“Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it.” -Unknown
As April showers rounded out the month, I found myself thinking about how conflict can be inner or outer, big or small, positive or negative, joyful, bittersweet, or sad. This past week has been a bit of a mix of conflicting emotions from laughter & joy, to melancholy and tears as I have been observing change and inner conflict in my life on many levels, and been confronted with the reactions of people around me to my always changing health situation. The latter part of the week, I found myself shedding tears, and feeling particularly vulnerable and sad, my peace of mind disturbed and unsettled. I felt like I was walking a very lonely road.
My post-seizure emotional reaction to the trauma of it seems to have been delayed until now, and I have been feeling particularly vulnerable in recent days. Why now? I don’t know – maybe because the is a post-seizure euphoria that keeps one smiling after such a trauma? Maybe because I felt it best to keep a calming smile on my face and stay strong for my family and friends, so they won’t worry about me? Maybe because…because…I don’t want to face the fact that I am terrified myself. Maybe because I myself feel like a burden to my friends and family at times – and I am struggling to cope with that feeling.
This week I found myself reacting with private tears to a few things that normally I would never even give a thought about other than feeling gratitude.
The first thing that seemed to trigger a post-seizure vulnerability was when I went into work, and saw first hand once again how my management team is working to ensure that I can keep working, how to keep me safe while I work at home, how to enable me to continue to be as efficient as always, showing concern for me and asking after my health. I closeted myself in my office, and spent a hour or so crying as I worked, feeling like a burden to my company. The witness in me was able to pull back and understand that the reality of this is not true, but the little girl in me felt…like a burden, causing so much trouble and wondering if it was selfish of me to want and need to keep working. My colleague, who is like a brother to me, hugged me and talked with me – reassuring me that they want me there – that I make a difference in their working lives.
The second thing that hit me, and what forced me to face that I am in a vulnerable place and need to work through it, was when I went into yoga, and the instructor gave me what I perceived of as a disapproving look since I was taking the hot yoga class (which I had not attended since my seizure event due to the concern that heat can exacerbate MS symptoms). While the witness in me understood that this person was only concerned for me and possibly afraid of what would happen if I had a seizure, the little girl in me felt…like an unwelcome burden. The feeling hit me like a sledge hammer, and I found myself crying on my mat, grateful that the sweat was pouring down my face so much that rivulets of tears could not be distinguished from rivulets of sweat.
I found myself planning ways I could possibly disappear into the wood work – like starting fresh at a new yoga place, where nobody knows me or my history, and remaining as anonymous as possible so that I would just be seen as another yogini, and not be seen as the lady with the really scary medical condition. Or maybe pulling away from friends so that I don’t burden them with fears for my health anymore. Or maybe going on retirement disability so that my colleagues and managers don’t have to be concerned with my ability to work. Talk about melodramatic, eh?
I got through my yoga class, planning to quickly run out after the class and grab a cab home, when a fellow yogini came up and offered me a ride home. I felt a bit cornered – knowing this person has seen some of my vulnerable side before, and hoping I could hide it from her. I accepted the ride because she is a good friend, and I felt it would be seen as rude if I refused but then was seen waiting outside for a cab. All I really wanted to do was run and hide. When she asked me if I was ok, I put on a brave smile and said “of course”. She drove me home, and we talked of some wonderful events that had occurred in her day – and I felt joy for her, and relief that I was obviously doing a good job at hiding my own fragile emotional state. Once we got to my place, she looked me straight in the eye, and asked me if I was ok – she said she could tell something was wrong. (So much for my great acting skills, eh?) It all came pouring out (my fears, my sense of burden, and my vulnerability). She held my hand and told me what a strong person I am, and how much people look up to me as inspiration.
Vulnerability – good can come out of it, but sometimes there is pain along with it. What is my own vulnerability teaching me? Well – that I am not invulnerable and it’s not a fault. That emotional pain can often lead to a deeper understanding and awareness of one’s happiness. That I can make a difference in people’s lives, even if I don’t always see it. That I am blessed to have family and friends who love me, and are accepting of me despite my health situation. That I cannot force myself to always “be strong” – that sometimes I have to allow my family & friends to help me when they offer, because I am not a burden in their eyes, only in my own eyes.
“Some people think it’s holding that makes one strong—sometimes it’s letting go.” -Unknown
Feeling my vulnerability, and allowing others to see that vulnerability, is difficult. But I know that I will come out on the other side having learned more about myself, and seeing the warm rays of sunny hope and inner strength.