“..feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”-Pema Chodron
The first time I had a severe flare in public scared the living daylights out of me. Now let’s be honest, I’ve been sick several times when out in the “real world”. I’ve had to sit down on the ground before, stop for a period of time, be still, sit in silence, anything or everything that worked to escape any of the pain I was experiencing. The thing was, most of my tips and tricks did at some point always work. Sometimes it would take moments, other times I would have to leave to go home. Thing was, I would always make it home before it got out of hand. I always knew when to raise the white flag. The first time I had a flare in public that I wasn’t near a safe place, was the first time my illness handed me some harsh truth.
It began with random bouts of sickness back at the house. Nothing that felt great, but nothing that hadn’t happened before. I had plans of going to a special event with my mom that I had been looking forward to for a period of time. The typical questions commenced, asking if I was sure I could handle it, saying we didn’t need to go, the whole shebang from anyone who sees me right after I lose my insides. I believed I would be fine as long as I took a couple of moments to pause to lay down before leaving, as if my body would just choose to pull it back together because let’s be real, it should know better by now.
This was my first mistake, expecting my body to get me on an emotional level when I was doing everything to avoid disappointment with myself, with my mother, with anyone else who had contributed to the event. I had barely made it into the place before finding the bathroom by the skin of my teeth. Within several minutes, I had frequented more times than I could count, with each time I slowly made it back to my seat to sit in stillness and to begin praying that my body would suddenly begin to understand what I needed it to do.
With one last scurry to the restroom, I found myself second in line to the individual stall. A wonderful woman caught sight of me and it was all she needed to do to offer me her position in line, to which I said, “No, I am okay” as sweat was pouring off my face. I said, “No, I am okay” as my hands were shaking. I said, “No, I am okay” as I was starting to have difficulty catching a breath. I said, “No, I am okay” as my vision was starting to blur.
So she entered the bathroom as I began praying. Praying to not die right here, in this moment, outside of the bathroom stall. Praying to not lose my insides in front of everyone. As quickly as I was saying, “No, I am okay”, I was lying on the ground against the wall. When the woman came out of the bathroom to find me there, she once again asked me, “Are you okay? Did you have too much sun? Do you have the flu?” To which again, I asserted, “No, I am okay” and proceeded into the bathroom where I scurried to find my epi pens and held them against my thigh as I began to cry, wondering how long it would take someone to come find me. I said, “I am okay” when all that encompassed me was telling me, “I am not okay”. I said, “I am okay” because it was easier.
It was easier to not bother anyone. It was easier to not explain what it was that was happening. It was easier to not ask to be next in line. It was easier to stay exactly where I was. It was easier to take the easy way out.
It wasn’t smarter. It wasn’t wiser. It didn’t make me more respected. It didn’t make me feel less embarrassed. It didn’t make me feel less fearful. It wasn’t comforting. It wasn’t helpful. It was stupid.
It was all for the sake of putting my needs last. For struggling to be okay with having a need that could possibly be more worthy than someone else’s at that precise moment. The thought that I may possibly convenience someone else for one moment of time where my continued existence came into question. This was something I never felt comfortable with, asking for my needs to be met in certain ways. Most of the time, I’ve found ways around it, ways to manage, ways to adapt. The thing was, on this day, my MCAS gave me a rude awakening to get that problem in check. It was as clear as day that this seemingly minimalistic problem could have landed me in the hospital.
It was as uncomfortable as anything could be to have this area I was horribly stuck in to be staring me right in the face. On this day, my MCAS, which I so often hate, became a lesson teacher for something that I had been neglecting in all areas of my life.
Moving forward, I must begin to lean in at times instead of backing away and cowering. Thing is, with this crazy illness, there is no guarantee that the next time I try to reassure someone, “No, I am okay”, that there will be a time I’m able to actually prove it.