I’ve struggled with the opposing need to believe that I will overcome this and to accept where I am and what I have. Much of the time recently I’ve found that I can at best achieve only one — accept where I am. This essay is about how I’ve come to believe I can overcome as well.
I believe that chronic illness is an opportunity for growth. I’ve written before about my experiences with RSI. What I don’t think I mentioned is that I now look back on that experience without regret. I integrated it into my life, allowed it to teach me, and let it become part of me. Some of the things I learned along the way included how to manage my time extremely well (which has payed off in spades as a faculty member and mom) and how to treat my body better (in terms of sleep, exercise and food). I also learned to accept my limitations — I still remember the moment when a stranger first labeled me disabled. As my visceral “no!” slowly turned into a yes, I learned about what disability really means and even began to incorporate disability issues into my teaching and research. I also found a job in which I would not constantly be struggling with my limitations. I am a healthier, happier, and more successful person in part because of my RSI. In fact, I stopped feeling sorry for myself even before I knew if a cure would be possible.
Recently I’d been thinking about that experience and asking what Lyme has to teach me. For example, it taught me how to be a better parent by sharing with my children the ability to be joyous even when we cannot do everything we hope to do. But I had not yet succeeded in achieving faith in my ability to overcome lyme and I began to wonder if perhaps I should view this as an opportunity to learn something about faith.
It seems to me that religion and faith often go hand in hand, so I decided to sit down with a rabbi and ask her about faith and illness. I’ve been processing our conversation and the reading materials she gave me since then … and I think I’ve finally found what I need to work on. I’ve been failing to believe in the wrong thing — the unknowable possibility of a cure. What I succeeded in believing in with the RSI and need to focus on now is my ability to heal.
What is the difference between healing and a cure? Healing involves the spirit while a cure is entirely physical. A cure assumes a single, correct answer. Healing is multi-faceted. Healing also suggests a path toward increased wellness. It means letting go of anger and finding hope. It means asking what I can do to make my own journey easier and feeling the power of my own ability to take action. It means accepting what I cannot control, an instinct that I have until now felt was in opposition to hope. But it removes the conflict. They need not oppose eachother but can work together towards achieving increasing quality of life.