives people a handle on their own “control.” And when we cannot control the bigger things, we can control the smaller ones. Rest, eat, drink, take our medication, call a friend, pet our animals, brush our teeth, even counting our breath when we are in terrible pain is a way to “have some control.”

This same person showed up for me in the hospital. He was there hurting and visiting me and now I am doing the same for him. Life is like that. The tables turn.  We all give each other what we have.  Or we can choose not to. It is confusing for me sometimes to realize that even when I feel lost and like getting out of bed makes no difference there are small things I can sometimes do. And there are small things people have done for me that have changed my entire perspective. We are all in this together.  I might be confused and hurt by the loss of friendships I thought I had.  But I choose instead to be grateful and recognize that I was supported and surrounded by people who came through for me. People showed up when I needed them.  I can make a difference when others need me.  I can show up for others.

It might be a conundrum to have to focus on how to re-align or redraw old relationships or friendships. It is what everyone has to do. But I am also recognizing that we can control the small things sometimes more than the big things.

Has this ever happened for you? Have you had your health change how you see your friends and relationships? Have some friends shown they are champions and some shown they are not able? How have you handled it?  Have you ever found yourself being both in the middle of crisis and a champion at the same time? Have you felt wounded and yet able to use your wounds to help others? How do you know if you are making a difference? Does it matter? Do others make a difference for you? Please tell me. I must know!

I will see you same time next week! Kiss kiss!

-Melissa

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4 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: When the Tables Turn”

  1. GinaRClark says:

    Beautiful, vulnerable, honest. Thank you so much.

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Thank you Gina. I am so grateful to hear from you. I’m grateful you are in my life and giving me your perspective and love.
      x
      Melissa

  2. Victoria says:

    In the past 2 years I have experienced hyper thyroidism prompted by Graves Disease. I was pretty ill and ended up having my thyroid killed off by a radioactive iodine treatment. Next I had a prolapsed uterus which is pretty depressing. I had corrective surgery by 2 wonderful doctors. For the grand finale I developed breast cancer. I had a lumpectamy and a second surgery to remove more tissue because there were cells around the lump (initially a needle biopsy showed nothing so it is a good thing they wanted to remove lump). After chemo and radiation treatments I am considered officially cured of that and I am growing hair. My thyroid prescription has been changed 4-5 times trying to get my T4 regulated. I am taking a Estrogen blocker now because my cancer was stimulated by my hormones. For the kicker I have lost all but 3 of my teeth (this has been a progressive thing – bad genes, diet or who knows what.) During my darkest hours I had to take shelter from opinions and horror stories of others and cling to the family and friends in my inner circle who enveloped me in their love and support. Most of the time I stay pretty positive which everyone tells me helps to get you through it all. I do have my dark and sad times but I try to just get past it. Of course I must not leave out my little dog who is always warm and willing to cuddle.I sure have empathy for all who suffer and admire the courage you show when you share your insight.

  3. RM says:

    Yes, thank you for posting this. I have suffered from autoimmune thyroid since 14, but for much of my adulthood it was in remission. Stress and a tetanus shot brought it back full force. I was relieved to finally find out this last summer I wasn’t going crazy. My illness has helped me realize how to deal with my son’s autoimmune disease. As I learn to care for myself better, I try to teach him this as well. I can understand his mood swings, and the sensory issues (he also has autism) well because I experience those myself. As I learn better how to deal with mine, I am able to teach him those coping skills. I am still wounded quite a bit from a bad marriage, years of fatigue and depression and feelings of worthlessness. I can still hear the questions of people about my swollen stomach and weight gain (Are you pregnant again?), when it was really gluten that caused the swelling, and Hashimotos that caused the weight gain. I may never feel like I did in my twenties, thin, capable, and energetic, ever again. I may never get down to the weight my husband wants me to be at. I am slowly learning to be okay with that, to insulate myself.

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