I've been in a funk for over six months now, due to a lupus flare and complications from thyroid cancer.
Last night, I summoned my energy to take the train into New York City from my parents' house, where I am currently recovering. I had a great night but was exhausted and opted to go home to my bed instead of staying with friends in the city.
When I got home, I snuggled under my covers, content about the spirited evening. I was hopeful that I'll be up for this coming weekend in Brooklyn with my friends, an activity that lately I've been too tired to do.
But despite my contentment, I could not sleep. Like most nights, I faced the challenge of chronic pain.
I was extremely nauseous (likely from a new medicine) and the exhaustion of the day hit me. Everything hurt. My hips, head, knees...
Punching my pillow didn't work.
Dry-heaving into the toilet didn't work.
"I don't know how to live this life!"
This thought screamed in my head as I thrashed in my bed, as I wet a washcloth to put on my eyes.
Chronic pain is hard to explain and even harder for people to understand. They assume your new medicine will make you better. They assume you'll be fine once the medicine kicks in.
But the reality is that most of my moments, even the most joyous ones, are quietly humming with pain.
Most people don't understand that even though you are technically "cured" of cancer, the disease changes your body forever. I went from being an energetic college student to an exhausted mess who left parties at 11 p.m.
On nights like tonight, when the pain is particularly bad, I curse the people who don't get it. I wonder if I'd be better off sleeping forever.
Chronic pain lowers your level of happiness. It skews reality. It is hard to find clarity, but I've written myself a pep talk for nights like this, when I find it hard to imagine facing another day.
Dear charming self,
You must keep going.
Each day is different. It's just moving from one day to the other that seems hard right now.
But you must have the courage to fall asleep at night, and waking up to the possibility that this day will be harder than the last.
Courage is knowing that things could get worse, that things could hurt more.
But life is not just that. It's also about appreciating the joy you find, because you will find it.
It's taking a conscious breath.
It's being present, when you want to slip away.
It's living in reality. It is hard and it is beautiful and it is really, really worth it.
You can do it.
Your inner strength
It helps me. I hope it can help you.