I never write about life with a chronic illness. It's bad enough that it intrudes, an unwanted guest, into daily life. It needn't think there's room for it in my writing life.
And I'm not one of those people, Louise Hay book tucked under their arm, who looks for deeper meanings, lessons, who communicates with their illness as if it were co-writing their life's narrative, as if illness had its own trajectory or personality.
To me, it's all a lottery and the same one that gifted me with three easy births and an ability to scan. Luck of the draw. You win some, you lose others.
I despise the glibness with which people discuss the 'gift of their illness'. If I could swap my (non-smoking) lungs for a better pair, would I ? What kind of madwoman would decline ?
Illness teaches. It teaches me that much of life is beyond my control. It teaches me tolerance. And it teaches me that my ideals are more fluid than I think and that circumstances may shape my choices.
At twenty I toughed out glandular fever, its fatigue and hallucinations, without anything stronger than garlic. I fought with my sister at a wedding over the moral weakness of those who took antibiotics.
Today I read a comment online that said much the same thing. Quit taking chemical medicines. It's better for the earth if you die young anyway. Flippant, not meaning to wound. Thoughtless. Of what comfort is that to my child ?
When your health depends on a medicine, you take it. When your child's life depends on a medicine, you allow it. Some drugs are poisons, they injure as they cure. And they are the only option available. Not everything is cured by a gluten free diet, meditation, vegetarianism, organics only, chiropractics, prayer. Some illnesses yield only to the laboratory.
It's a lottery, and you buy your ticket in the womb.
And you know what ? It's good. It's good to have your lofty ideas broken into shards, like a piece of pottery left behind in a war zone. It makes you softer as it toughens you, it makes you cease to judge. It gives you an ability to tolerate ambiguity; to take the Western drug, to be the one who shows us how we fail every day to be perfect. How we all fail.
Illness makes human failure visible. Chronic illness makes it visible all the time. There is no resolution. And so we blame the ones whose failure offends us and hold them at arms length - it's you, it's not me. My certainties will keep me safe.
No, they won't. Illness whispers in my ear and asks me to pass it on. It's a lottery. Judge not lest ye yourself be judged.