We are mothers. We are daughters. We are professionals. We are teachers, sisters, and active members in our communities.
By looking at some of us, one would never know we live with autoimmune disease. Most of these conditions are nearly invisible to the public eye. Invisible even, to family members and friends. "You have thyroid disease? I had no idea! You seem so healthy"..."You have MS fatigue? Oh, yes, I understand, I get tired too in the afternoons-everyone does." Even our husbands at times do not recognize the discomfort we are living with from time to time, when our conditions flare up.
That is because, in addition to being committed to living our lives as fully as possible, we are also committed to putting on our best game face in the process. We get up in the mornings, we feed the children, put on our makeup (if we have the energy to apply it that is), make our calls, and go out into the world. We meet the demands of our lives and our families' lives with every ounce of energy we can possibly muster.
Until a day comes when our body calls the final shot. "Not today! Today you lie on your back on the couch until I say you can get up." Today you let the dishes accumulate in the sink. Today, you skip your shower. Today, someone else picks up the kiddos at school, or takes them to their soccer practice. Today, you ask for help. And you feel like you are failing.
The nature of autoimmune disease is this: the body is attacking itself. It is seeing some part of your body as a foreign invader and it is doing what it can do rid this invader. Unfortunately, what it is attacking is an essential part of your body. It's an unnecessary and unkind attack, but happening nonetheless.
When we have our down times, be they one day or two weeks, the tendency is to jump in on the fight and start attacking ourselves too, for "failing." It's like kids at a playground, getting all riled up and yelling "fight! fight! fight!" We know how unwise that is...how it just contributes to the pain and suffering, and prolongs the battle. No one wins. Battered, torn, and exhausted, everyone walks away having lost a part of themselves.
Whenever I have a flareup and cannot do what I think I ought to be doing, I try to remind myself that to beat myself up only contributes to the suffering. It is unnecessary and unkind. The only invaders that need to be conquered are the voices of judgement and resistance to what IS in the moment. What will heal me is compassion and patience. Because this will pass, as it always has, and always will. But instead of coming out of it more beaten up, I will get up from the couch, having recovered a part of myself.