Our body is our cage — we’re all trapped in it with no means of escape. You might as well decorate the walls, drape it in your preferred stylish illusion, and learn to love its cracks. I suppose you either adorn your cage or hang from its walls.
But my walls are strangling me. They’re more than a prison — it’s my own torture chamber.
You can take this metaphor literally — in many ways, I am more metal than man. The truth within my elaborate diction is that I have a metal spine, missing and cracked ribs, nerve damage, restricted mobility and an infinite supply of chronic pain. I am the definition of the “worst case scenario” doctors assure scoliosis patients will never happen. I’m disabled and will be for the rest of my life.
Oftentimes, the never-ending has an expiry date, you just don’t see it until it has passed. You’ll never love again until you fall head over heels. Your depression is relentless till the droning subsides. Nothing lasts forever, the only consistency is change, all things must pass, yada yada yada.
However, some things really do last forever. In my experience, that’s death and chronic pain. I finished my reckoning with death years ago — it’s inevitable, unavoidable and the knowledge of this end is what makes living all the sweeter. My other inevitability is significantly more horrid; a bone-chillingly consistent rain on my parade that rusts me ridged with every drop and holds the full expression of my youth, life and passion at ransom.
My body hurts me — every single day, eight days a week, year upon year, with no sick days. There is no end, no cure, no fix. Pain has been my begrudging poisonous partner since seventh grade, when my back first contorted into a sickly S. You’d think I’d get used to it. Grow numb, accept my fate and move on. My pain is just my burden to bear.
However, knowing I must bear this burden till death I do part is terrifying. Realizing I must endure varying levels of excruciating pain for the rest of my life — knowing there is no reprieve — is petrifying. This horror haunts my mind and racks my body. It wears me down day after day, saps me of my positivity and makes me a bitter monster.
A girl needs a break — a girl needs a single day off. But there will never be one. I can’t evade my pain as much as I can’t escape myself.
So what do I do? How do you learn to love what causes you the most agony?
I can’t say I have the answer yet. I started this article confident I could spin this, assured I could wrap my agony, lament, anger and frustration into one easily digestible package. I wanted to have the answer because I long to be free of this tumultuous maze of depressing rhetorical questions. I ache to be on the other side.
I guess that’s part of the issue — there is no other side, no easy answer, no neat way to address the complex that years of womanhood, societal body standards and medical trauma have constructed within me. You can’t wish yourself out of a well. I can’t artistically present the solution when I haven’t the faintest clue what the key realization might be.
Perhaps it’s like learning to love your flaws — you can’t change fundamental parts of your personality, so you must forgive yourself and learn how to constructively move forward.
Perhaps I simply haven’t found the right coping mechanism. Seeing that’s all the advice people have to offer, maybe if I meditate, perfect yoga, lower my stress, eat right and exercise consistently, something will click.
Perhaps it’s just accepting what you can’t change — hating your reality will never make you happy, so you just have to let it go and move on.
Perhaps I just need to relinquish the fantasy of being normal, abandon this absurd desire to be abled again.
But I don’t hate being disabled — in many ways, I adore disability. The interdependence, the solidarity through community, the way it rejects society’s expectations and demands the world to meet you where you are. No, it’s the dreadful physical reality of constant pain that I loathe. However, despise I might, it will never abate. Why waste my energy lamenting the immutable?
Maybe the simple answer is that it’s just horrible. Suffering has no meaning, no lesson, no virtue. Life is pain, and I simply must learn to live with that.
However, I know meaninglessness, the utter unpredictability of our lives, promises not only anguish but elation beyond prediction. Chaos is our greatest gift. With time, maybe chaos will bestow a gift so marvelous it will overshadow my pain. Maybe that is the other side — the side where suffering loses its bite.