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Are you quietly disappearing?

Pain is powerful. At first, it is all you think about. You orient everything around the management and alleviation of your pain. But when it doesn't go away, when it proves, day after week after month after year, that it is committed to you, a sort of death occurs.

You compare how you once felt, what you were once capable of, to what your reality now looks like. I was a ballerina for eleven years. There's a picture of me at sixteen, every muscle taut, leg extended impossibly high, back bent beautifully, a glow of power hovering on my skin. For years, after the pain started, after my diagnoses, and after exactly zero proof of the possibility, my mind insisted that my body should have the capacity of my sixteen-year-old self; should be totally in my control.

The fact that I could not make it happen made me hate myself at first. Surely the right food, keeping a consistent fitness routine, and a different combination of medicines would allow me to feel pain-free! Okay, if not pain-free, I could still live as I once did while the pain politely took a seat in the back!

In certain seasons I could keep up. I ate ideal foods for my body, exercised, stretched daily, and meditated. And the pain DID take a back seat! What a wonderful life; look at my discipline! Then something would happen- usually, I'd get crazy sick, and by the time I recovered, I was completely out of my routine. And if anyone knows what it feels like to start and keep an exercise routine with massive joint pain, you know it is weeks (if not months) of agonizing pain before you start to feel a kernel of strength.

I got so tired of taking one step forward only to miss a step and plunge dozens of feet backward. I reconciled myself to a small life; I opened my hand and allowed the dreams I'd long clung to slip through my fingers. Rather, I tried to give up on myself, but I couldn't stand how invisible and passive that felt.

One day I realized that I viewed my health like so many things- it was either perfect, or I was a complete and utter failure who had no recourse but to give up. Pushing back on that idea, I began to see how I had placed myself in an insane headspace. It was physically impossible for me to become the version of myself that existed before there was swelling in my spine and inflammation in my joints. Yet, I was insisting that my life would only move forward if I could. The pain, the difficulty, and the excruciating monotony of the daily fight did not relegate me to the shadows. But I did need to find a balance between accepting a different reality than I'd hoped for and working to create the best possible version of that reality.

If you relate to this, I want to tell you it's okay that the old way you thought about things has died. There is still hope, and you continue to have chances to create a new reality. True, you may not be in a stage where this feels possible. There are seasons where we are so inundated by pain and problems, and heartbreak that there isn't room to consider an alternate reality. But there will come a time when you have the stillness to hear the hope your heart is whispering about. Just try to listen.

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