The cliché speaks the truth.
A year ago tonight, I sat giggling uncontrollably with friends, old and new, in a hotel lobby in Chicago, while having conquered social anxiety without using alcohol as a crutch. It felt a little like New Year’s Eve, without all the fanfare.
Today, I sit here looking back and thinking, wow, that was the beginning of a year I could have never imagined. Just when I felt my life was on track, with opportunities arising to advocate on behalf of people with diabetes and with life’s most important relationships on the way to being mended, somebody pressed the pause button. All my energy redirected itself towards fighting off an incredibly serious acute illness, a time when everything could have fallen apart.
Except it didn’t.
Today, I sit here looking back and thinking, wow, I made it through relatively unscathed. No doubt, the physical scar that runs from navel to pubic bone reminds me of the tough recovery periods following two open abdominal surgeries performed only months apart. And the checking account reminds me of the financial impact of those surgeries, associated hospitalizations, and countless doctor appointments.
For someone who had previously experienced the most brutal of panic attacks and the deepest of depressions, however, being so physically ill was not nearly as bad as the worst of mental illness. And more importantly, I did not drown in the emotions that surround such a devastating acute illness.
And for that I am incredibly grateful. Not to say that there weren’t moments when I lost my sense of purpose and direction, and being curled up in bed looked the best of my options, but those moments were so incredibly far and few between. The only way to get well physically meant staying well emotionally – something at which I succeeded – somehow or other.
A couple months back, I managed to press the play button again as I recovered strongly from the second surgical procedure. Those opportunities to advocate on behalf of people with diabetes (specifically) and chronic illness (generally) are still open, those most important relationships grow stronger each and every day.
I know it sounds boring and cliché to say that everything happens for a reason. Seriously, though? Maybe last fall wasn’t the time to press play on life, not when I was still seeking out the rewind and fast forward buttons much too often. Maybe I needed life dangled out in front of me to see what could truly be possible if I lived in the moment. Maybe I needed to go through all the crap to get to a place where I know my purpose and direction.
And maybe, just maybe, another cliché makes perfect sense in my case. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.