There is beauty in the flow of life. When you’re in the thick of it, it never seems purposeful, it just hurts. But I’ve learned that though you can’t see it clearly at the time, there is a greater purpose for your pain.
I was reminded today of something beautiful. I remembered how, for the longest time, I couldn’t think about a particularly difficult period in my life not very long ago. In May of 2014 I was pretty sick for a couple of weeks. Then my sore throat cleared up, but the lymph nodes in my neck never did. I initially thought it might be mono, but then my ego stepped in and suggested otherwise. “What if it’s not mono? What if this is cancer? These symptoms are similar to the stories you’ve heard. What about this bump on your body? Is it a bump? This mole? Your ovaries? Tumors can go undetected.”
Over a series of panicked appointments with a “substitute doctor” (my primary care provider was on sabbatical), I told her about my worries. The first time she shrugged me off, saying it was probably mono, but they weren’t going to test me, and I should just wait a month for it to pass. One month later I had a panic attack in the car in the parking lot outside my doctor’s office, sobbing and immobilized, and missed my appointment. Two months later, I demanded a mono test, which came back positive. The mental damage of a panicked thought pattern however had been solidified. Three months later, lymph nodes in my neck, arm pits, legs, and arms were still noticeable. I returned to the doctor and she stared at me with a furrowed brow and a hand on her chin. “It might be cancer.” she said as she ordered a chest X-ray, neck ultra sound, and a brain MRI. Over the next month I reported to the hospital for a series of appointments where I tried to remain calm as I felt my life slipping away from me. Any semblance of mental control I had was long gone. Ego took occupation of a spot in my brain where it would remain to control me from for years.
After the tests came back and my doctor told me that I was fine, they couldn’t find anything, and I needed to relax and recover, I reluctantly agreed. I knew my brain was messed up, but I was so stuck in it, that I couldn’t see a way out. From then until I recovered, I tried my very best to stay busy and not think about what I was so afraid of. Thankfully my final year of school was starting, so I could focus all of my energy on that. Finally, one night in November I realized I had unintentionally stayed up until 1 AM, something that was quite impossible for me the six months prior. My body shut me down no later than 9 PM prior to that night. A cleansing feeling of relief washed over my body. “I’m getting better.”
Things did get better, my physical health, most notably. My mental health on the other hand continued to lag. Recovery was slow. Sometimes it digressed. I know now that pushing away feelings does not make them leave. Eventually I decided to go on anti-depressants. If you’ve read my first couple of blog posts, you know where the story goes next.
Fast forward back to today, thinking about that season almost five years ago, and for the first time feeling deep gratitude, not worry, about it. If I hadn’t had mono I never would have developed such acute anxiety. It was this intense anxiety that drove my sanity into the ground, slamming me into rock bottom. It spurred on the decision to begin working with a therapist and a holistic chiropractic doctor. My recovery process was slow, but they taught me to trust doctors again, to trust my body again, and to trust my mind again. They introduced me to a meditation practice and helped me develop a new awareness of and loving connection with my body. These tiny changes created major shifts in my life. Physical, emotional, relational, and most importantly, spiritual.
I see now that having mono needed to happen for me to become who I am today.
I understand that unknowns are blessings in disguise. That healing isn’t immediate. And recovery doesn’t follow a linear path. Feel what you need to feel. Then as you become aware that you’re in suffering, see it as the infinite part of you does. This is a season. And this season has a purpose. Which will become clear once it has passed. It is our opportunity, in the midst of it, to find the quiet within. Draw near to Loving Awareness. Inner Voice. God. The Universe.
Trust that what you need is already unfolding. Know that in the quiet, you will receive peace and guidance. You will be given just what you need, not more, to get through the day. Day after day. And soon you will look at your scars and think back to those difficult months with a calm mind, a warm heart, and a whole lot of gratitude.