Have you ever been told “focus on the positive, eliminate the negative?” Do you have a problem following through on that advice?
That saying is almost like trying to ignore a tree that fell through your roof and now it’s raining. It’s also freezing outside, and outside is now inside your house. How are you to ignore the hole in your roof, the tree blocking your way, the rain on your floor, and the freezing temperatures, while somehow making it go away by focusing on the fact that at least the tree didn’t land in the master bedroom?
This is how I often felt when people told me to focus on the positive when I expressed being in pain after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, or the years of suffering leading up to it. I believed I had to acknowledge my suffering as well as the happy parts of my life in order to be productive.
After all, how are you supposed to get out of the freezing rain and turn your house warm and cozy again if you cannot admit that a tree fell through your roof? No one wants a hole in their roof caused by a fallen tree, but if it is ignored, it cannot be helped.
Growing up, I often felt deep emotions. Soaring happiness, rapid excitement, hollow darkness, and deep sadness. I had the entire spectrum of feeling. Usually, no matter the situation, I had complex emotions that confused me. At my grandfather’s funeral, I attempted to help serve food, set up tables, and had no idea I was supposed to sit with my grandmother. Her sisters were there, and as she never saw them, I thought they would be a bigger comfort to her than me. As someone who frequently helps at funerals, I had only rarely been part of the grieving family to be supported. I did not cry when my grandfather died, even though I missed him and loved him. The night before his funeral, I saw a silvery image of him come to hug me as I tried to fall asleep. My grieving process is still going on, and he died five years ago when I graduated college. After the initial numbness passed, I was greeted by regret, anger, and questioning.
This is just an example of how I experience emotions. Another is disaster planning. I have a bad habit for looking at a situation, seeing what could go wrong, and planning for the worst proactively. It’s not an entirely bad trait. But sometimes I will be excited about an idea, will have already run my disaster planning algorithm through it, only for my mother to shoot it down with extremely shallow disaster planning that was, well, preschool disaster planning, telling me I don’t think through things and proceed to forbid or simply kill my vibe. If I’m honest I think the fact that I am expressive and have more of an emotional ecosystem than my parents lead me to believe they think I cannot be rational, so when I am excited, I must have a bad idea.
The truth is, we all have emotions. Some people simply wear masks, like my parents. I am a bit too honest for facades and my feelings give me intuition that I operate out of. It also gives me a holistic approach to situations.
Growing up and today, disaster planning while feeling a positive emotion and not experiencing a total eclipse of the heart when tragedy happened prepared me (somewhat) for my fibromyalgia diagnosis.
When I was first diagnosed, I knew that not everything made sense. I fought for answers, found community, and researched coping skills. My previous posts outline some of these.
However, my greatest teacher for managing fibromyalgia is the yin-and-yang concept.
There is some good in the bad and some bad in the good. The light side and the dark side complete the whole.
Basically, imagine walking into a lit room with a couch in it. The light casts shadows in the room and on the couch you go to sit on.
Your depth perception as you walk to the couch and how you see the couch would be way off if you couldn’t see the light or the shadow. You may not possibly be able to make it to the couch!
When it comes to chronic illness and chronic pain, it is ridiculous to ignore our suffering. However we will not make it out alive by merely focusing on the shadows.
This is why I typically end each post with “pocket full of starlight” and “pocket full of darkness.”
With that said, a recap:
Pocket full of starlight: darkness has a friend, it’s name is light, and they rely on each other. For every pain you feel there is something lingering within waiting to shine on you.
Pocket full of darkness: in order to take the good, you must take the bad. Sometimes even with all the disaster planning in the world we cannot avoid disasters.