Monday Reflection: Never Surrender to the Madness
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
July 18, 2011
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
I've been so freaking sick that it has interfered with everything from literally washing my ass, to walking down the street to working. And if I say it, you know it's gotta be true because I'm miss independent, ain't gonna let nothing stop my ass in this lifetime or the next. But I have to admit, I was thrown a curve ball that knocked me flat on my ass these last seven weeks or so.
And when you are laid out you can't see the forest, shit, you can't even see the trees. But you can feel the cold, moist ground sucking the life out of you. And as you lay there, you know instinctively that if you continue to lay in this dirt that a part of you will surly die, not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. And I tell you, a dead spirit in my opinion is worse than death. Death is final, but living with a broken spirit is an endless bottomless pit. Like being in hell and looking up to heaven, wanting to be there, but it's not available to you.
But there is a double-edged sword. You must also face the hardcore reality that it is what it is. You cannot get around the hardcore reality of your situation. Be it health or some other traumatic thing happening in your life. Trauma is trauma: And what I've learned over the years is that everyone's trauma is equally important to them. And in the course of life, there are things that happen to each of us that just fucks us up. Like when my last boyfriend walked out of that door. I had never loved a man the way that I loved him and yet in the past, I was the bounce-back queen from broken relationships. But when I looked up and realized that I hadn't washed my ass in over a week, I knew that I was in trouble.
But knowing you are in trouble and being able to do something about it is a different thing. Yet at the same time, acknowledging that you are in trouble is the first step to recovery; Be it a broken relationship or your health. The African proverb, "He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured," is one powerful declaration. Yep, it is your first step. So that Sunday morning I woke and could smell my stinky ass, I knew this Diva was in trouble and I mumbled, "Oh God, help me, I'm in trouble." You see the first nine days I had been praying for his return. Stuck!! But once I prayed for me, somewhere I found the strength to crawl out of that bed and into the shower. And in the shower I began to really talk to God.
I do some of my best thinking in the shower. I knew that the relationship was extremely unhealthy and it was sucking the life out of me. But I wanted it, I wanted it more than life, and even more than God. In fact, he became my God. My every word, my every thought, and my every action was toward him. And I've heard it said, "The one you think and talk the most about is your God."
In that shower that Sunday morning nine days after he left, I accepted that I was a mess, and that acceptance helped me to accept the blessing in his depurate. I was able to be honest about the relationship rather than stuck in the love that I felt for this man. I honestly, believed that God did for me what I was unable to do for myself.
As wonderful as my guy was in so many ways, he still would have sucked the life out of me before I let him go. But even after acceptance, it still took time to work through the withdrawals of his presence everyday, all day. The loneliness that sieges you in the middle of the night will make you lose your freaking mind. But I knew, that I had to let him go to regain me.
But with your health, it's not that simple. You see, with a relationship you can control you, but with your health you are at the mercy of the sickness. Like a man, you know the sickness is sucking the life out of you, but its departure is a tad more complicated then just walking out the door, deleting him from your Facebook, no calls or emails. And I know that torture's in and of itself, right? Right! But you have none of those options when it comes to your health.
So in these weeks, I had almost surrendered a part of me that I claim to never give up. And when I was almost there I was knocked out of my own madness by one or more things. Like a simple cup of tea paired with a wonderful cupcake from More, stimulated my taste buds.
Sophie insisting that she be walked even though standing was an issue for me. I pushed my way through not wanting to disappoint my baby girl. This guilt I have, that she not be punished because of my health. But once out, something magical happened, no my health didn't change, but the sun beamed down on me and reminded me that God is always there. Can't always feel Him, but He is there sometimes sitting behind the clouds and other times shinning bright.
And then the text messages, phone calls, Facebook posts, tweets and visits from friends that were a constant reminder that in spite of how I felt, I was still alive; and there is something about the reminder of life that makes you want to live. For me, it makes me want to do my part in this journey. So while the doctors try to but me back together again, I contribute to my emotional and spiritual wellness as best as I can.
It's the little things that I did, to keep me intact. At the top of the pyramid is reminding myself that God has never left me. Always remember where you have come from and how far God has brought you. It's then that your faith becomes stronger and your confidence in God's plan for your life is solid. Your history with God should never be forgotten; it is the cornerstone of your life.
But also for me, I try -- to my capacity -- to do the things that make me happy. So I can't window shop physically, but the iPad is a wonderful thing for window shopping and it's even better when you have someone you can email your choices to and get feedback. Yep ... Yep ... And one day, instead of going straight to the doctor for more tests, I took my time and walked the four blocks from my house to Hermes to try on bracelets. Didn't have money to buy, but it cost nothing to try.
This past week I even went to a bloggers conference. And had brunch with my girlfriends. They were both reminders that I was alive. The conference put me in thinking mode about how to grow my work as a blogger. And the brunch stimulated my senses and provided me with fellowship and laughter.
I can go on an on about the little things I do to find peace of mind in this chaos. But I hope you get the point. Adjust and readjust that which you can do. Never surrender to the madness. There is no man, no health condition or any situation under the planet that is worth your peace of mind. NONE!! The situation is what it is and for some situations change may not come or they may come at a slower pace than we hoped. In the meantime you have to find the things to keep you together. That's exactly what I'm doing. And don't sweat the small stuff. It took me all morning to write this blog post. But I did it.
Post Script: Health Update -- There has been some improvement with my health, but I am not out of the red zone yet. Well, I'm leaving the red zone and making it to the yellow. I am however, trying to get back to a work schedule. I may not be able to keep up my full load everyday, but I cannot surrender my entire work over to my health. Enough is enough. So instead of waiting on full recovery, I'm doing a little each day; What I can, to the best of my ability. One day at a time and honestly it's one minute at a time.
Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on TheBody.com about Rae's social media activities.
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