The Quest, Revealed
An exorbitant amount of my time within the last five months or so was spent on a little adventure in my art room, not precisely doing art, but (quite literally) mapping out what I call my quest for self-rediscovery. This whole mind-bending process of coping with the up and down cycle of my health conditions has brought me to a place of seeking. What started as a straight-forward research about my autoimmunity has now progressed into something more deeper. I guess it makes sense if we think about the body as a complex organism with different components that overlap and mesh with each other. This year, I feel like I'm putting my mental wellbeing front and center above everything else.
It's been 17 months since I was diagnosed with autoimmunity, and while the severity of my symptoms has been manageable to a level where I could function effectively, a new physical challenge has surfaced for me. It's not entirely new at the time of posting this story, in fact it's been almost a year now that my eyes have been extremely dry. I don't say 'extremely dry' lightly here, my case has been quite severe at times, affecting my work and my life daily, that I actually wanted to give up at one point or another. I have tried every imaginable type of eye drops that I can get my hands on in the market to no significant relief. Of course this prompted a need for yet another Specialist to be added to my already fast-growing medical team.
"NOPE, no problems with your vision here", she said at my first appointment with her. "Your eyes are perfectly healthy! I can see some spots of dryness, but just keep on using some eye drops before you even think you need them", she added.
By this time I am pretty used to the fact that no one can really figure out what part of my body is causing the problem. I guess I can say that I'm now over the threshold of disappointment, past the point of trusting any doctor to actually help fix my health challenges. I wish I could say that I am at my best on a daily basis, so that my mind can talk to the rest of my body about not giving up when that's actually the thing I wanted to do next.
This whole mind-bending process of coping with the up and down cycle of my health conditions has brought me to a place of seeking.
If you have ever been unwell like me, you would get what I'm saying. Out of all this, it has become clear to me that mental health is probably the most important aspect of care for someone with a chronic illness like me. It is the fight in my head that really determines how well I would cope or how much I would suck at it. Coping is now the only mechanism that I have some control over, and a lot of it starts with the way I think. And so my quest for self-rediscovery came into being.
With the support of a couple of psychologists, and tons and tons of reading and research, I have created a huge map on my wall in my art room that started from a tiny post-it with the words, 'a renewed sense of self' scribbled on it with my curvy handwriting. I was fascinated, probably borderline obsessive, about the whole mind-mapping process. I went seeking deep into the crevices of both complex and trivial things about myself, and has been blown away by my discoveries. I learned about where I was, where I wanted to go, and what the steps I needed to take to get there. I started to identify the proper tools I needed in my box and made use of the resources I had around me to unstuck myself.
I am nowhere near halfway in this process, but being plunged forward to a place where I finally have enough mental strength to continue healing is very empowering. It was as if a switch has been flipped on, and now I see every single thing.
..being plunged forward to a place where I finally have enough mental strength to continue healing is very empowering.
I had an interesting conversation with the Uber driver on my way home from work today. She was from Somalia, and she said...
Where you from?
The Philippines, I said with a big grin on my face.
I love Filipino women. You throw them into any type of situation, and they take it with grace. We Somalians are aggressive! We fight for everything! You Filipino women adjust to everyone, and never complain, always smiling! I want to be more like you sister!
Oh thank you! But you know that can be counterintuitive to the point where people step all over us. And take advantage. I'm learning to be more assertive, protecting my rights and myself! I want to be more like you. I said.
There is balance that we need I guess, she blurted while pulling over.
Yes indeed. We learn from each other, I added.
I want to be more like you sister!
CONVERSATIONS WITH A FRIEND
Several weeks ago, my friend and I were talking one evening about life and things, and the word strength was thrown into the mix.
Me: This word has an entirely different meaning to me at this point. You know how your point of reference shifts all of sudden, and the world will never be the same.
My friend: Do explain when you can.
Me: I used to connect strength with denial... because being authentic for me is a big deal. I find it really pretentious when people say they are strong, when really they are weak at the moment. And I am okay with weak, being weak actually is being strong in that sense. But the world sees weakness as a negative thing, when really it takes courage to be weak. It takes courage to feel the weakness and just be. In short for me I think people see it backwards, when really it is the opposite thing.
And then I discovered the whole thing about healthy boundaries, and I was flabbergasted that this belief system is so foreign to me. I read up on it, and that's when the lightbulb came on. That all this time something was distorted with my perspective of things, that is why I got quite stuck with some of them.
Now I see strength as a completely different thing. That it is actually not okay to be selfless to the point of hurting, because that causes conflict within. And when that happens it screws you over. Now everything made sense to me. Why I behave the way I do, or why I choose the things I choose until my resentment is out of control and I become aggressive. All my life I've been passive aggressive, and how the heck did I manage that?
Strength is about assertion, not aggression, nor pretense. It is about actually guarding your heart and soul, so that nothing can make you feel a certain way. Recognizing that I am responsible for my feelings, that is strength. And I don't know how I survived in the jungle without that skill.
My friend: That's beautiful. I'll always keep that in mind.
Recognizing that I am responsible for my feelings, that is strength. And I don't know how I survived in the jungle without that skill.