Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own; I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.
Thanksgiving was a little rough this year, which means that for a person living with chronic pain and illness, like myself, a huge amount of time to heal afterward was necessary. I was so stressed out this past holiday that the moment I got back to the safe space that is my apartment, my body turned into a brick and I was unable to get out of bed for a good 24 hours. The following days were spent being in intense physical pain topped off with an emotional state of hyper-vigilance and panic. It’s taken me over a week to “normalize” and feel like myself again. My days generally focus on checking in with myself constantly and making decisions based on what I’m feeling and how much energy I have. It makes it hard to commit to anything because my energy can (and does) change at the drop of a hat. And because there’s no known cause that medical institutions can point to for Fibromyalgia, I end up having to try a million things to see what feels helpful and what doesn’t.
My life is literally in my own hands. And it’s a full-time job. So, below I’d like to share an exercise that I have used off and on that has been really helpful for me on my healing journey with chronic pain (and other wounds) and maybe it can be a tool that you can have in your toolbox too. I’ve used this tool to write to younger versions of myself that needed soothing and understanding and to specific body parts that I’ve historically been angry with. Every time it’s hit an emotional nerve that has led to some form of catharsis and deeper understanding of myself. This week I wrote a letter to my fibro asking for forgiveness and extending an olive branch for moving forward together. I added a new component for myself by writing a response letter as my fibro. This second part was extremely powerful for me because I was able to give voice to a part of myself that had important things to say and needed to be heard.
Here are my letters:
I have been feeling really tested this week. I spend all the time and energy I have working with you and around you. As much as I feel like we’re figuring things out sometimes weeks like the past couple hit and I find that I just don’t know what you want. I know you’re helping me to acknowledge areas of my life and feelings I need to work on, but why does it have to hurt so much? I know it’s out of trying to help me and protect me. I cannot express how eternally grateful I am for that. Especially since, you’re probably very used to being treated so ungratefully from me. I’ve minimized you, ignored you, blamed you for holding me back in life and equated you to weakness. So now that I’m trying to be open to conversation and to building a relationship it can feel like the levees breaking and I’m drowning. I’m trying not to view this that way anymore. Maybe this is more like me breaking out of the cocoon you’ve turned my body into so that I can eventually break free into the form I’m supposed to be. Becoming is not and has not been easy. Or glamorous. Or simple to explain. And it’s taking a really long time. I’m learning to trust the process and I’m learning to listen and take appropriate actions for myself. I’m sorry for not trusting you and for treating you like you didn’t matter. Because in doing that, it’s meant that that’s how I’ve felt about and treated myself. I hope you can forgive me and that we can continue to move forward in friendship, even in times of regression. I will keep in mind that, those times especially, are reminders to treat both of us gently.
Thank you for this letter and your apology. I know how earth-shattering and difficult these past few years have been for you. This has been a learning process for me too. As you’re growing and learning, I’m having some trouble letting go. What can I say? Old habits die hard. I’ve sprung into action so immediately and for so long for you that it’s hard for me to find other ways to help you to manage what life throws at you. You’ve been through alot and I’m extremely proud of who you are and all the work you’ve been doing. I will always be here for you and I look forward to continuing moving forward together. Even if that moving forward sometimes looks like stepping backward. Like you said, becoming is not easy. And I know when you finally emerge from one form to the next you will realize and take ownership of the power you have and lead a life that is meaningful for you.
Katie Louchheim is here for the destigmatization of mental, chronic, and “invisible” illnesses and hopes you are too.