I recently discovered a new artist, Stine Bramsen. When listening to her music, two of her songs, which I have included below, really caught my attention. I know in reality that the her lyrics and messages are suppose to be different from my interpretations. I am aware that she is singing about relationships and the challenges that can occur. However, the way I personally relate to these songs, are not in regards to a romantic relationship with another person. Instead, they make me think about the relationship I have with my own body and chronic illness.
You see, to me, her song "Not Giving Up" is an encouraging voice to my own personal health challenges. It represents the way I feel. It reminds me of how a conversation between my inner spirit and illness may go. No matter how hard I try, I can't get away from my body. My body, sometimes physically from chronic illness symptoms, sometimes mentally from being exhausted of coping and dealing with chronic illness on a daily basic, creates pain that I want to escape, but can't. My body, physically and at times mentally, can be, and often is, my body's worst enemy.
My body is ALWAYS trying to fool me. It tells me that it's hungry, needs nutrition, needs hydration, but when I attempt to provide it with what it needs, my body betrays me. Instead of just using the nutrition to help me, it creates crippling abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and at times heaving or vomiting. My mind also fools me, persuading myself that this bite or swallow will have a different, more tolerable result, until I actually follow through. Then BAM! Consequences arise. Not to mention how little I can actually handle physically, before relentless exhaustion overcomes me. How the hell do you trust a body that is constantly deceiving you?
But, I have to stay. I can't trade my body in for a new one. The scars of my chronic illness are all over me, internally and externally. Scars from numerous surgeries and procedures. Scars from painful and negative medical experiences, hurtful judgmental comments, medical appointments gone bad, medication related side effects. Scars from missed opportunities with my kids whom I love immensely, and the loss of identity from leaving a career that meant so much to me. Scars that remind me of the path my body and health have led me down, scars that have an impact on how I view myself.
I can't deny - there are times, low challenging and terrifying times, when I want to be completely be done with my body. Times that I have contemplated how I can end the pain because it just won't stop! Nobody cuts or harms me the way that my health has. Illness just won't give up on destroying how I feel.
At the same time, part of me is resilient and won't give up either. My soul is not giving up, it fights to put illness in it's place. I strive for better physical health, while also respecting my need to feel ALIVE, to feel like I am living and not just existing. My heart and voice are pushing me, not letting me give up on myself. Because of my family (especially my kids) and God, I keep living. I'm trying to let go of the grip pain has on me, let go of the bad memories, let go of the guilt that illness has made me feel, let go of the power that disappointments from being sick has made me feel, let go of the negative impacts being ill has had on my life and the way I view myself. I'm attempting to learn how to let go of the things that I can not change or control, while not giving up on ME.
I am appreciative of others that have not given up on me, and that have in return helped me to not give up on myself either, even if my illness itself will not give up and disappear. I thank my loved ones and the caring doctors that have been an essential part of my journey.
Unfortunately, not everyone has been encouraging, understanding, or supportive. There are people, some that know nothing about me, and some that were responsible for helping me, that bring me down with their irresponsible judgements. Admittedly, I too, have passed harsh judgement on myself. Most of the time I can forget and forgive those that pass judgement because I know that they don't know what life behind my front door looks like; but the hurt of being judged still appears and is still unnecessary. Even more so, the heartache of people in the chronic illness community, being denied help or dismissed from medical doctors or nurses that lack compassion or willingness to truly listen is inexcusable; Which brings me to the other song I found today by Stine Bramsen, "Don't Judge Me."
Cruelty and judgments, even when deceivingly done behind my back, hit hard. Not only does it devalue or minimize the impact of my illness, but it also sends me down a misguided path of shock and despair. Just because one does not have the capability of feeling my pain, feeling my nausea, living the negative consequences of my illness, or witnessing the decisions and choices that I make (disregarding the costs that I will have to accept later in exchange), does not give them the right to judge. Trust me, I would have no reason to pretend or exaggerate. There are no gains that would make it worthwhile. Why would I choose a life of torture? I can't undo the painful truth of how horrible my body feels, I can't undo the honest truth about how much pain food causes, I can't undo how much fatigue I experience, I can't undo the amount of nausea and lack of sleep that I endure. I can't undo the reality of my health. I can't undo the harm that some judgments have on my spirit.
As Stine's beautiful and powerful lyrics say,
"I can't undo the painful truth, I can't undo, God knows I wish I could.
Don't judge me, cause I can't have, I can't have your blame on me,
cause you were not there, you were not there;
so don't judge me, I can't take it anymore."
Sometimes, I "need to hide my pain away" to try to reclaim and live life. It doesn't mean that I am not hurting. Sometimes, when smiles and laughs are seen by you, inside I feel like I'm crumbling apart or that my insides are about to explode at any moment from pain, or feel like I will soon begin heaving by the aromas around me or intense nausea, but I choose to hide it in order to help those I love enjoy moments with me. I sometimes hide my miserable symptoms to strive for something meaningful and cherished in my life. I choose to hide my symptoms, to protect others from worrying about me, or in attempt to protect my own mentality and spirit, if only for a few moments. So unless you live with this illness, you will never know how life-changing and terrible this illness can be on one's life.
"You'll never know how I hurt inside. You'll never know how I've cried and cried and cried."
Unless you live with the daily pain and consequences of chronic illness, don't judge me or others.
"I don't deserve you hate on me." Neither do they.
Trust me, those closest to me, know that "I am hard enough on me" already. I already downplay and minimize the symptoms I experience more than I should. I judge myself harshly by what I can't accomplish but desire so much to do. I judge myself for what I miss out of in life (especially when it comes to my kids), for what I have had to give up (like my career). I judge myself critically for why I am not better yet. I judge myself unkindly for judging myself on things that are outside of my realm, outside of my control. So please don't judge me, I can't take your judgement or blame anymore.
A proud mother, educator, Gastroparesis & GI Motility Disorder Advocate,
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