Breaking Free

“Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move, Freedom cut me loose! Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? Cause I need Freedom too! I break chains all by myself, won’t let my Freedom rot in hell. Hey! I’ma keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.” Beyonce’

Have you ever felt like a prisoner? Trapped, confined, suffocated, and overwhelmed. All you can think about is what you would do with your freedom. Where would you go? How happy you would be? Those thoughts became all consuming. When you think about it, being a prisoner sounds pretty miserable, right? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t yet met or read about a happy prisoner. Whether you are talking actual or figurative, imprisonment of any kind is a miserable existence, regardless of your captor. My captor(s), chronic illness and pain.

For 30 plus years I have felt like a prisoner…without an end date to my sentence. Each day I dream about a life unrestricted by pain or fear of pain. I fantasize about all the places I would visit and all the things I would accomplish, if only I was not restricted by illness and pain. In my dreams, I can hop on a flight on a whim without packing extra clothes in the event of an accident. In my dreams I can travel light, without having to pack an extra suitcase solely for my meds. In my dreams, I don’t have to time my travel plans around rain to ensure no arthritis flare, or cloudy days to avoid too much sun exposure. In my dreams, I have nothing standing in between me and the ability to travel and move as I desire. What a life that would be friends, what a life.

2 years ago I was scheduled to go to NYC for vacation.  I planned that trip for over 8 months, only to get hospitalized the night before my flight due to a Crohn’s flare. When the doctors told me I would be hospitalized, I was inconsolable. Even now as I think back on that day, tears roll down my cheeks.  For me, that day represents another example of something this fight with chronic illness and pain has taken from me.  While hospitalized, several friends called to assure me that I would eventually get to go on my trip to NYC, but in my heart I didn’t believe them. In my heart, this disease had finally won at breaking down my will and had finally made me get the message that it controlled me and not the reverse. That day made me realize that no matter how positive I decided to see life, I was a prisoner and my captor decided how much enjoyment I would have.

For 2 years I strategized on ways to break free from this lifelong sentence with illness and pain. For 2 whole years I promised myself that despite illness, I would go on my trip to NYC that I had to abruptly cancel. For 2 full years I promised myself that one day I would pick a date, buy a ticket, and go to NYC. I made no specific plans for what I would do once I finally reached NYC, but I planned to get there. Well, I did it….

1 short week ago I was face to face with Lady Liberty. As I sat on a ferryboat in NYC sitting right in front of the Statute of Liberty, tears rolled down my cheeks.  As I looked up at her crown, while floating near her feet, I felt completely overwhelmed by where I was. Finally, I had won and broken free from this illness that has taken so much. Finally, I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, and not focused on illness or pain. Finally, I was no longer a prisoner.

As the ferryboat sat at Lady Liberty’s feet, I stared at her and refused to close my eyes. I refused to allow myself to look away because I wanted to remember every detail of this moment. As I looked up at her and cried, I softly said to myself while resting my chin against the rail of the ferryboat, “you won.” As I mumbled it again to myself, I noticed storm clouds had suddenly formed near her crown. As the sky grew darker and the clouds gray, my heart grew warmer…spirit more defiant and determined. See, looking at this amazing figure surrounded by an impending storm placed something deep in my heart. I noticed that even when the sky grew darker, in my eyes she didn’t. She seemed to standout no matter what. Oddly something occurred to me.

Einstein once said “darkness is the absence of light.” So, darkness will always flee when light shows up, because it cannot exist where there is light. Said another way, my illness and pain held me captive because I lost my fight to be free…my light. I let the dark side of illness and pain consume me, even in the moments I thought I was being strong and brave. Well friends, darkness can’t live here anymore.

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