by Peter Waite
About a month ago I saw my doctor for a followup visit. I had just gone through another round of specialized tests for my arthritis symptoms which had been escalating in intensity over the Winter. The results were inconclusive. No clear patterns. No diagnosis. No ready treatments. No answers. The only proof I had was the unrelenting pain that pervaded my body's tired and achy joints and muscles and the endless, draining fatigue.
I really shouldn't have been surprised. I've been on this journey with chronic illness before. The anxiety of not knowing. The roller coaster of flareups and the devastating emotions that follow. The sterile doctor visits and hospital procedures. It can be overwhelming. And it washed over me like a tidal wave!
I felt any remaining hope leave me. Forgotten were all the mindfulness techniques I'd been so diligently studying to develop my resilience. I had just been through six months of agony and I couldn't see any end in sight.... Just an ever narrowing tunnel of darkness and despair.
I felt like giving up. I sensed that self pity and depression were lurking just around the corner. Wouldn't it be easier, I thought, to just surrender to it? I had been through challenges like this before, but this time I felt like a weary warrior, tired of all the battles.
I was terrified. What if they never find out what is wrong with my body? Will I have to endure the pain forever? I'm not sure how much longer I can cope with this. Without a diagnosis, will I ever find a treatment that works? I'm not sure I can endure this by myself. Where was my courage now?
I left the hospital in my car and drove aimlessly. I was emotionally numb. Succumbing to the negativity inside me. I soon found the car climbing the foothills along the Rocky Mountain range nearby, escalating the mountain ridge along a narrow and somewhat secluded canyon. I was generally unaware of my surroundings, just seeking to escape the lower elevations inside that were trying to pull me down. Near the peak I saw a rest area where I could be alone and pulled over. I sat in my car for a moment, drawing on my last emotional reserves... and said a silent prayer, asking for relief.
Then I stepped out of the car. It was a warm, blue sky mid-March day. Winter was receding with one last layer of snow covering the mountain tops. I felt the sun's rays penetrating and warming my skin.... and my soul. I felt the darkness give way to light...And despair give way to hope.
I opened myself up to the moment and soaked it in. I spent about an hour at that spot in the canyon, wondering why I had been so anxious, so upset. Everything would work out. I was not alone. I had family and friends that loved and cared about me. I had much to be grateful for. And I was surrounded by Nature's incredible beauty, reminding me that God was ever present. At that moment, I knew I could get through this. It was as if the pain and hurt left me for a brief moment and I was wrapped up in an abiding and reassuring peace.
The author William Faulkner once said, "If I were to choose between pain and nothing, I would choose pain." And he was right. I still don't have any answers or the diagnosis I seek and the pain reminds me daily that it's still there. Getting up and going each day takes a lot of physical and mental willpower. I'd prefer not to deal with it.
But I must and I will. This is my life and I'm committed to live it in the present and with hope. And I truly know that there is an endless source of healing all around me.
Peter Waite is a chronic illness warrior (Sjogren's Syndrome, Meniere's Disease, Fibromyalgia, Crohn's Disease, occipital and peripheral neuropathy) and founder of HealingWell.com. He enjoys spending time with his wife and four children. For more about life with chronic illness, follow Peter's HealingWell blog.