Alright, here goes nothing. I’ll admit to procrastinating writing these next few posts. For some reason, talking about self-management and coping strategies is hard. How do I sum up my day-to-day in an organized, understandable manner? How do I demonstrate for you hope, humor, perseverance, and patience? How do I approach the topic at all? Chronologically? By theme?
I jotted down ideas all over a notebook page, but I’m out of time: I’m going to need a few days to write and rewrite for clarity, so I’m going to wing this now and hope for the best. By the time this post goes up in a couple days, hopefully it’ll be lucid.
(Is it cheating that I rewrote/edited the “I don’t know what or how to write this ” paragraphs above so that they made more sense?)
Knowing is half the battle.
(We’ll treat that bold phrase as a heading this time, though in previous posts bold phrases were something I only meant wrote as an emphasis. )
There is a phrase we all know and use rather flippantly, “Knowing is half the battle.” But however cliché or flippant, it’s true. If you don’t know where the enemy is, how can you begin to fight them? If you don’t know how to make a rocket, how can you ever hope to reach the stars, let alone leave Earth’s orbit?
And if you don’t know what’s wrong with you, how can you fight the plague of fear and doubt? It’s very difficult.
For over six months, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. When I finally was diagnosed, there was a night and day difference. A huge pressure lifted off me. I knew for certain I wasn’t crazy, I didn’t have to fight that fear any more. I knew for certain that I wasn’t alone, others had walked this path before me.
I knew for certain my illness wouldn’t be curable in a matter of days, weeks, medicines, or months. You might think it is strange to hear how liberating this was. But consider this:
I knew for certain I would be like this for a while, that this was my Present, and I no longer had to fight it or worry about it, or wonder at it. I no longer had to try hard to be normal or be just like everyone else or fulfill anyone else’s expectations. Knowing myself, my limits, my Present, was half of my battle. I could channel my conquered fears into constructive rather than destructive directions.
I began to turn my focuses around. No longer did I have to keep track of my symptoms in order to explain to doctors what was happening to me. Now I only had to test my limitations, keep track of the differences so that I could explain to others how to understand me and how to help me when I needed it. One is fear-driven; the other, compassion. Compassion for myself, compassion for and patience with others.
Dreams Still Come True.
But besides my diagnosis, the single most important epiphany I had when I learned what was wrong with me was that my dreams could still come true. I still had the power within me to further my dreams and do the things I longed to do.
I have great limitations, yes, but “no power in the ‘verse can stop me.” (Like River of Firefly, my brain and body may be hijacked or broken, but that doesn’t mean I’m helpless.)
Before my diagnosis, I saw my limitations (memory loss, inability to translate, rapidly losing hold on my languages, inability to hold thoughts in my head for more than a few seconds) as crippling my ability to make my dreams come true. How in the world could I write stories like this? Translation was nigh impossible, no matter what I tried to do. How in the world could I do martial arts or dance ever again, if my body was destroying all my chances?
After my diagnosis, I realized that now that I knew what to expect, I still had the power to take back control over my life.
- So what if I’m losing my memories? That’s why we write things down and reread them.
- So what if I can’t translate? I’ll edit the first translated draft in English, piece by piece. (I finished editing 17.5k in 7 months)
- So what if I’ve lost much of my language capabilities in one fell swoop? I still have English, so I’ll use that for all its worth. Besides, I always wanted to write on the side and be an author, anyway.
- So what if I can’t read adult books because they’re too hard for me? I’ll read children’s books until I can. (It took me over 6 months before I could read adult books, and then only on a Kindle with large text.)
- So what if I have horrible insomnia? I’ll listen to audiobooks and pretend like it’s my choice to be awake.
- So what if I can’t be a professional translator? I’ll write and submit stories instead.
- So what if I can’t afford to buy my own books? I’ll alpha-read and get free books that way.
- So what if I can’t dance regularly or for very long any more? I can have impromptu dance parties of my own for a song or two.
And so on, and so on.
In March of 2011, I wrote this on my blog’s About page:
I was recently (Feb. 2011) diagnosed with a chronic illness, leaving me unable to work.
Every once in a while, life throws us curve-balls or takes us to crossroads and asks us to make a choice. When I broke my foot at 16, I chose to give up ballet in exchange for the time to heal and to focus on school and writing. My sophomore year of college when I realized I was never going to become fluent enough in Mandarin to be professional without going crazy, I switched to French, my hopeless, penniless passion. Now I stand on another threshold, where life is asking me “What will you do?”
My answer? Give my childhood dreams another shot. My illness has stripped me of much that I once had–but I can still write, word by word, drop by drop, puddle by puddle….
No more is writing my side-passion, my shadow. Now it is my sole anchor, my focus, my lifeline.
My dreams can come true, because I’m going to make them, no matter how long it takes.