Lamenting a Life Lost

To lament means to “passionately express grief or sorrow”.

I’ve had my fair share of loss; death, illness, plans for the future, and so much more. Some people believe that grieving for yourself, is the same as being selfish. Therefor it is an act that many people feel extremely guilty for doing. But I can tell you, it is one of the healthiest things you can do!

When I finally got my diagnosis, it came with pros and cons. Some of the pros included: justification of all my pain/frustration, proper treatment plans, and a focus for my own personal research. On the other hand, some of the cons were: realizing all those previous doctor visits amounted to diddly squat, having to explain exactly what said diagnosis means to every single friend or family member (often multiple times before they understand), and finally having to let go. See, we cling to this false hope that maybe it really is just all in our heads, like everyone has been telling us our whole lives. We grasp onto the notion that this pain could go away at any time, or that there’s going to be some miracle drug that will come along to cure us. But there’s not. Getting that diagnosis was my moment, and that was just the start.

Going back a bit, let’s talk about dance!

Well, ballet really. Like so many other young girls… I loved to dance, wear pink, and sing to New Kids on the Block. But unlike many others, I was an all-star ballerina. I was at the top of my class, and even got invited to join my teacher on a trip to her second home/school in France. But I was 10, and my parents thought I was too young (devestating at the time, but I have a 10 year old now and I get it). One thing that I struggled with though, was my legs. I was always getting in trouble for locking my knees. I never meant to, and I had no idea how the other girls could keep from doing it. How no one saw just how far back my knees went, and thought to wonder “is that normal?” I will never understand (look up EDS,you’ll see what I mean).  So, because of this, she refused to put me on point. Now, for someone who has spent almost every day of 10 years practicing ballet to be told “no” on a regular basis, I was getting fed up. So I started other forms of dance (on top of the ballet), like jazz and tap. I found jazz suited me (more of what would be called “modern dance” now), but I was never very good at tap. Because of my flexibility, I quickly became a leader in the class. I asked my teacher (who had been like a second mother to me for years) when she was finally going to put me on point, she said… never. It was time for a big change. Then the new semester hit and they dropped jazz. Low administration, they said, and dropping student teachers too. It was a slap in the face. She was basically telling me “you either do just ballet, or nothing at all”, so she got my answer. I was 15 years old, and that was it. Freshman in high school and already felt like such a quitter. But then the s!*t hit the fan. It’s not like I hadn’t dealt with pain up until that point, I had! I had been dealing with wrist and ankle pain for years, but I had always been told they were just growing pains, or I had attributed them to the ballet. But after I quit, after I wasn’t practicing on a daily basis, I began to feel it constantly. My metabolism also took a major hit. That is when I really “lost control” of my weight. I went from a confident young dancer, to a depressed teenage blob (in my own mind) in a matter of weeks. A few years later, I got a call that my dance troupe was having a reunion and wanted me to come dance with them one more time. I decided it would be nice to see some of the people again, and I really did miss dancing. During the practice, I was struggling to catch my breath (I know now that I have environmental asthma) and one girl commented “well, you always were the heaviest of us”, I left and never looked back. When I look at pictures of me as a kid, I was a twig.

So, why the trip down horrible memory lane? Because it reminds me that I’ve had dream after dream, one after the other that I’ve had to let go. I never really let go of my ballet dreams at the time. I stressed over it and obsessed, until the reunion when it was clear that these people were not my friends. They never cared about me. If they did, they would be trying to help me, not pulling me down. As hurtful as that was (and still is), it was the only thing that snapped me out if the mindset that maybe, someday I could still become a dancer. I would lose the weight and then some other teacher would put me on point. But it wasn’t going to happen. It sucked, no doubt about it. But that is life.

I’m tired of this mentality that says, if you believe you can do it, then do it! That’s all well and good, if you really WANT it to happen! Or if it really SHOULD happen! Think about it for a second.

Let me put it this way. I love science… love it! When other kids wanted to be teachers and doctors, I would say “I’m going to be a ballerina anthropologist” seriously, I said that. I went back and forth between Egyptology and Astronomy, both fascinate me. But here’s the thing… I am not a scientist. My dyslexic brain can’t even handle remedial math, let alone what it would take to get through higher education. Does that diminish my love of anthropology or the sciences? No way! But just because someone says “if you believe in yourself, anything is possible”, I’m not going to seriously pursue a career in it. It just doesn’t make any sense!

It’s the same with illness.

I cannot tell you how often I have people tell me just to think positive, or it all works out in the end. What does that even mean? The end of what? The world?! Because that’s when it’ll be for me, unless you can go work on a cure. As of right now, there is no cure for most forms of chronic illness. That is insane! Even Cancer (which I am in NO WAY down playing!!!! I lost two grandparents to Cancer and I know many people who have beaten it) has effective treatments that can result in remission. Where, most auto-immune disease goes undiagnosed and completely untreated. Anyway, I’m getting off topic. I’ll talk more about that some other time.

For those of us with invisible illness, lamenting our potential future selves can be very healthy. We’re not just saying what we can’t do, but what we can. We’re standing up (metaphorically) and proclaiming our new futures. A future that includes trials, but triumphs. A future that includes pain, but rest. A future that we set in motion… today.

(It’s important that I  note this. I don’t always take my own advice, and this post is just as much for me as it is for everyone else. I still have my moments where I feel guilty for feeling the way I do, but my future is looking bright.)

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