Written by Iman Homsi
Trigger Warning: This post depicts chronic illness, negative self-talk and depression. If activated, TILA recommends incorporating healing practices such as moving, walking, running, pushing against a wall, connecting with people who are supportive and empathetic, and taking a break at any time.
What is recovery? Healing? Feeling better? I ask myself these questions as I grapple with the thoughts that furiously run rampant. How do I make it stop? I need it to stop. I look in the mirror and quickly look away, not wanting to settle on any of my features for too long. Never Enough. I sigh while trying to dress my body, I smear products on my face and throw my hair up in a ponytail. My cat trots on my lap while I sit on the bed, contemplating not going to work. Running my fingers through her fur, I give her a little scratch, wondering to myself if she understands how I’m feeling. “Can you tell I’m sad?” I whisper. Fear gripping my chest, wondering if I’m hurting my cat by having big feelings. Is it hard for her to carry my emotions? Is she tired of me always feeling heavy? I give a farewell pat to her head and trudge to the door, wincing at the pain that shoots down my arms. My chronic illness is invisible to others, but I sure do feel it. I can’t do it today. Closing my eyes, I breathe in – one, two, three. Walk outside, you got this.
I walk to my car, wincing as I climb in, my legs getting a jolt of pain and my shoulder going numb. Great… I sigh. I hit traffic, while sitting in my car I realized I left my lunch. My eyes welled up immediately. I can’t do anything right. I don’t have enough money to buy lunch either. I’m not eating today because I’m irresponsible. I breathe in – one, two and breathe out. I shuffle my favorite playlist on Spotify, and I sing at the top of my lungs. My eyes dry and I have a smile on my face after singing one of my favorite songs. (It was MakeDamnSure by Taking Back Sunday, duh!) I pull into the parking lot and mentally prepare myself. You got this, put the mask on. No one will know.
Walking into the office I’m greeted by everyone, I have a smile plastered on my face and I immediately start cracking jokes with my team. Hours go by, we are so busy I haven’t even left my desk. My body HURTS, so I make myself walk to the bathroom and settle into a stall. I drop my face in my hands, begging myself not to cry. You need the money, you need the money, just get through the day. It’s fine, you’re fine. I nod to myself and breathe out, before walking back to my desk. (I washed my hands, don’t worry.) On my desk is soup, fries and coffee. I look around and see my coworker smile at me. She whispers, “Feel better.” while turning back to her desk. No one else heard her, and no one else saw behind my mask. My cheeks burn while I sit down to eat and I gulp down my coffee like my life depended on it. That midday chronic fatigue has hit me so I’m grateful for the caffeine boost. At the end of the day, my coworker and I walk to our cars, we both laugh and talk about the day. We are about to split up since we are a few cars away from each other and she turns around to shout, “Hey! You’re doing great.” I smile at her and respond, “Coming from the hardest worker on our team!?” She rolls her eyes while opening her driver side door, “I meant in life, I know how hard it is for you to leave the house.” I feel discomfort flooding my body, but I remind myself that sometimes being seen is uncomfortable. “Thanks.”, I say while smiling. She winks while getting in her car and waves me off, “Always, see you tomorrow!” In the end – she became one of my best friends.
While driving home, I count off the things I did – I got out of bed, fed the cat, got dressed, went to work, socialized at work and now I can go home. A soft smile lingers on my face as I think to myself, You did that today! I couldn’t do even two things on this list last year…
What is recovery? Healing? Feeling better? I don’t know, but I’m starting to think it looks a little something like this.
What does healing look like for you?
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