How could this happen to me?
How could I develop an autoimmune disease at the age of 36?
This was not supposed to happen. Not to someone in their 30s, not to someone who had dedicated their life to health, wellness and fitness. Not to a microbiologist turned personal trainer and yoga teacher. Nope. That’s not how things worked. I had practically guaranteed good health and quality of life well into my 90s.
Although the first 3 decades of my life hadn’t necessarily been easy, I had faced, and triumphantly overcome, varying challenges including caring for a terminally ill mother, a mentally ill sibling, and owning my own business in the mix.
I was capable, resourceful, intelligent and had a proven track record I could deal with some of life’s ugliest moments.
But… I did have this one requirement underlying it all… One necessary ‘condition’ that allowed me to be the ruler of my world: my health.
My personal credo was:
I can deal with anything life throws at me
So long as I have my health…
One must have health if they want to be in control of their life, right?
The one thing I believed was absolutely necessary for me to face any and all challenges life threw my way – my health – was taken away. Never to fully return to its prior pristine state.
My new norm included extreme, mind-boggling fatigue, memory loss, severe migraines, fevers, swollen joints, extensive hair loss and throbbing pain throughout my body.
All these symptoms and more appeared in an unpredictable pattern that made it impossible to figure out a way to manage.
Interspersed were days where I felt relatively ‘better’ (as in, being 75%).
Gone were the days where I experienced a pain-free day.
My life spiraled into one continuous chaos.
I could not care for myself – basic self-care like showering, laundry, dishes, groceries, putting gas in my car, not to mention going to work… every single thing required inordinate amounts of energy of which I had none.
I’d try to do my dishes and tidy up but the exertion was too much and would land me in bed for days. Doing groceries AND carrying them home became a herculean effort. I’d force my body through my Mon-Fri job only to lay comatose for 48 hours before repeating the torture.
I fell into a deep, dark hole.
My future looked grim and my hopes began to dim.
I had no assets to fall back on, I wasn’t married and my family had distanced themselves, while the prospect of being able to work in any career was looking difficult.
If I couldn’t maintain a job and basic self-care, what was next? A caregiver? Social assistance? And further than that? What would the rest of my years look like?
I felt doomed and hopeless. I could see no possible positive outcome for my future.
I kept waiting for the universe to shift, for some external force to change my life.
My thoughts consisted of “if only” statements.
If only… I had enough money I could hire help around the house with domestic duties.
If only… I had a different job, one with a less toxic environment I’d manage better.
If only… I didn’t have to work at all, that would be the answer.
If only… I had a spouse, someone to lean on, my life would be easier.
I was angry. Bitter. Pissed.
I kept wondering where was all that good karma I had put out into the world all those years? All those countless acts of kindness and being a caregiver for family – didn’t they count for anything?
I was a good person. I had assumed that good karma meant what goes around comes around and now that I desperately needed help, it ought to appear.
One of my pivotal moments (there were several in a series over time) arrived in the form of a quote that I saw on social media:
A bird sitting in a tree
Is never afraid of the branch breaking
Because its trust is not on the branch
But on its own wings.
I realized I was focusing only on the branch… on the earth being taken out beneath my feet, on some external force changing my circumstances and hadn’t for a moment considered my own power and role in my life.
Because of the assumption that health equaled freedom and power I took the absence of full health to mean imprisonment and powerlessness.
I realized I thought I didn’t have wings because I didn’t have my health.
I thought my circumstances dictated my destiny.
But I was wrong.
The power lay within me, not outside of me.
My life was determined by me; how I reacted to those circumstances, my perspective, my mindset, and choices were all up to me.
Health, while being precious and a privilege, was not everything.
I stopped worrying about the ‘branch’ and began cultivating trust in myself.
Instead of looking ahead to the future and wondering ‘How will I manage? How can things get better?’ I chose to focus on my strength and resilience; on the fact that I was still on the planet and breathing in spite of it all.
I have wings. I have power.
Maybe not the way I used to or how I imagined it, or what I would prefer, but so long as I am breathing, I am a living force.
The same is true for you, dear friend.
The life force that you are is everything. THAT is what directs your life.
You are a conglomerate of cells; a conglomerate of energy; you direct that energy whichever way you wish… so spread your wings and trust in the power that you are.
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32 thoughts on “How Could This Happen To Me?”
Thanks for writing this post. And good on Possibility Change for picking it up!
I’ve been a subscriber to Possibility of Change for years so it’s a real honour for me to publish here.
I’m so happy to hear it resonated for you, Thom.
Thanks for reading.
Beautifully written and inspiring!
Thank you for your kind words, Barbara.
I’m touched that you found it so inspiring.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Wow! Your story is inspiring and moving to say the least. The fact that you could overcome the devastation of losing health and still remain positive, humble and grateful is beautiful. So many of us fear losing our health, our ability to be independent, losing loved ones that we can’t imagine that we can be resilient in the toughest of times. I salute you in your journey of self-discovery and sharing your insight with the world :-)
Aww… Sumi, what a lovely message to receive. Thank you for your kind words.
I’ll tell you, it hasn’t been easy but it has been a revelation and utterly freeing to see that one’s essence is all one needs.
The life force that you are is everything- I sincerely believe that.
Thanks once again for taking the time to comment, Sumi.
Beautiful and inspiring, thank you for sharing. I also have an autoimmune disease, Crohn’s. I now embrace it and always have the strength of my wings. They never let me down :)
Sarah, YOU are beautiful and inspiring!
I love your uplifting comment and life perspective – you always have the strength of your wings and they never let you down.
I’m glad you enjoyed the article and took the time to respond, it means so much.
Yes, most of us get devastated and feel like the life is just over. Your these inspiring words have really inspired me a lot that one should not lose faith and trust in God and in yourself. Just get up, turn the head up and move on!
I know exactly what you mean… the feeling that life is over, but it really is not.
You are pure life force, pure energy (even if we feel we have less of it, some days)… And still get to experience this journey called life.
I am certain that your presence still radiates now as strongly as it ever did.
Many thanks for taking the time to respond.
All the best!
This is so powerful and I can relate so much. I don’t have an autoimmune disorder but I do have a genetic disorder and my health issues affected my view of myself for a long time (people would make a lot of assumptions about me, my intelligence, my mental health because of it). It is important to know that you are so much more than your health issues (it is like the branch).
I wish you the best and look forward to seeing more of your writing.
Hello Eva S,
I am so thrilled that my article spoke to you.
I completely understand what you mean – our health issues, and how we are perceived, can greatly impact the view we have of ourselves.
For me, I needed time and going through various stages of sadness, anger, grief etc. before realizing at the core we really are so much more than our health conditions.
Glad to hear you have come to the see this Truth as well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment.
All the best in 2018 and beyond.
Love this post. Last year at this time I too decided to shake up my “new norm.” I really enjoyed reading your inspirational story about where to place your energy. Nice job!
Thank you so much, Alex.
I am delighted that you, too, shook up your ‘new norm’ and that you enjoyed my story.
Keep directing that powerful energy and life force that you are wherever YOU choose.
All the best!
Kaliopi, thank you for your vulnerability. It reminds me of the power in every persons story and journey. Thank you for being brave!
Hello Chelsea and thank you for your words.
Indeed, every person meets with pain along the journey of life, but they also have a story of triumph; in fact, I’ll bet they have several.
Thanks again; your comments about vulnerability and bravery bolster my courage to keep sharing.
This is beautiful, Kaliopi! I love how you realized how to step into your power again. Our illnesses/bodies/etc. do not define us, they are only one part of the whole. Thank you for sharing this!
Thank YOU, Beth, for your words and uplifting affirmation.
You’re exactly right, our illnesses/bodies/etc do not define us; they are only one part.
Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment.
This was so inspiring!
Thank you so much, Susan, for taking the time to ready my story and comment.
I am so happy to hear I was able to inspire you and thank you once again.
My branch is being unemployed. I have been so focused on getting a jog so I can pay my bills and support my family, I was starting to undervalue myself. It all culminated in a job offer that sort of insulted me. I asked myself “Am I really worth that little?”. I need to find my power again too. I am alive, healthy and still here and realizing that I have already stepped into my own!
Thank you for your inspiring words.
I am so delighted that my article inspired you and reminded you to not undervalue yourself.
Losing one’s employment cuts straight to our survival fears; it’s scary and normal to feel anxious over the fact… but I’m certain if you were to list out all your life triumphs, all you’ve accomplished and overcome thus far, and the countless experiences where you discovered you were far stronger than you ever thought possible, you will tap into the force of nature that you are and be able to see that you have infinite possibilities before you, and if anyone can figure a way to out – a way to put a roof over your head and feed your family – it’s you.
In moments like these, it can feel like our choices and possibilities are so limited; that the power lies outside of us in changing our lives for the better… but the truth is, we’ve only temporarily lost sight of how powerful we are.
Best of luck and thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.
It inspires me to keep writing and sharing my stories.
P.S. You never know, this may be a blessing in disguise… leading you to a job and future that perhaps you’ve never dreamed of.
Hi Kaliopi, what an inspiring story. While I’ve had perhaps a similar experience, I think it is the quotation which provided the turning point which sums this article up. I’m a long-time admirer of people’s responses to adversity and yours has been particularly positive and encouraging. Well done on your response, your resilience and your strength. Kindest regards, Pete
thank you so much for your kind words and taking the time to comment. I’m touched to hear my story inspired you and was relatable.
I’m humbly honoured reading your words; they remind me that sharing my experiences and insights does make a difference and motivates me to keep doing so.
Self power is the best power one can use to overcome their hurdles. Such an inspiring story. M glad I read this.
Thank you, Vaishali, for your kind words. I am touched I was able to inspire and always delightful to hear from people like yourself who face life with courage and look inward for their strength. Thanks again for taking the time to read my article.
Telling your fight story helps a lot to encourage those people who are living in similar situations.
It requires such great courage and I want to congratulate you on this. You’re an inspiration for all who could become depressive because of similar situations.
Thank you, Ivan. I agree with you, similar situations easily lead one to depression and hopelessness, and I’d have to say I had several years at that stage… and why I felt strongly to share my story, to show that even if you do feel hopeless, there IS hope and I am a living example. No, my circumstances didn’t change, but how I perceived my situation did and that made all the difference in the world.
Thank you once again, for taking the time to read and comment on my story. Deeply appreciated.
Inspirational post. Indeed, self-confidence is the only correct decision that remains with us in difficult situations.
Thank you, Xantha, so delighted you found my post inspiring and I agree with you – though it took me years to realize it, I finally figured out that the answers and power lies within us no matter what adversity we may face.
Grateful for your reply and thanks again for taking the time to read and comment.