|Life's A Comic Strip|
You know, sometimes that's just the way it is! We've all been there. I remember when I totaled the very first new car I had ever owned. Long story, but in the midst of a July move, I inadvertently left a deep freezer worth of poultry and beef in the back seat of my new Saturn...for a week. Needless to say, there was nothing that could be done. The insurance company said, and I quote, "We have to handle this just like a dead body." Gross.
But what I remember most is how many people said to me, gosh, you got another new car out of the deal! Yes, I guess I did. But in the end it added about $5000 onto my loan since the previous car depreciated the minute I drove it off the lot. Not really what I had originally intended! I would have much rather kept my old new car.
It is a matter of perspective, I guess. In the end, everything is. How I choose to look at something, the story I choose to tell myself, is exactly that. A story.
The week of Thanksgiving I finally met up with my rheumatologist. It's been a tough couple of months and I was pretty eager to find out what was/IS going on with my crazy overactive immune system. I managed to get down to about 2mg on the prednisone taper regimen when all autoimmune hell broke loose. Basically, what that means for me is this. Think about when you get sick. Your body has a response to that illness - be it virus or bacteria. It is that response that actually makes you feel sick. For example, if the membranes of your nose or throat become inflamed by toxins, your immune response is to sneeze. If your lungs become infected, there is a stimulation of sensory nerves in the lining of the respiratory passages that create the reflex to cough, thereby expelling and clearing the lungs of those toxins. When viruses or bacteria find there way into your body, your body may respond by initiating a fever. This complex process (which can be quite painful and dangerous if out of control) raises your bodies temperature in order to create an environment in which the virus or bacteria cannot survive. Without the fever, the body would not be able to overcome these toxins. And the same is true for vomiting and diarrhea. Both responses eventually rid either the upper or lower GI tract of toxins that have taken up unwanted residence there. The immune system is an amazingly elaborate and complicated system, recognizing invaders, putting up barriers to prevent those invaders from attacking vital organs and eventually destroying the ones that do manage to "get through"! It's wonderful...when it works.
In autoimmunity, the immune system's ability to recognize what's foreign and what's part of your own body breaks down in some way. Thinking that cells or tissues or organs are foreign invaders, the immune system moves into action to be rid the body of these invaders. So in a very small nutshell, what this means is that the body of someone with autoimmune disease is constantly in response to what it thinks is toxic. For someone like me, with multiple autoimmune diseases, my body is attacking multiple systems and organs thinking that they are foreign. That's why, quite often my response to the question, "How do you feel?" is answered with, "I feel like I have the flu...all the time." My body is in constant attack mode. If left unchecked (this is where all those nasty drugs come in) then eventually my body would succeed at wiping out things like my pancreas, my liver, my kidneys, my nervous system, my skin, my hair.... the list goes on. Up until two weeks ago, my primary diagnosis were Lupus, Sjogren's and RA. I have now added Ankylosing Spondylitis to my list, which accounts for the increased pain and stiffness in my spine.
So, why tell you all of this? A couple of reasons. One, the more sick I am, the more people want to know what exactly is wrong with me. It's a hard question to answer sometimes. Quite often I just don't have the energy to explain. Or, as is sometimes the case, people don't really want to know the answer. Not because of a lack of care or concern, but more just because the simple asking is out of politeness and not so much out of a want to know...at least right then and there. I get that. And seriously, I have no problem with it. In most situations, the lack of really wanting to know pretty much matches my lack of wanting to explain! (I hope that makes sense). I'm totally cool with being polite!
Two, I want you to know how I'm managing with this new diagnosis. And this is it...
I really am good.
This is the deal. Am I sick of being sick sometimes? You bet!! But That's where the story stops. This illness, this disease is not me. I do not wonder what evil force is out there working desperately against me. I do not wonder what causes pain and suffering in this body or in this world, nor do I sit and wonder why things happen to me or if I will eventually find the end of my coping rope! It just is what it is. Period. Attaching "good" or "bad" to a situation is my doing, and has nothing to do with the actual situation. I thought having to pay $5000 for a second new car was a "bad" situation. But what if that first new car had a malfunctioning wire that would have eventually led to it spontaneously exploding while I was driving. Would I then tell myself, "Wow, good thing I had to get rid of that car!" Well, was it a good thing or a bad thing? Neither!
The Venerable Ajan Chah says this,
If your house is flooded or burnt to the ground, whatever the threat to it, let it concern only the house. If there's a flood, don't let it flood your mind. If there's a fire, don't let it burn your heart. Let it be merely the house, that which is outside of you, that is flooded or burned. Now is the time to allow the mind to let go of attachments.So when you ask me, "How are you?", if I don't tell you I feel like I have the flu, most likely you will hear me say something like this, "I'm good!" I'm good despite my diseases, not because of them. I'm good because when I look out my window I see the most beautiful row of pine trees covered in new fallen snow. I'm good because when I sit out on my deck I feel the healing warmth of the winter sun on my face. I'm good because I am surrounded by a loving family, an amazing husband and the caring hands and hearts of so many friends. I'm good because every single thing I need, I have within me, this very moment. And no fire, no flood, no disease can ever take that away.
I have so much to be thankful for.