Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chronic

I found this lovely little comic from Robot Hugs on tumblr this morning, and it made me think of various conversations I've had with my mother about her wee folk. I can identify with this comic, not so much in terms of depression or self-esteem but rather in terms of the exhaustion.

http://robothugscomic.tumblr.com/post/108645591958/new-comic-you-ever-feel-like-youre-just


The chronic part of chronic illness leads me to the last panel --- crawling into my pitiable self --- after even the "shortest" of productive days. And I have at least three of these chronic hangers-on dragging me down each day: Fibro, Crohn's, and possibly Sjögren's. 

Though these aren't my "wee folk," they are a part of my shadows.
Shadow: “The Shadow can represent our darkest desires, our untapped resources, or even rejected qualities. It can also symbolize our greatest fears and phobias. Shadows may not be all bad, and may reveal admirable, even redeeming qualities. The Hero’s enemies and villains often wear the Shadow mask. This physical force is determined to destroy the Hero and his cause” (source).
Carl Jung poster with woman meditating and the quote: "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
After teaching Joseph Campbell's hero journey construct to high schoolers for a great many years, I find myself relying on the paradigm to help me make sense of my life. I often employ the terminology somewhat instinctively and then have to go back and look up the terms to make sure they mean what I think they mean.

In this case, these shadows represent my phobic-level fear of death since I was 8 or 9 years old and the internalized shame I felt growing up gay in the '80s in the Midwest (or the Heartland, as 'twere).

My mental development far exceeded my physical development as a kid, and my emotional development got stunted at about 11 years old when my first crushes were clearly disturbed at my efforts to articulate my affections. I was not just rejected, a natural consequence of unrequited attentions, but seemingly reviled.

I quickly came to believe that I was unlovable in a romantic sort of way and that there was something profoundly unwanted in my touch. 
Text-Only Poster: "I know I'm unlovable. You don't have to tell me."
Trust me when I tell you that it is very stressful trying to navigate the world of puberty carrying along these beliefs and an equally strong belief that death was inevitable and would result in the complete obliteration of my conscious being.

(I am the only unbaptized heathen in my catholic/protestant/agnostic immediate family.)

Scientific speculation holds that chronic illnesses often have a triggering event and that there may be a genetic predisposition activated by this event, be it a virus or accident or stressful period in one's life.
Microscopic image of the Mononucleosis Virus
Welllll, I came out of the closet and caught mono both in my sophomore year of college (perhaps completely unrelated events...).

Hmm... 

When I returned to my Catholic high school alma mater in the Midwest to teach, I unwittingly returned to the closet and to wrestling with my shadows. 

Background: Oreo with rainbow colors, and text: "Keep Calm and Get Out of the Closet"I wanted to be able to teach (and not just discipline and test-grind), which I knew would be possible at a Jesuit school, but my naive hope was that I'd be able to do so as an openly gay person. Unfortunately, the Catholic church has yet to catch up with me in terms of my self-acceptance.

And then there was tachycardia, and later a re-activation of my Epstein-Barr virus (mono), and then Fibromyalgia, and then a slipped disc, sciatica, and degenerative disc disease. And then Crohn's. And then whatever is causing a substantial complex of neurological symptoms (most likely Sjögren's or MS).

Text-Only Poster: "Godless Heathen"
Now, I'm not saying being gay and a heathen leads to chronic illnesses.

Rather, I'm saying wrestling with embracing and integrating my shadows has taken a toll on my psyche which has manifested into "this physical force...determined to destroy the Hero and his cause."

My hope is that all this bother may one day result in "admirable, even redeeming qualities" in me.

In the meanwhile, please just excuse me while I crawl back into my pitiable old self for a bit.

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