By Allison Jonergin
Because of my health struggles, I know worthlessness, uselessness and emptiness. I know sorrow, frustration, loneliness and grief. I know the taste of desperation and the flood of fury.
I also know the power of a kind word, a helping hand, a second wind, or a song playing over the radio.
I know the power of someone choosing to employ empathy when one could choose the easier path of sympathy.
I know the power I yield inside to shield myself from feelings of worthlessness and to nourish feelings of resilience and grit.
I can succumb to feeling powerless; I can project my worst anxieties; I can expect the worst outcomes and allow myself to be convinced every day will be the same.
But hope inspires me to believe. I have faith in my ability to change my day, my world and my life with the choice to seek out happiness. When it is nowhere to be found, I choose to trust that it will manifest itself in my heart if I do the painstaking work of taking care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally. If I reach outside of myself, outstretch a hand to a stranger who could use a smile just as badly as I could, I can create a life worth living, loving and sharing with others.
When I allow myself to feel only pain, I am alone, no matter how many people care for me and insist on showing me so. Pain holds me prisoner, but I have the power to shake loose the door of my cell and walk out of it. The chains may remain shackled around my ankles, but mentally I can go anywhere and feel anything I desire if I trust and commit to doing the work every day, not just when I feel like feeling better.
The work looks different for each of us. I’ve found mine begins with respecting myself as well as my limits, which fluctuate throughout the day and the week. When I can trust that I’ll take care of myself first and foremost, I’m freed to love and care for others around me, feeling safe in the belief that when I’m tapped out, I’ll tap out. Until then, I focus my attention purposefully on the things I can do for myself so that I have more to give to others.