Once a dancer always a dancer

So I was busy decluttering my to-be home office, discarding the old and making space for the new. It’s a ritual that I take seriously because it allows me to work with my feelings about the things I own, my past, present and future.

Determined to pull an all-nighter according to Canadian time so that I can peacefully fall asleep at night, I decided to play a list of fast Bollywood songs which is specifically created to lift my spirit up from time to time. I thought it was helping me stay up and get work done.

Just then, this one song plays and I’m like nahhhh, everything can wait. Everything must wait. I need to do this.

Think about it for a moment:

With the dark cloud of chronic illness constantly hovering above us, what can we do to lift our spirits?

What sparks true joy within us?

Could we be letting our disability confine us more than it needs to?

Can we not find ways to work within our limits and still experience similar feelings of passion?

I think we can.

We’re all different, with different illnesses, different degrees of severity, different scale of limitations, different support systems, different biographies which could very well translate into a drastically different experience altogether — there’s absolutely no reason for us to even make that comparison. All said and done, each of us is doing our best to work with the cards we’ve been dealt.

BUT. In the midst of the pain and suffering, I think it’s possible to find ways to work with or around things we truly enjoy. I can’t dance like before, nor can I move with as much energy, but I do know for a fact that when I’m on my roller chair and if symptoms are manageable for the day, I might be able to move a little and FEEL that same feeling I experienced when I danced in the past. I do have to be careful though but I’ve reached a conclusion that you can’t take dance out of me.

It makes me feel alive and so I do it very often :) I hope you enjoy my crazy and find something that makes you feel a tad bit crazy too.

Lots of love,

Manasi

#onceadanceralwaysadancer #bollywood #dance #passion #love #joy #wholehearted #chronicillness #pain #fatigue #suffering #smile #invisibleillness #ehlersdanlossyndrome

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You know you’ve come a long way when you can actually throwback to a beautiful photo from *by far the weakest* (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) time of your life without hurting like before. Thank you for sticking by my side through all these years, @rohant! 💗

#friendship

The secret life

While I’m very open and honest about my personal experience with EDS Hypermobility, there is also a ‘secret life’, what I call the back end management which not only is something we (the chronically ill) often choose to not share but also something we often can’t share due to the complexity and implications of actually dealing with the illness 24/7.

Most people I know in the community of the ‘chronically ill’ live as authentically as possible and try very hard to share their stories, both to create awareness and for their personal healing and I find that truly inspiring and amazing.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that it is NOT the whole story. It can’t be, unless you know us personally. No matter how much we try to put our experience out there, it is not the same as living with us and seeing us live — which is something only our near and dear ones get to see.

On my instagram, I try to share both the good and the bad. Whenever possible, it is as raw as it gets. But the truth is, for the number of times my shoulder (or other joints) clicks in and out, for the hours I spend in bed with ice packs and hot packs and the number of times i get palpitations, brainfogs etc., it is practically impossible to be both having the actual experience and sharing it.

I think that’s the reason why so many people who don’t know me well enough, whether biologically related or not, are under the impression that if I smile I am pain-free or I’m not struggling. And sometime, instead of asking, it is assumed that I am fine. Or better.

Similarly when I am bedridden, it is quite commonly assumed that I am sad to the core. Which again, is an assumption.

The truth is, the ‘chronically ill’ have figured a way to be smiling and struggling at the same time. I know it can get extremely confusing for the rest, but if you ever wonder how we’re doing, I suggest you ask instead of assume.

How do you define work?

https://themighty.com/2018/02/unable-to-work-because-of-illness/

Every bit of this resonates with me.

It’s a constant struggle for people like me to remember our worth when there is so much stigma around being sick (especially young and sick) and not being able to work.

It often makes me wonder, how do you define work anyway?

Does work = I bring money to the table every single time? does my voluntary work with kids with troubled childhood which doesn’t earn me anything but makes me feel valuable and like I’m making some difference count as work? Does me trying to help an individual who is newly chronically ill/struggling with their health mean anything in the society at all?

What about the times I teach classes hoping they help those who participate — does that count as work even if it’s not always sustainable? What about the job I did as a receptionist at a pilates studio hoping I’d be able to stick with it and then got bedridden — does that count at all? Is that seen?

Does it matter that people like myself at one point had great aspirations and goals too and had to leave those behind, grieve our old selves and learn to accept what we’re presented with? Does anyone ever see the pain and the courage behind having to leave what brings most of us financial stability and freedom in order to prioritise health?

What about the work you put in day in day out to look after a faulty body? Imagine having to look after an extremely mischievous and sick child who doesn’t listen to you for twenty four seven. No break whatsoever. Not even when you sleep.

It’s easy for people to ask, “what do you do?” because it’s the most common way to start a conversation. It’s also very understandable and I have a standard answer ready. But you won’t believe the number of people I’ve come across up till now with the mindset that if you’re not working, traveling and or working out, you’re probably doing nothing. Or not doing enough of something. Or aren’t ambitious enough. Have no goals. Have nothing figured out.

What makes so many people think that those who’re sick are lazy or not ambitious enough? Couldn’t our ambitions and priorities have changed? Can we not bring empathy, compassion and kindness to the table instead of money? Is it not possible for us to do our part in some other way? Can we not be the people you turn to when things aren’t going right? Can we not support the family and household in other ways?

Or how about this: is it not possible that by us doing our self-work and learning to accept and tend to our illness allows us to manage the illness a little better and hence take some load and burden off those who are trying to support us? Isn’t that work too?

EDS may be a big part of my journey but it isn’t everything ❤️

I’m starting to see how this illness is a vehicle for me to look inwards, to become a better person and to live a more fulfilled life.

I’m not grateful for the pain I experience but I’m definitely grateful for the lessons and blessings that have come along with being made out of faulty collagen.

The more I accept this illness and the body that I’m in, the more I realise that I am more.  That I am whole despite the brokenness that often follows an illness.

I’d like to believe that as I continue to do the work I need to do for my own healing, I am more equipped to offer the same to the world. One thing is for sure, I’m learning to own this illness but I’ll never let the illness own me.

Love to all

-M

Line

I wonder why things have to be so extreme out here.

Either people help you or they don’t give a shit. Either you’re expected to need help all the time or not need any. If you ask for help too much, you’re considered helpless. If you don’t need help (they want to help) and you say, “No, thank you!”– that’s rude.

If you expect people to look out for you, you get no say as to what’s okay and what’s not. You don’t get to draw a line and drawing that line is so necessary! People hover over you day in day out as if you’re in need supervision when all you need is perhaps for them to check on you once in a while. If you tell them you need space, they take it personally as if it’s all about them when it’s more about your personal space and what helps you heal.

I’ve noticed that out here, you are forever expected to entertain and be entertained when all we need sometimes is some quiet time and letting each other be. I fail to understand how a group of people can start chattering away at the crack of dawn and continue chattering away throughout the day, only taking breaks to use the loo and shower, and perhaps to sleep.

I see how there could be some positives to spending time together and doing things together — I mean, I love it too! Cooking and dining together, sitting around and catching up, playing games as a group… all that is great for bonding! What is beyond my understanding is how people don’t need pockets of their quiet, personal time to tend to themselves.

(I mean, sure, we all function differently and by no means am I saying it has to be just one way or the other, but let’s just say, it’s absolutely hard for me to relate to. Just like my illness and my lifestyle is hard for others to relate to.)

It’s such a misconception that tending to yourself means you’re selfish.

Self-care is neccessary.

When you learn to tend to yourself, you are able to be at your best self for others. When you learn to give to yourself first, you learn to give wholeheartedly to others. It’s through learning to set healthy boundaries for yourself that you learn to respect those of others. It’s through sharing quiet moments with yourself that you can truly share time with others. From my understanding, for us to forge deeper relationships with those around us, we must begin with forging a deep relationship with our ‘self’ first. And maybe this concept is too foreign for some parts of the world but personally, it has made the greatest impact in my life and how I’ve come to terms with my illness. The journey of self acceptance has a lot to do with self-care. And self-care has a lot to do with drawing a line.

If there is anything that I truly wish for, it is for our culture to introduce concepts like self-care and healthy boundaries from a young age. Imagine how far we’d come.

-M

img_1301

Update: Two days later, left shoulder is still pretty off position. Pain wise, I’m at about 7/10. There is a fair amount of tightness along my neck and around the shoulder blade which is rather normal. When a joint goes out of position, the muscles around that joint tend to work even harder, tightening, to hold the joint in place. The effect of which is basically over-compensation of the entire body, leaving you feeling more fatigued. The tightness in the muscles around the joint tends to cause more pain than the actual, baseline pain due to sublaxation.

Take a look at my photos and try comparing it with the photo of anterior dislocation. You should be able to see some dents, areas darker than the rest. If you take a closer look at the first photo, which is actually taken two days after my shoulder sublaxed, you’ll be able to see that my humorous is slightly off the glenoid.

In a couple of days from now, I hope to go back to strengthening of the shoulder. You have to give it enough rest before starting the strengthening work, however, the longer you take to start the strengthening process, the longer the shoulder takes to recover. I usually rest it out long enough – i wait till my body gives me a green light or till I have enough confidence to start the strengthening process.

Unfortunately, the strengthening process in itself causes more pain, more tightness and someone a bit of muscle spasms. I end up needing more rest and more trigger point release once I begin the strengthening process. Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different and how it responds is vastly differently too.

Go at your own pace. Know when to listen to your body and when yo listen to your physiotherapist.

 

Latest update

Last few days have been so ridiculously exhausting. I spent most part of my birthday and Diwali week just running around hospitals, popping strong anti-inflammatory tablets and muscle relaxants and getting scans and tests to figure out the cause behind this maddening, deep ache in my right lower back, abdomen and hip (I find one-sided aches more challenging to manage).Honest to heaven, I haven’t experienced pain of a similar kind ever before in my last nine years of dealing with ehlers-danlos hypermobility type. This is not to say that I haven’t experienced pain of this intensity; no, I’ve dealt with higher magnitude of pain and much worse symptoms too. It’s just that I can easily and clearly distinguish between my ‘normal’ aches, pains and sensations and this strange, relatively new kind of discomfort, which initially seemed much like a muscle spasm. Let’s hope it’s not something I have to get used to. At this point, there are a few possibilities which we’re trying to explore and nothing can quite be said for sure till next week, sometime after my appointments with the specialists. Last couple of evenings have been just nice, calm and festive at the same time and filled with love and light (apart from food). Also, I’ve got a trip coming up real soon which I’m super excited about! Hopefully I’m healthy enough to travel and get by fairly well! There’s so much happening over the next few months I can’t even begin to explain out here…things are moving and they’re moving fast! I hope everyone’s been good. A very Happy Diwali, all!✨💕

#2013

It’s been four years since this photo and yet I get goosebumps just thinking about where I was at, both physically and mentally.

I was falling #sick with a cold or a stomach flu every other week, reacting to medicines which were supposed to help, afraid to be alone in my own bedroom, finding it hard to eat, needing help to wash my hair and sometimes even to brush my teeth, hating on my body for being fragile and weak, struggling to protect myself from people, fighting with school because they had no policies in place for people with medical issues, crying myself to bed every night, falling asleep with a strange emptiness in my #heart, waking up to feeling suffocated, hating on my creativity because I couldn’t pursue it the way I wanted to, feeling like every day was an absolute drag… I was claustrophobic in my own #body and #mind.

I wonder if this photo says any of that.

2013 was the year I knew I was done with everyone and everything around, including myself. Something needed to shift and I didn’t know what or how. All I knew was that life couldn’t possibly feel the way it did. Despite feeling like a hostage to my own #existence, there was a glimmer of #hope, a constant knowing that nothing was going to change until I decided to step up to where #life was heading. Stepping up at that point meant pausing and for once allowing myself to let it all sink in. Nothing was going to be anything like I had once imagined and I had to come to terms with that. I couldn’t distract or push myself anymore and I felt horrible. Who thinks about pausing/stopping at 23, right?

The thing is, some of us reach a point in our lives when we are faced with circumstances so real we simply can’t look away from them. Greater things are at play and our personal plans and effort make no sense. Life keeps finding ways to force us to look at what’s being presented and leaves us with two choices – to keep #suffering by avoiding pain OR to acknowledge pain and learn to #rise from there. #trust #acceptance #health #mentalhealth #pause #rest #recover

Looking back, I suppose there were things I had in 2013 which lead me to be where I’m at today. The daily struggle and fight have definitely added to all that I have become as a person and in some ways I’m grateful for it (not for the fight but for what came out of it). Of course, gratitude seemed like the last thing on my mind at that point in time because I was in this terribly dark space. Practicing and expressing gratitude, learning to accept whole and broken parts of me and making choices that honour my health (both mental + physical) has taken time and conscious work. I still have rough days but I’ve made peace with the fact that harder days are part and parcel of learning to live with a chronic illness. Today, I know better than ever before that while life is capable of giving you 5 reasons to fear, hate, complain, it will give you at least three reasons to trust, love and grow.