I woke up yesterday morning with an awesome realization.
It was morning.
To put it bluntly, the day before had been terrible. Now, when I say “terrible,” I don’t mean it was kind of “a rough day.” I mean that it was the worst day I’ve had in a long time.
I’ll be the first to say that I am a person who likes to be in control. Of everything. Growing up, I was often made fun of because of how early I woke up in the morning, even on my days off. At sleepovers, while other girls would cherish getting to lounge around in their pajamas well into the afternoon the following morning, the thought just drove me crazy.
Have you heard the quote, “You either run the day, or the day runs you.”? It’s one of my favorites, because I believe in it so strongly. I’ve never been someone lacking drive or determination, which most of the time, is a great attribute. It’s what pushes me to get up early, even if I’ve stayed up late (Though I don’t recommend that combination. Sleep hygiene is not one of my strengths!), so that I can “Seize the day!” I like to be in control of my day, because it makes me feel in control of my life.
Unfortunately, no matter how much I like to be in control, there are some things that just aren’t controllable.
This past week I found out that I have lupus. I’m not exaggerating (though I will admit, I do that, sometimes) when I say it felt like the ten thousandth piece of straw that had been dropped on top of my camel’s back. I’m talking figuratively, of course, but it could be literal! My back has been a huge stressor on my body, over the last ten months especially.
I’ve had unexplained health issues for most of my life. Interestingly enough, they were almost always attributed to being complications from my eating disorder. So, more or less, they were shrugged off. That is, until my physical symptoms started getting worse — even well after my mental symptoms had gotten better.
I’ve always held the belief that a diagnosis is nothing more than a tool. It’s what allows for proper medical care. After all, how are you supposed to treat something that’s unidentified? For years, I somewhat hoped for a diagnosis, something that I could point to, and say, “This. THIS is why my body acts like it hates me.”
So, hearing the word, “Lupus,” shouldn’t have really affected me very much. And to an average observer, it didn’t.
I went about my day remaining positive. The same thing happened the next day, and the following. It wasn’t terribly hard to stay positive, because I did what I frequently do when something isn’t going the way I want it to: I just don’t think or talk about it.
When I finally got around to telling my dad over the phone, almost a week later, he responded by saying that he was so impressed by my attitude, and that he has always been impressed by the way that I don’t take on the mentality of a victim, despite the challenges I’ve had in my life. I was so pleased to hear that, because that kind of mentality is something that I have worked very intentionally to not adopt.
I try my hardest not to portray it to others, but so frequently, my brain starts to go in the direction of,
This isn’t fair.
And it’s something that I pull myself out of as soon as I possibly can.
The “It’s not fair” game is a trap, and it’s one that is so, so easy to fall into.
Most often for me, slipping into this mentality is brought on by comparison. I have struggled a lot with comparison in the past, most notably when I was in the weight restoration phase of treatment for my eating disorder. During that time, I felt like just about everything in my life was out of my control. Which, to be fair, a good portion of it was. I would frequently compare the amount I was eating, how much I weighed, my inability to exercise, and so on and so forth, to just about anyone else in the world. What was hardest for me to get over, though, were the comparisons between myself and those I was closest to.
My roommates were going to a workout class? Not fair!
My mom was going on a diet? Not fair!
My best friend in treatment got to have her exchanges (calories) reduced, and I didn’t? SO not fair!
It was a cycle, and a vicious one at that. Everywhere I looked, there was something that just. wasn’t. fair. I stayed here for a while, in this place of a constant struggle with comparison, and feeling like things “just weren’t fair.” We’re talking YEARS of thinking this way.
And then, I had a realization.
Those things that weren’t fair? They weren’t. I wasn’t incorrect about that. Those things all did suck. But, they were what they were. I could either choose to begrudge my life, or I could accept those things, and move forward.
It also isn’t fair that millions of kids around the world grow up without access to education.
It’s not fair that one in five women will be raped in their lifetime.
It’s not fair that it’s not fair that the bad guy often gets ahead (and stays ahead!) of the good guy, or that, every day, 43 kids are diagnosed with pediatric cancer, and 12 percent of them won’t survive.
You can play the “It’s not fair” game All. Day. Long.
Because, you know what?
Life isn’t fair.
There will always be someone ahead of you. And likewise, there is always someone with less than you.
After I had that realization, I made a deal with myself. Any time I said, or even thought the words, “This isn’t fair,” I would think of five things that someone else could say weren’t fair about my life, compared to theirs.
I (hadn’t) said the words, “That’s not fair,” since.
If you’re like me, and you struggle with the comparison game… The next time you find yourself going there, start playing it in reverse. Think about how many people you can imagine saying that your life isn’t fair, compared to theirs. I bet it will change the way you think. At the very least, it will cause you to pause.
On Tuesday night, I finally broke. I sat and cried and cried and cried, until Cody came home, and then I cried some more. I was sad, and I was frustrated, and I just complained and whined and cried and let it all out. He sat there with me, and gave me the kind of support that only someone who you love, and who is really walking with you through the tough stuff can do. And then, we laid on the couch and watched an episode of Last Man Standing, and went to bed.
I went to bed with one thought on my mind, and I just kept repeating it over and over until I fell asleep:
I have a college degree. That’s not fair.
I have all four limbs on my body, and I can control all of them. That’s not fair.
I have health insurance. Not only health insurance, but double-coverage insurance. That’s not fair.
I have a home, with a roof, and electricity, and even luxurious stainless steel appliances. That’s not fair.
I have absolutely incredible familial support, all of whom I know would bend over backwards for Cody and myself. That’s not fair.
Those were the five things I chose, and I clung to them like glue.
There are hard things that have happened, and continue to happen in my life, no questions asked. But by no means, do I have a hard life. I can’t look around me for less than two seconds without seeing an abundance of blessings that I’ve been given. The insane number of medical professionals that have been involved in my life already and have helped me recover from various things, the health insurance we have that allows ninety percent of treatment, medications, and appointments to cost me nothing out of pocket, the familial support I have that now extends to the entire Pronozuk family, the financial stability we somehow have right now even though we went into our wedding convinced we would come home from our honeymoon broke… The list goes on, and on, and on.
I don’t “have a hard life.” Life just IS hard! It’s hard for almost everybody!
Acknowledging feelings and working through difficult emotions is essential to maintain good mental hygiene, I’m convinced of that. BUT.
And here’s the big, “but.”
You cannot stay there.
Wednesday morning, I woke up with a fresh perspective, after having fallen asleep to a meditation, of sorts, of the abundance of blessings I have, that make my life, “not fair.”
So, while, yes, I haven’t adopted a victim mentality, it’s been everything but natural for me. I have learned how to control my thoughts, and this really has been a game-changer for me. What goes in, comes out, some way or another.
Being vulnerable, and raw, and real about my health has always been pretty easy for me, but I’ll say that I did have a hard time putting these words onto paper. Facing the unknown, whether that be a diagnosis, or a job-situation, or finances, or a new relationship, or whatever, can be scary. Scary doesn’t mean bad. Hard, doesn’t mean bad. It just IS.
There are a lot of things in life that are uncontrollable. Your mindset is not one of them.
Keep. Moving. Forward.