As a New Year Begins, I’m Seeking the Silver Lining with AS
As we begin a new decade and a new year, I’m trying to focus more on ankylosing spondylitis as a strength rather than a limitation. I’ve always been relatively good at finding the silver lining in hard situations, but when times are tough and moments get dark, I sometimes give in to self-pity, agitation, and a “woe is me” mindset.
AS is a hard disease to live with, so anyone who feels self-pity or agitation has every right to do so. The disease can knock you off your feet, forcing you to say no to social situations and causing levels of pain and fatigue that would make anyone cranky. But I don’t want AS to be my entire existence. If I have to live with the disease, I want to learn how to reframe it. Maybe not all of the time, and without denying my true, darker feelings, but enough of the time.
When I was younger, I dealt with extreme poverty, family addiction, and foster care. In my formative years, I watched my family fall apart — literally — and ended up living with strangers. It broke me, and the repercussions of that trauma were chronic. During those years, I learned to find the silver lining in the dark moments. I had to, otherwise, I would have gone insane.
I found strength and resiliency instead of weakness and fear. I learned to become empathetic toward others rather than resentful. I began to understand myself at a deeper level, along with the ebbs and flows of pain and sorrow. This greater self-awareness helped me to communicate my feelings more clearly to others, advocate for myself when I needed something, and treat myself with compassion rather than disregard.
It didn’t work for me to be the sad foster kid who cried and bemoaned my experience all of the time. So I took my pain and turned it into writing poetry, stories, and essays. I also forged deep connections with other kids who had hard family situations and carved genuine friendships out of mutual understanding. So, in a way, I was living in the silver lining.
I’ve taken this attitude to my experience with AS. Though it’s not always easy and not my second nature, I try to see myself as someone with strength and resiliency. In turn, I take that mindset and write for others to inspire and to teach them, or at least to make them feel less alone.
I endeavor to lead with compassion for myself and others, rather than become frustrated, angry, or resentful. It’s an imperfect science, but I’m working on kindness, patience, and finding strength. I hope to bring this into 2020 with me and to be mindful of it as I go forward on both the hard and the good days.
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