I was once told that the sun shining through the trees had healing qualities. That the act of partially blocking out of the sun as its rays emit through the green helped with emotional release. I always thought this was a myth—a beautiful story I was told in adolescence to make me feel better. Still, the great Egyptian architects anchored their constructions towards the sun’s rays; human beings evolved as a result of it, and worshiped it as a conduit of healing including the sun god Apollo who was also the god of medicine. The emotional healing of chronic pain or illness is much like the blocking of the sun through the trees. In order to move forward in this world and in your life, we have to learn to live with an impasse, to let the light in, and move towards healing even if we would like nothing better than to stop the world spinning on its axis. Grief therapy tells us to contemplate and discover meaning in our new fate. I don’t believe in everything happens for a reason or everything is a lesson yet to be learned. Nor, do I believe that if you just keep smiling, you’ll start to feel it on the inside. Rather, I believe in acknowledging the wound, granting yourself the permission to mourn, and then building a bridge to somehow make it back to the other side. The one thing that remains clear when illness invades your life is that everything is transformed, covered in dust and debris, from the role you once played in society to your ability to find meaning in life.
Up until resuming work on this blog, I kept my connections between my world of the sick and of the well separate. There were times where the sick world mercilessly seeped out like having a severe bout of shingles before the age of 30 brought on by constant widespread inflammation in my body. I had to yet again withdraw from “destination healthy” until further notice. I guess you could say that I was constantly building bridges and then turning around and burning my creation. Although I chose my career as a conduit for improving the lives of the fellow disabled, I kept my own struggles with my body mostly hidden from those I interacted with. It was in this forum that I was able to finally articulate my own illness narrative—to see the path I’ve abandoned was not destroyed but remade. I’ve come to learn that healing is about validation. I am not talking about validation from others. It would be nice to feel less abandoned, understood, and that everyone cares about chronic pain and illness, that we all can recognize that we are one genetic trait turned on, one car accident, and one slip of the foot away from having, loving someone, or living with disability. However, I am talking about acknowledging your own experience of pain and illness, your own corporeal experience, and to find a way to push back on the invisible landscape of the sick. Last week, I wrote about shame and I have felt it greatly. I didn’t dare speak the words of infertility, or the romantic struggles of dating while ill or in pain, or the discrimination I have faced at the university because my body doesn’t operate at the same capacity as others because I was afraid that the world could not handle my truth and that to speak these things would result in the people I love taking pity on me, rejecting me, or offering platitudes of hope that would never materialize. But my truth is mine, the bridge I have to daily cross, and it is some of yours too. We heal because we have too. There is nothing we can do but acknowledge the suffering that our bodies are in. We have to constantly reflect and pocket that mirror that reveals our truth. It isn’t fair or just but it is necessary. For a long time after my accident, I had been ill in body and in speech. The known was depressing and the unknown was frightening. It was though the very lung and larynx of my body had been placed on mute. But living with a chronic illness is living with a protracted highway. Healing has to come on this path and extend beyond the near future. It has to find a lane that allows us to brace for the worst and concede that a substantial life event occurred even if those around us can’t or won’t acknowledge it. For many of us, we will never get off this street but some days we will turn our head to the window and see the sun shining through the green. Myth or not, we will feel better.