By Pamela Mueggenberg LMHP, MA Art Therapy Counseling
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” -Viktor Frankl
We are now entering a new phase in this pandemic - after two years of putting off routine appointments, teeth cleanings, and annual checkups we are all headed back to the doctor.
In some ways this is a symbol of the hope we have that our lives are getting back to self-care and normalcy versus crisis and fear. Unfortunately, for many of us this means we have test results coming back, that point to newly discovered illnesses. An abnormal pap smear. A lump in the breast. Higher blood glucose. Liver enzymes.
By June 30, 2020 41% of adults in the US have delayed or avoided medical care due to concerns about Covid. Emergency room visits declined 42% during the same time period. The CDC estimates that 1,438 cancerous and precancerous lesion diagnoses were missed during the pandemic. Our bodies have been in a holding pattern through this quarantine, and are showing the effects of it.
We are slowly integrating the tides of Covid into our daily lives, and coming to see that other elements of our health require our attention. Oftentimes we equate health, or fitness of body, with a “good” life. What does it mean, then, when we get sick?
In 1997, Claire Wineland was born with cystic fibrosis and was originally given 10 years to live. With advances in medicine and her own strength of will, she was able to be a vibrant force of public education and advocacy for CF until her death in 2018. She described the 5 hours of breathing treatments a day, the 50 medications, over 30 surgeries in her lifetime, and the suffering that is a part of her life.
Still, she says, “you can suffer and be okay. You can suffer and still make something. That the quality of your life isn’t determined by whether you’re healthy or sick or rich or poor, not at all, it’s determined by what you make out of your experience as a human being, out of the embarrassing moments and the painful moments. It’s what you make and what you give from that place.”
I invite you to take a look inward and see: what do you give, what meaning do you make from your life’s circumstances? Do you see your own suffering as isolating, or a window to see the pain in others? Does the weight of your own challenges make it harder to connect to others, or does it remind you of how fleeting and sacred those connections are? Have you discovered you are stronger, more afraid, more brave, less patient, kinder than you realized?
How do you want to be? In your wisest moments, what do you want to give?
At some point in all our lives, we will get sick. What we do may have to change to accommodate our body’s new needs. But always remember, you are a transcendent being. Who you are is not limited to your physical health. How you make other’s feel, what beauty you create in the world, the people in your world that are better off because you are here, this transcends the bounds of your body. You are bigger than any one of these things, and to quote Ms. Wineland, you can be okay.
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