(A Letter to My Relapsing Self for Future Reference)
I know you don’t really want to hear advice from anyone right now. The nosedive and crash trajectory of your heart is out of control and you want to wallow in your disappointment right now. It’s not fair. I won’t argue with you about that. I know you want me and everyone else around you to stop pretending everything will be alright when we don’t know if it will be or not. You don’t want false hope. I don’t want to give you false hope, only real hope.
I know you wish people were emotionally healthy enough to sit with you in this dark cloud without platitudes. I will sit with you in this pit of despair. Yeah, you get the reference. I know you won’t laugh at it. I did just what you were hoping I wouldn’t. I am trying though. Forgive me for making light of your pain. I’m not very good at sitting in other people’s disappointment, even though technically it’s my own. But I will try… for you.
I wish this wasn’t happening to you. I see you free-falling into a tangible type of pain right now- physical, mental, and emotional. It’s like fields of barbed wire, cutting into every available surface as you fall. I don’t know how to stop it. I wish your body worked the way you want it to work. I wish you didn’t have to cancel your plans again, give up another few of your dreams again, re-imagine your entire existence. I’m sorry. It’s not fair.
Remember that last relapse when you wished I had written something to help you put everything into perspective for the next fall and you’d know without a doubt you would heal again but I was too busy being healthy and forgot? I’m pretty healthy now, I’m not too busy (well, I am, but you’re a priority to me), and I want you to know how I got here.
I remember the last time you fell. I haven’t forgotten you, but I can’t promise you’ll be well again. I’m just hoping like hell you will be. In fact, I hope you never actually have to read this. I’m sorry if you are.
A year and a half ago, you wrote: “Brokenness. My body feels broken. My spirit feels broken. God can put it together, but he doesn’t. At least not in a visible way. I know he’s here, working, doing something. But it’s not the something I want. I want to walk.” And you didn’t. You were on crutches for 6 weeks and in terrible pain for a year for no good reason. You had improvements every day (except for the days/months you were worse) but not nearly as quickly as you wanted. It was a long relapse you thought might never end.
Then at the end of almost a year, the pain began dissipating in earnest, right before the world started falling apart. Your heart was strengthened in hope. You exercised diligently (not recklessly), even before the pain went away, and your body got stronger. The work was difficult but you knew it would be worth the additional time and aching. This time around, you didn’t push too quickly like you had a tendency to do in the past. You kept a quiet, slow pace. You rested your body when it called for rest. You worked it when you felt you had strength (and even when you didn’t feel like it). You actually listened to your body when it said to eat well and rest well and work hard. You gave yourself grace.
You did it, you got me to where I am. I hike. I walk. I could probably run if I tried, but I’m wary, even still. I ache a little most days but it’s nothing compared to what you went through. My heart is full. I laugh easily. I have the energy to be present with my kids, my husband, my dreams. I participate in beautiful community. My past hurts found healing. Doc says I can work on heart endurance and cardio now… slowly. I think I’ll try dancing again. It will be hard, but I can do hard things. You taught me that.
You didn’t give up when you could have. You didn’t stop hoping, even when there wasn’t much to hope for. You didn’t stop dreaming even when dreams were delayed and cut short. You walked into community even while you were hurting and distrustful, so that I could reap the goodness of those friendships.
You didn’t let grief ruin your heart. You became friends with it and purposefully shaped it into joy. You kept fighting… all in the name of hope. Ojalá. Thank you.
You allow me to see the suffering of others around me behind their smiles. You teach me patience, knowing with time and effort, my circumstances will change. You are strong enough to lean into heartache when I fight against it, because you know it’s the only way to heal. You live and breathe suffering and sorrow so they might become joy and hope in my life.
You have a purpose, even though this feels like a lie. This is no platitude. I need you. I need your perseverance, your grit, your focus. I need your wisdom about when to slow down because you know how it feels to fall. I need your honesty to admit how incredibly difficult life can be and you don’t whitewash my pain. I need your courage to acknowledge the ways in which I need to change and ask for help. You infuse humility into my pride. I need your grace for when I push myself too far. You understand my disappointment like no one else.
I know you despise this dark night, but you should know I wouldn’t be so healthy, not just physically, but in every way, without you. I am grateful for you, for the person you create in me. I hope this offers you some peace, some hope.
I know everything feels hopeless right now. But it was you who led me into the richness of life by acknowledging your hopelessness and discovering light in that void. I hope you find it again. Shift your focus from the brilliant summer sun to the dim embers of light embracing you now. They will spark a new flame. It will happen slowly, and it will hurt like a fiery hell, but you’re never alone. Emmanuel. God with us. He weeps with you. He won’t leave you in the thick of it. He’ll hold your heart and carry you while you heal.
In the meantime, I see you. I really do. Thank you for walking (crawling) the path before you. It’s one of the loneliest roads you’ll ever take. You’re making me a better person. I hope these words and our friend Jesus hold you up until you can stand again.