When disaster knocks

Everybody has bad days every now and then. It’s no big deal, we get through them, and life goes on as before. But what about the really bad days?

In this article I want to explore the inevitability of disaster in life, and what to do about it.

The days that seem to go on forever, the days where you lose all hope. The days may turn into weeks, months or years.

Willful Ignorance

People often seem to fall into a state of willful ignorance. Ignorance of the existence of suffering, of the inevitability of death. Somehow, when someone we know has an accident, or an old friend is diagnosed with an illness, or a grandparent dies, we think “that’s terrible!” but then we just go about our lives. Often without changing a thing.

We have an illusion of immortality. And when that illusion gets shattered, it’s invariably immensely painful.

This was my life up until three years ago. I was living life in a fog. Somehow I assumed that things would just go on as they always had, that I would remain as I was. I hadn’t had a perfect life by any means, I had had highs and lows, like anyone. But I had only very rarely if ever experienced true disaster.

In June of 2016, my health was suddenly gone. I discovered that I had a chronic skin disease called RSS (red skin syndrome), also called Topical Steroid Withdrawal, which is a consequence of the use of corticosteroid medication. I had had eczema on and off since adolescence, and thought I had found the “cure” in hydrocortisone creams. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

The nightmare that ensued drew me into suicidal depression, and this illness has stayed with me for the last three years. Last summer I thankfully had a break in symptoms, which lasted for a few months, but then it all came back. Still, it was a gleam of hope in an otherwise bleak existence.

My first true disaster in life

In every person’s life, a disaster is either brewing, or has already happened. At the very least, if you haven’t already gone through one, someone close to you certainly has.

A disaster can really knock you off your feet. I know mine did. However, I feel like I’m at the point now where I’m owning my disaster. I’ve stopped allowing it to dictate my life, instead seeing it as the inevitable weight that it is. It’s just something that I have to live with, for now.

But it took quite a long time for me to be able to see it that way. In fact, I’ve been fighting the facts for the last three years. Denying, bargaining, arguing, instead of accepting.

And I don’t mean accepting in the sense of giving up. I mean it in the sense of seeing clearly, to stop denying what is.

In order to move forward with life, we need to see things as they are, not as we wish they were. It’s easy to fall into the traps of blame, victimhood, and denial. However, in order to effectively work through disaster, we need be able to swerve past these pitfalls and look reality dead in the eye.

I’m now at the point where, although I hardly enjoy being sick, not being able to do the things I really want to do (for now), I’ve fully accepted that this is my lot for the time being. And that’s liberating.

Could things have been different?

I’ve often wondered whether I could have done something differently, if I could have tweaked my attitude in one way or another, in order to get here sooner. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure that this was the only way.

We need to needlessly suffer to a certain point to be able to stop suffering needlessly. Once again, we come to the notorious duo of pain and suffering. Seemingly inseparable, yet so different. And as you may have gathered from my earlier writings, not as inseparable as they seem.

One would assume that when pain goes away, that suffering would cease. Or that if we managed to stop suffering, that the pain would go away. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

There are people who suffer every day, even though there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with them. And then there are people who are in chronic pain every day of their lives, who are nevertheless at peace and even happy.

How can this be?

The secret

The secret lies in the mind. Our attitude is what makes or breaks us. Meditation can help you achieve this paradigm shift, so can general mindfulness.

I’ll end this here. On a different note, I’ve decided to write a series of posts dedicated specifically to Topical Steroid Withdrawal and my own health crisis. If you’re interested, stay tuned!

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