Anyone who is going through suffering will be able to relate in some ways to William Stunz’s account of his life. I don’t totally agree with everything that he says. It has helped me over the years to read accounts of other people’s suffering and also talk to other people who are suffering. Each person who is suffering needs to find tools to cope.
A book that I hold close to my heart is “The Revelation of Divine Love” by Julian of Norwich. I can give you no better explanation of the connection I feel with the Anchoress than Selch describes in his recent post.
Stunz talks about how he felt when people inadvertently blamed him for his pain due to lack of faith. Many of us who have an illness or who are caregivers have experienced well wishers who tell us we need to have more faith or things would be better if we prayed more often.
I was raised in a family who went to a fundamentalist Christian church. Now I practice Bhakti Yoga and Theravada Buddhism. I do not judge anyone’s faith or religion. All paths lead to God. We are all a part of God, brothers and sisters, connected by our souls.
Why does God let bad things happen to good people? There have been countless books written on this subject and for many, this question has no answer.
Dr. Stunz says, ” I do not think that my suffering is God’s discipline.” I agree that suffering is not literally “God’s discipline”, but I do believe in karma good and bad. We make our own karma, some life experiences are decided before we come into this life and in other matters we have free choice. We are also affected by other people’s karma. Karma has helped me personally to understand suffering. What is good for spiritual growth may not seem like a good thing for us while we are living in our physical bodies. The reality we perceive as humans is only a small part of “The Truth.”
This does not make suffering less painful or less real for us.
Stanz recounts about whether or not suffering has made him a better person. We have heard many times that suffering will make us stronger and that is the last thing we want to hear. My own experience parallels the experience of Dr. Stanz. At first, when I developed chronic pain I was overwhelmed by sadness, depression (anger turned towards myself) and despair. I came to realize that I did have a choice, give up or go on with my life one day at a time. If I dwell on the past too long , it does nothing to change my current life and it wastes the limited energy that I have that could be used in a positive way to make myself and others feel better.
For those of us who suffer and those of us who are caregivers, we must realize that life changes for everyone. Chronic illness, FTD in particular, changes our lives, behaviors of the caregiver and of the loved one, in particularly difficult and often incomprehensible ways While the illness robs us of many things, the part of us that is real and true, the being who cares, loves and wants to reach out to others is still there.
When a woman is grabbing the arms of her husband because he is trying to take the car keys in a boorish and childish manner because he has FTD and doesn’t believe or remember he can’t drive, doesn’t she think of the many times those arms around her made her feel safe and warm? She has reminded him so many times lately that he cannot drive and she thinks about when she may have handed him keys with no thought of peril for his well being. When you can’t manage not wetting your pants do you ever think about the time not too long ago when you put your pants on one leg at a time without any thought and managed an entire department of people?
We must not forget who we are, our true selves and understand that the disease is causing these troubles and behaviors and the disease is not who we or our loved ones are. We should hold tightly to this life rope that connects us to who we really are. It will help us hold on to our dignity and compassion for ourselves and our loved ones during the most trying times.
I agree with Dr. Stanz that accepting that I had a terminal illness was easier than I thought it would be. Once I accepted that everyone dies, I am understanding there are blessings that come with a shorter span of interaction time with the world so I should try to enjoy things while I can
I had an eating disorder when I was young and I have never liked food. Now I really enjoy eating. Selch is cooking dinner right now and preparing fruit salad. Who would have thought that fruit salad could be downright delightful? I appreciate small things like chocolate pudding, looking out the window and watching the birds, and talking to an old friend. It is a struggle for me to go out anywhere, but I still find activities that make me feel good. Like Stenz said, he was able to feel more physical pleasure.
I often go to Second Life which is a virtual world on the Internet. I have an avatar there who can fly, swim, sail, see many beautiful places and visit many interesting people. I think allowing fantasy and creativity in to your life when you are suffering is a good thing. We have forgotten how to play as we did when we were children. Yes we have responsibilties but all of us who are suffering could use some play therapy.
Last year was the roughest year of my life. What helped me get through that bad time was definitely my relationship with Selch, my partner. During that time, Selch often teased me that I was Jobette. One bad thing after another kept happening until I got to the point that I felt like I only had a few things left to lose.
Many things and relationships I thought had to be there for me to ever be happy again didn’t need to be there and were actually impeding progress in my life.
Progress in life has a lot to do with knowing, loving, accepting and protecting yourself as you would your dearest friend. I can only change what I do. I cannot change anyone else just by insisting that they be the way I want them to be.
It may feel like we are not in control of our lives because of the circumstances that we are in. But, we make choices all of the time about how we will react to the situations where we find ourselves.
There is something to be learned from everything that I experience.
I practiced mindfulness exercises before it became “fashionable,” and these practices have greatly helped me with my struggle with difficult and unwanted thoughts. To be able to quiet the mind of all its busy thoughts for even a short period of time is very helpful. Like any exercise the more you do it, the easier it is to do and the benefits are greater.
I am learning to stop caring about what people think of my situation. Selch and I have to focus our energy on living our lives the best way that we can. It is so true that real friends will be supportive and if they aren’t, then they are not a “true friend.” This also applies to family members.
If you are sick or you are a caregiver , it is you who are in the trenches. You don’t need a lot of well wishers who don’t want to get their hands dirty.
I am in constant pain and FTD is keeping me from “controlling” many areas of my life but I constantly remind myself that the illness cannot control who I am. Eventually it will disrupt my interface with the world to the point that I will not be able to communicate or understand what anyone is saying to me. I have spent years in this life continuing the journey towards self-awareness. What will happen as I watch the disease that is causing my physical body to do things I would never do?
Maybe, my weird sense of humor will remain. I hope I will be able to be tolerant and understanding of that physical body that is the shell of me.
Mr. Stenz spoke of one of his fears of death was the fear of be disappointed that he didn’t live a better life. I can relate to his feelings. Sometimes I still do ask my self why I am here but now less and less I feel like my life is not useful so why don’t I just die? I know I have been given blessings of a well stream of creativity, the dam of writer’s block has burst. I have so many characters telling me their stories, I often wonder who should I tell what and when in this limited time that I have.
Why do I live? Why is there suffering? Perhaps, like children we ask many questions but as we grow in time, life (the continuing journey and existence of our being) we will no longer need to ask the question.