I notice myself telling the story again and again: “I was really sick this summer. I lost 20 pounds in about a week.” I don’t say it to be dramatic. I am not looking for some kind of pity or even sympathy. After hearing this come out of my mouth over and over, and being annoyed with myself for continuing to speak it, I realized that what I am trying to do is make sense of my experience of illness, to find a way to heal through narrative.
It’s a story I don’t really want to share, a story I’d rather not own. For the past three years, I have envisioned myself as the heroic herbalist who heals myself from a serious autoimmune disorder, proving allopathic medicine wrong. I have tried it all: herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, somatic experiencing, therapy, shamanism, restricted diets. I thought that if I just did enough deep emotional work, this would go away and I would be freed of the symptoms that made my day to day life really challenging. I was wrong, and I was stubborn enough to wait until I could no longer eat to seek help from an allopathic practitioner. It took my coworkers telling me to go to the hospital to get me there. Otherwise, I would have stubbornly waited, dropping pounds by the day, hoping that my nausea would ease enough for me to put food in my mouth.
When I look back on what happened to my body this summer, it is rather unbelievable. I have a hard time making sense of the situation, and a harder time integrating what I have now come to understand–that I will never be without this illness in my life, that “cure” is not a word I can apply to my situation–that what I can hope for is to not accumulate more autoimmune disorders, to stay in remission as long as possible. At 40 years old, I had imagined myself opening into fullness, my life just beginning to bloom. Now, I am struck by the visceral nature of impermanence. I tasted it this summer, and I vowed to truly take it in, to let this insight permeate my consciousness so that I would not forget what I saw in that week of drifting in and out of consciousness. I saw how easily one can slip out of this world, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to leave without doing the things that I love.
So here I am writing, finally, without the ever-present company of my inner critic who has kept me in check for so long. No longer. I’m fully committed to coming into my being in the world, and I call that poetry.