This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences.

I’ve “borrowed” a line from Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

I really feel as though I was on railroad tracks leading me to Success. I worked hard in high school so I could have the perfect combination of extracurriculars and coursework to get into a prestigious college. I expected to graduate in four years from a prestigious university, join the Peace Corps for two, go to graduate school in something, get a Career, fall in love, get married, have a house with a white picket fence and two children…

If that had happened, I think I would have woken up sometime in my 40s, 50s, or 60s and wondered, “What the hell happened with my life?”

Life did not go as expected, as it so rarely does. What most people don’t teach you in childhood is that eventually, everyone is visited by sickness, old age, and death (to borrow from Buddhist teachings). Dear reader, you may think I am being morbid. Yet realizing that someday all of this is going to end is a profoundly liberating experience. But that’s for another post.

How we respond to these inevitable life passages of sickness, old age, and death is a life-altering experience.

I just happened to experience it fairly young, although by no means younger than everyone. When I was a teenager, I fell headlong from a “successful” senior year into a psychiatric hospital. After a misdiagnosis of depression, trying to attend my prestigious university, and a suicide attempt, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I had a series of hospitalizations while doctors tried to find the right medication “cocktail.” I eventually had electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which seemed to jolt me out of my mood swings. Say what you will about medications, side effects, hospitals, and ECT – those things most certainly saved my life. Talk therapy was also immensely helpful.

So there I was, attending a local university with the help of medication, therapy, and a bag full of coping mechanisms. I began experiencing frequent sinus infections, pain all over my body, difficulty getting to class or even therapy because I was so tired, and a number of other symptoms. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition with causes pain and fatigue. More on that condition is definitely coming in a later post.

My “plan” (or road, if you’ll humor me) became much more complicated. I faced the prospect of never being able to work full time, of being in pain always, of taking medication my whole life.

Sickness, indeed.

After my initial fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2005, I felt pretty hopeless. I lost a lot of friends, and was fairly socially isolated. I didn’t exercise much, because I was afraid of the pain it would cause (Note: probably the worst thing I could have done). My depression came back, creating a feedback loop with chronic pain symptoms: pain -> more depression -> more pain -> deeper depression -> and so on. It was not a good time.

With a lot of work, I’m getting my life back again. I graduated from college, I worked a paid job for awhile (very part time) until it became impractical, and I’ve begun an exercise program. I still deal with a number of challenges, such as pain flares, difficulty working more than a few hours a week, a ka-razy sleep cycle – you know, life.

But hey, it’s getting better all the time. It’s not a linear journey – it’s more like two steps forward, one step back. I know there will be more times when I’ll face sickness, old age, and death.

I think the most important thing for me is that I now feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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