"Is this the new me?" I asked, struggling to dress, with clumsy hands refusing to agree in a painful pose. Glancing toward my smiling, five-month little wonder, whom I would eventually struggle to hold, an inevitable question followed: "Will I ever be free?"
At the time, neither I nor any hired professional could fully answer either of those questions. My future, my pain, my inability to cope, ponder, or resolve all of the above felt like an unstoppable moving tide of excruciating darkness closing in around me, as if my identity was being slowly but surely swept away.
After giving birth, this particular flare never seemed to end but simply began again in an agonizingly familiar gyre of chronic pain. Little did I know, I would eventually be grateful, but in that moment, all I knew was pain.
An echo of my former self, struck with fear and wrecked with torment by the unknown, I was soon swallowed up into an abyss of paperwork, research, lab results, and physical rehabilitation. Within just six months I would be diagnosed with multiple issues and diseases, placed on the spectrum of more speculation, and prescribed numerous medications for the rest of my life. My questions regarding cause were largely ignored, and my desire to find the root an ever present sea of uncertainty. I was encouraged to accept that "we simply all have pain."
This is true. Pain is a unifying human factor. We cannot escape it and will all inevitably feel the pang, in some form, at some time. However, I felt there must be cause resulting in effect, and I was loosely determined (more so, stubborn) and did not listen to the status quo for my treatment. Nor was I satisfied to live in pain, while masking the symptoms, in hopes that I could prolong the inevitable.
The phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind, and my “bliss” was painfully undone, with my heart, head, and body crying out for repose. In all honesty, I didn't want to identify with pain and was begrudging of the thought. I wanted to forget. Forgetting meant that pain was no longer a battle, and that it hadn't changed me. I wanted to believe, in a false sense of security, that I was still the same.
But in truth, I have changed. Change that I never would have asked for, nor perceived, but change nonetheless, and change which I assuredly needed.
My experiences and dealings with pain have given me a deeper connection with my inner workings, a recognition of strength I did not know I could partake, and a steady stare into past physical and emotional hardships that were assuredly part of the root cause.
Hear me. I don't desire to poeticize my story or anyone's battle with chronic pain in a way that belittles aspects such as genetics and/or modern medicine. Nor do I pretend that the essence of poetry can (or even should) be felt or seen in the midst of utter hardship. It is hell, and for some, I know, unfathomable to contemplate purpose in their current suffering. However, might I encourage, from my story, that it can be so.
In other words, my issues were/are more than skin deep, and it has taken me years to develop the will to not only face my sufferings, fears, shames, and insecurities, but to acknowledge them in the first place. I have witnessed the healing principles of diet change, conventional and nonconventional methods, faith, mindfulness, and forgiveness. The acknowledgement of pain and its chronic existence in my life resulted in an understanding that my body, mind, and soul were undeniably connected in such a way that, if I was in need to heal of one affliction, I must be in need to heal the other.
It is as if in this realization of connective need, I was poured into the baptismal waters of transformation so that I might be free from the very things that once plagued me - isolation, abandonment, bitterness, guilt, shame… pain.
Therefore, suffering became my catalyst, not only for seeking, but for finding joy in the acceptance of my need. I was in need, and this was okay. In this, I have learned the necessity and art of preventative self-care, the joy of overcoming adversity (with help), and the endurance of pursuit.
I am assuredly NOT the same, and no longer have the desire to be. Like peace to a troubled storm, where I once sought isolation, I now seek connection. Where I once walked alone, I now walk in community. Where I once felt misunderstood, whether in body or in spirit, I am now known.
Is this the new me? Yes, yes it is. Will I ever be free from pain? Yes, in one way or another I will, because it does not define me. Rather than a definition, it has become a tool, one that gives me insight into my health, my needs, and even my heart, allowing me to see what lies beneath and dwells within the known and unknown parts of who I am...
I am free.
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Andrea K. Beims spends her time between the sometimes chaotic, but always creative, realities of life as an accidental health consultant, home educator, and serial creative + storyteller of HIVEhome and HIVEhome Market. Follow her at ahivehome.com as she pursues her passions with her family - including, but not limited to, art/design, health, creative movements, truth + social justice, and supporting authentic people doing authentic things.