Have you ever had one of those moments where something really profound strikes you out of the blue. Today has been one of those days and it happened as I was listening to a podcast I listen to on a regular basis. The person speaking was sharing a story about a time he went whitewater rafting with his wife. The trip started as any rafting adventure would but as they headed down river the raft they were in flipped and all kinds of chaos ensued. He continues on with the story talking about how they came within inches of their death, as they struggled to reach shore safely. After getting to shore they managed to regroup and find the raft they had all been tossed out of.
After everything that had transpired the last thing he wanted to do was get back into that raft and continue down the river, yet it was the only option because there was no other way out. He offered to pay the guide to have a helicopter fly in and pick them up but the canyon walls were too steep! There was no other way of walking out until they got several miles down river, and they had to face some very nasty rapids called the Devil’s Mouth! Facing no other choice they got back into the raft and continued down river.
Through my ten years in living with CRPS I have come to realize that sometimes this illness doesn’t give you a choice of what you have to face. So instead of going around the storm we have to go right through the eye of it. It takes every ounce of strength to tell yourself that your going to be alright, and not to let fear make the decisions for you! It takes faith and believing in yourself even though you may not understand everything that is happening or might happen down the road. I like to compare it to a storm you see coming in the distance while sailing at sea. The storm is massive and all you can see are clouds and swirling seas as far as the eye can see. There isn’t time to change course and all you can do is head straight into it. At that point you face a choice! Either let the storm have its way with your boat and face drowning, or take on what’s coming at you with a strength and determination to come out the other side.
As I continued to listen to this podcast I could really identify with the things he was saying. A lot of what I’m walking through with my CRPS isn’t a choice but I “can” choose how I can take it on and not let it define who I am and what I do. There are some days where the illness that you face is going to kick you in the butt and your confidence will be taken down a few notches. You will experience things that scare you or cause you to question and doubt your abilities! The question is do you have faith and believe in yourself, and that you can steer your ship through the storm? Are you just sitting there in the corner of the wheelhouse huddled up hoping that you get through everything, or are you actively trying to navigate and steer that ship through?
This takes me back to the podcast I was listening to where the husband and wife were facing the daunting task of getting through the Devil’s Mouth rapids. It was either choose to believe in their ability to do what the guide was needing them to do to get through the rapids, or let the current push the raft into the rapids with disastrous results. The rudder had snapped off the raft in the first flip and it was up to them to steer the raft where it needed to go. Their mentality had to change and from that point forward they had to believe in themselves, and that they were capable of guiding this raft where it needed to go. After many fearful moments they eventually got through the rapids and into the calm part of the river. It took doing the things they never thought they could in order to get themselves to safety.
At the end of the podcast I took some time to reflect on how this story related to my life with chronic illness. In that time of reflection I came to a conclusion that I have two choices. One is that I can either choose to try and push the limits of my abilities and believe that I can make choices that will help me excel in life in spite of my illness. In other words can I navigate the storm and sail into calm waters. Or choice number two is do I let the powerful storm that’s swirling all around me knock me out of the ship and let the ocean swallow me up. So what I mean is do I let this illness consume me and change who I am and what I am able to do with the rest of my life. What choice are you going to make?
“Do not let your illness define who you are or what you can do”
“Believe in yourself”