You beautiful, beloved person. I know it’s hard right now. So hard. Unspeakably, unimaginably hard. You might be hurting, physically, emotionally. You may feel alone, misunderstood. You might question whether this chaotic, painful life is worth pursuing. You might wonder whether anyone would miss you if you were to give it up.
But I’m here to tell you that you matter, so inexpressibly much. I may not know you, but you matter to me.
I feel your pain. I’ve been there. Through the months spent bedridden because I was too sick to walk across the room. The years writhing in pain as I try to fall asleep. Feeling so isolated, so scared. Hundreds of doctor appointments, thousands of hours spent worrying. More diagnoses than I care to recall, none of them landing quite right. Feeling like nobody, not even expert doctors know what to think of me. Peers questioning the legitimacy of my struggles. Tears shed over pain of missing out, pain of being misunderstood. Pain in my joints and pain in my soul.
I want you to know that you are not alone. We are soldiers, living in an invisible war-zone. But we are in this battle together. There are millions of people fighting this common enemy. And we are strong as heck.
Illness is a thief, but it cannot steal everything. As long as we have hope, we have the upper hand. Hope for answers, hope for healing. But mostly hope that we can find a way to transform the pain from an adversary to a teacher. Hope that our struggles will teach us to see new beauties in life – the small, everyday blessings that most people pass over. These gifts are ours to enjoy. We have the unique opportunity to fully and deeply appreciate everything we have in this life because we know the harsh reality of losing things we hold dear.
I have discovered that illness can either steal my joy or fuel it. It’s an active choice we all have to make. Once I learned that I could choose, illness ceased to control my life.
When I have a flare, I can curse it, or I can see it as an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the little miracles of life. Once I catch myself spiraling down the rabbit hole of anger and self-pity, I try to force myself to look around the room and find things to be grateful for. The sunlight streaming through my window. My dog’s goofy smile when I scratch his belly. The fact that chocolate exists. Once I start, it’s hard to stop. There is so much good in this world that pain cannot steal. We just have to learn how to look for it.
That doesn’t mean that our struggle isn’t real or that the pain doesn’t hurt. It is so real and so hard. Some days a dark cloud lingers over me, and I can’t feel hope. Experiencing gratitude feels impossible, and the world seems to be a stormy pit of suffering and meaninglessness. But the beauties of the world don’t disappear because I shut my eyes to them. They’re always waiting for me should I choose to look.
You may feel broken today, but you are one of this world’s true masterpieces. Nothing – not illness, not pain, not depression, not anxiety – can change that truth. The fact that you choose to push through the suffering and keep investing in life is an act of pure valor. I may not know you, but I’m grateful for you, exactly how you are. Keep fighting the good fight. I believe that you can win.