For the past couple weeks I could feel my Crohn's bubbling up inside of me.
“Hi Kat,” it said softly. “Slow down.”
“I don’t have time for this… it’ll go away if I ignore it. Mind over matter…”
“Hi Kat,” it said a little louder, “Sit a while and sleep.”
It didn’t listen, because I didn’t listen.
It did what it always does.. it seeped into my joints until one morning the telltale deadweight of my arms and legs told me I’d gone too far.
“Well, I did give you fair warning,” said the Crohns.
“No. You don’t understand. I have to go now. I have to get up. I have deadlines and Baby Girl needs to get ready for preschool and—“
Hot, hissing soreness in my shoulders. In my hips. Knees. Wrists. Everything hurts.
The lower right quadrant cramping is back with a shrieking vengeance too.
I feel nauseous from the pain.
“No. Please. Just not today. Not today. I can do tomorr— ok maybe Thursday. What about next week? I can take time to myself later…”
I’m pleading with my body. I’m negotiating with my schedule. I stop, realizing the futility, but part of me still thinks if I say the magic words I can turn off the symptoms.
Ok. OK. I GET IT.
I will take better care of myself. I will start to sleep. I will. I will start to delegate. I will get over my own ego and ASK for help. I promise. Just please. Take the pain away.
I have a meeting in 2 hours. My fingers hurt and my hands are swollen. Well, now I know where the term ‘meat hooks’ comes from, I think glibly.
It still hurts and I have to be out the door soon. I can feel my willpower surging with a kind of rigid force.
“Would it be so terribly bad… wouldn’t it be ok if you just let yourself rest? If you just admitted you need help?” The Crohn’s has piped up again.
“Yes. It would be. Are you KIDDING me? This is the least attractive thing in the world. This is WEAKNESS. Illness makes me some kind of disgusting, needy, weak, gross, flaky, ugly… I said disgusting, right? When I’m like this no one would even want to help me. I’m damaged goods. I have nothing to give. I’m just a puddle of useless flesh. And I’m only loveable when I have something to give—“
"Really? You don’t think your clients would get it if you rescheduled? You don’t think the people around you love you just for who you are, just AS you are? Even when you’re being a freak who won’t rest? Even when you have nothing? Wait. You love yourself, right?”
Silence. Stupid. Crohn’s.
“Yes. I do. Of course I do. I just have very high expectations of myself. And I am very aware of how others see me. And that makes me want to be really awesome. Because I love seeing them happy. And that means I have to be lovely, and smiling, and smart, and funny, and bubbly and pretty. And THIS is the farthest from that.”
“Yep. I guess it is the farthest from that. But um, it’s still you. So just saying, you might want to look at that.”
“OMG. Really?! Don’t you get it? I don’t want people to see me like this. To know me like this. If they do, they’ll stop loving me.”
“Ha. You are so busted. You and your whole ‘real, raw, and vulnerable’ act. It’s bullcrap. I knew it.”
“No WAIT!! It's not. I’m really struggling with it but I’m totally honouring it. I’m being as open and real as I can be. It’s hard to stay raw. I am vulnerable and exposed all the time. It’s just… I don’t know how to do this by myself. And sometimes I freak out. Kind of like now. Because I'm TALKING to my Crohn's. Oy. Seriously. I'm losing it over here…”
“You’re not alone. You just have to ask. And by the way? If you stopped trying to hide me, and learned to love and accept that sometimes I crop up? Things might be different. It’s also true that if you learned to love and accept that you have basic human limitations and you’re not a superhero (yeah I know, reality check) you may just see less of me, feel way better, and not have to find yourself holed up in bed, crying. Just putting that out there.”
What an ass. Even if it does have a point…
But the clock is still ticking. I am starting to play that inevitable game of mental Tetris to make sure I can get everything done before I rush out the door again. I start to shift around in bed.
My body is still gently pleading with me to stop.
"Kat. Please. Just let go."
What if I actually listened this time?
I stop trying to twinkle and shine for a moment, and breathe deep into my belly. And somehow…I get it.
That rigid force of 'YOU MUST' slowly drains and as it leaves I cry with something between surrender and acceptance.
I’m not going to my meeting.
I may not feel beautiful today.
I may not move around very much.
I may cry.
I may not feel the happiness that I love to share so much.
I may not have anything to offer to anyone.
Not even a smile.
And that is ok.
More than ok.
Because this too is me.
It's a part of me that is just as profoundly 'ME' as my laugh.
And it's teaching me how to love myself from the inside out.
This is me finally listening.