Recently I received a kind email from a client and friend in the Postgres Community. It struck a chord because she had listened to my podcast, hosted by Beautiful Strength, which was about having chronic illnesses while traveling in a bus and working full time.
Within the podcast, I reveal parts of myself that I don’t normally share with my team members, let alone with my clients. Until recently, I have kept my personal struggles pretty close to the chest. There was a point when going through the stages of grief about my new diagnoses that awareness became a passion. (I think it was my heart’s way of dipping into acceptance). During that stage, I spoke openly. Not long after, I felt myself shutting down - not in terms of ability, but rather vulnerability. I crawled back into my shell, trying to hide my suffering and struggles. I went back to expecting myself to perform like I did before I dipped my toe in sharing.
I got so wrapped up in hiding it that I started to believe in the back of my mind that maybe it won’t be as bad as they say. Maybe God will smile on me and a miracle will take the pain, the fatigue, and the shame away. Maybe I don’t have to let go of my dreams and aspirations. Maybe I can be there for my team all of the time without fail.
Today I feel like I have nothing left. Everything from my neck to my ankles ache. Two days ago my right leg throbbed so badly I had to have my partner lay on it to provide a miniscule amount of relief. All my bendy parts ached, but I didn’t notice them as much. Two weeks ago I collapsed on the bathroom floor and went into survival mode, using everything I had left to crawl into bed. By the time I got there, I was covered in sweat and couldn’t talk.
How does one go through that and feel like they can contribute? Watching my body deteriorate has been so hard for my mental health that I ask myself questions like that all of the time. I second guess myself more than ever and I fear that what I’m becoming won’t be enough to take care of my team and family. What then?
We’re all in this together, my client said in the email.
If someone else had said that to me, I likely would have done the standard nod. But it wasn’t. It was someone I know, someone who I’ve shared stories and struggles with. Someone who I know would pick me up when I fell and not pass judgement.
That made me hopeful again. Not “Miracles are Everywhere” hopeful, but hopeful enough to remember that everyone has struggles and we all have the ability to be there for someone who needs it.
The problem for me then shifts to a question for humanity: why have we become so distracted that we’ve forgotten to show common kindness and servitude? Why must we put up walls to shut ourselves off and desensitize our hearts just to function? Why do people, in general but especially with chronic illnesses, feel that their worth is tied to their productivity?
As I struggle to answer these questions, I remember that through the pain and shame, I am growing. In a way, I am learning to know and be myself more than ever before. I am learning to take down the walls that so easily get thrown up and believe that we’re actually all in this together.
It’s the small things in life that keep us going; such as an email from a client. Don’t forget that we’re all going through something - some are just more visible than others.