There is nothing more sobering than experiencing significant loss, especially when that loss hits very close to home. At those times, knowing what to do can be challenging, and finding support may prove difficult. These are the moments that can have the greatest impact on how you define yourself and your relationships with those around you and the world as a whole. More importantly, significant loss forces you to realize that you may be, after all, alone in this world.
There are some who will disagree with the following statement: when you experience significant loss, the likelihood of becoming a social pariah increases dramatically. You don’t have to look very far to see the truth of it. Just look at the rise and fall of celebrities.
The fact is that when you have everything or are seemingly rising to the top of the social strata, you will find yourself surrounded by more people, for good or ill. Conversely, when you lose everything or are seemingly hitting rock bottom, there will be fewer people remaining by your side. It’s a harsh reality, but a truth that each person going through or who has been through significant loss has to face: you might just be very much on your own.
I decided to write about this because of my observations and personal experiences since becoming ill with fibromyalgia. As I have written many times, having fibromyalgia means experiencing significant loss, especially of self. However, you gain a great deal alongside that loss. You find out, for example, who your true supports are and what really matters to you in life.
Fibromyalgia forces a mental housecleaning (if you allow it) and life cleaning. It forces you to question the reality that you have chosen to live and then asks you to prove the worth of that reality, i.e. is your reality one that is worth enough for you to fight for it?
While you attempt to answer that question, those around you will have to answer this one: is this person worthwhile to keep in my life? Of course, the question may not be so direct in nature, but that is what it comes down to: your worth = potential benefit in their lives. If you worth is diminished, so is the benefit that they experience.
Whether or not anyone wants to agree, the fact is that, for some people, relationships are based on benefits. There are relatively few relationships that I have observed that function solely on selflessness. Some people care as long as there is something to benefit from giving that care. However they define benefit doesn’t matter. The key thing is whether or not they are still capable of receiving that benefit if they maintain a relationship with you.
I have found that having fibromyalgia or any chronic illness can make you become completely self-focused because you are having to, maybe for the first time, expend a lot of mental energy on understanding how to improve your health and how to survive on a daily basis. During that period, your ability to care for your relationships, work, and other commitments declines. However long you spend during that period of uncertainty has a direct impact on your relationships, work and other commitments. Given the recurrent and potentially severe nature of fibromyalgia symptoms, you
may will find yourself repeatedly going through this experience.
After some time, you may find yourself friendless, jobless and uncertain of what to do next. Perhaps you are already at that point.
Keep faith and do not despair.
There is a flip side to losing everything, to hitting rock bottom, and to being utterly uncertain. Beyond choosing to remain where you are, there is the other option: gaining everything, reaching for the sky, and becoming driven.
All it takes is deciding to see yourself in a new person.
Too often we get bogged down in the identity that we have created or accepted for ourselves. To truly move forward after losing everything means accepting that you are no longer who you used to be. It means shedding your old identity.
It doesn’t matter what age you are when fibromyalgia entered your life, you can still reinvent yourself. In fact, I think the older you are, the more important it is to choose to reinvent yourself. No matter how difficult it may seem.
Reinventing yourself is what I call a process-decision. It’s an ongoing experience of deciding and allowing for various internal and external processes to occur to manifest change. It begins with simply stating to yourself that you are have already changed and are constantly changing.
Of course, there are many practical steps that you can take to begin that process now.
Look out for Part 2
Check out my latest Vlog post on dealing with depression and anxiety.