Yesterday, a giant door in the closure of my past was locked. Many doors have existed along this journeyed hallway. Some gently closed while others rudely slammed shut. It has been an insurmountable corridor of doors that I have sometimes been vehement to shut while others I waited patiently for the chance.
It has been a walk of one thousand and twenty-two days. Along this walk, people who were there for its inception, some of them disappeared when the load I carried was too much to witness. Strangers have come into my walkway and tried to share my load though they did not fully understand what I was carrying. Others called me a hero and put me on a pedestal for being able to carry so much while not trying to burden others. That never made me feel good.
When this journey started, I was harsh with myself. I felt I had instigated this journey because I had worked too hard, put everyone else first, and pushed my body beyond its ability to heal in my practice. Then I broke. A control centre in my brain broke and pushed me into this journey. I lived with guilt for a long time, blaming myself for being bad and not resilient enough to make my brain heal. I felt responsible for letting my team, my colleagues, and my patients down. I had many “if only” criticisms echoing through my head as I tried to make sense of what happened. Closing the door on self-blame was one that closed with grave resistance. It seemed I would close it, then it would open up farther down the corridor and sneak behind me to carefully wrap its claws around my neck and expect me to carry it as I continued to walk.
Fear was another monster that sunk its teeth into me and was carried for a long time. The fear was founded. I lost everything but my physical practice – my home, all my belongings, my vehicle – just to keep my team employed and the practice going. I sacrificed everything for that. Everything was more important to feed than myself. There were weeks when I ate flour mixed with water to fill me up because I could not afford more extravagant food. I ended up without anywhere to live.
Fear also manifested in the unknown of my diagnosis. It was not a black and white process. It was mostly grey and it took some undertaking to get the diagnosis of what started the journey. There are still many unknowns. That is a door that swings open regularly and can be draining to the point that carrying on down the corridor seems futile. It can be so painful that I could be happy to put down my load and sit in the corner forever with tears streaming.
Fear has also manifested in whether anyone can love me like this. Though the issues are not visible to most, I feel a great sense of deformity when I peer at my hand. I hide it, rarely decorate it, and am often scared to use it as I know that use can provoke further advancement of the condition. My hand was something I was proud of until the journey. It was beautiful because it was strong, resilient, giving, intelligent, and dextrous. It was designed for my craft. Now it seems like it doesn’t belong to me.
I have come a long way since this journey started. I have been through tremendous change financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Somedays I don’t even recognize the girl I used to be or the life I used to have. Since the journey started, I feel I have moved so far past what used to be that it doesn’t feel like it belongs to me either.
I have been forced to gain skills along the way that I never had patience for and patience itself was one of them. I learned that in this journey, there was much waiting on people, processes, bureaucracy, and circumstances so far beyond my control that patience was the only tool I had to survive this. Patience was a virtue I never felt I had with myself (though my students always said I was so patient). I had never needed it as anything I had wanted to achieve, I had been easily able to do so as long as I worked hard. Once on the journey, there was a lot of waiting on outside forces that could make or break me and break me it nearly did.
Letting go has been another giant piece of the learning puzzle. I had to let go of what I thought life was going to be. I had to let go of a giant piece of my identity. I had to let go of patterns of behaviour that no longer served me. I had to let go of a dream I had since I was two years of age. Letting go has been the scariest part of all as it means that all that happened was not a dream. That I was not going to wake up and be well and get to practice again. Letting go meant leaning into the paralytic uncertainty with no knowledge of what may come at the end of it all.
The big door that was locked today was putting my license into non-practicing status and letting go of my company. I had thought I would have people standing beside me when I finally did this, but this was a step I took very alone. It was like buying a grave stone that read Dearest Girl, May Your Career Rest in Peace.
Peace is something well earned at this point on the journey. Peace is something I have longed for and tried to reach, but hasn’t fully overtaken me. Peace is the gift I hope to open when the final door is closed. I work at peace everyday.
This has been a journey of extraordinary challenge. More than I had faced before and more than I wish on anyone. I am forever changed by it – positively in someways and grossly marred in others. The depth of this journey, the intricacies, the nuances, may never be understood by another. I only hope that one day I will understand.