The greatest variable in my life these past few years has been my health. While not everyone will navigate the experience of chronic illness in their lifetime, I am sure each one of us will face a situation where outside help is unavailable or not particularly useful. As I have witnessed in my own life, this sort of circumstance catalyzes an awakening or utter despair. The best news I have for you is that even when we go the way of despair, as I most certainly did, the awakening will always remain a possibility. It may become very quiet, nearly imperceptible, but steadfast it waits for us to choose it. The heartbreaking reality is that very few do. Their lives may not crumble in any dramatic fashion, plenty who walk in despair present the appearance of great success. Most, I would say. It seems to me they must believe if they can prove to the world they are well and whole, then they can prove it to themselves. The catch is that the only proof that counts is the one that is felt within, everything else is hollow performance that cannot satiate the hunger of longing despair expresses within us.
Upon receiving diagnosis after diagnosis that did nothing but provide me a list of acronyms and phrases to describe my symptoms in scientific terms, I sunk more deeply into depression than I ever had before. I was lucky to find doctors who believed me and agreed that my experience was real, but still they could offer me no treatment. No cure. No hope. I thought my life as I knew it was over, and in a sense I was right. Through a lot of experimentation, seeking, questioning, and searching, I came to accept that I had reached a point where I was being given the opportunity to die while I was still alive (to quote my friend and mentor, Shonagh Home). The priceless gift of this opportunity is that when you are done, you get to be reborn while conscious of this life.
Rebirthing is no easy task, as when you are in the process you are at once mother, father, and fetus, and so carry the roles and responsibilities of each simultaneously. For me, this looks like a constant dance with the ebb and flow of energy. Where am I giving? Where am I receiving? How can I be suspended, balanced between the two?
By receiving the news that conventional modern medicine had nothing for me, I was released from the chains of belief. I believed that the allopathic medical model was the keeper of the highest wisdom, because it is, in its own way, undeniably magical. It can truly be a miracle for us when we break a bone or experience any other kind of acute physical trauma. Modern medicine can and should be wielded with reverence, but I am infinitely grateful to be able to remember other wise ways: ancestral nutrition, plant and fungi medicine, community, creativity, and most importantly, getting comfortable with embodying who I truly am.
I once took great offense at the assessment a neurologist made of my life as he could understand it. I was having a very hard time working, and in short, he told me that I should consider myself lucky that I have orchestrated my life in such a way that I have other people to take care of me. Standing in my sovereignty now, I see the kernel of truth in his words. I was and am still very lucky to have that. But what he missed was the underbelly: the ferocious truth that I don’t need it, that none of us do.