Okay, so maybe some amount of self-pity is inevitable.
I’ve tried resisting it. In the initial days of experiencing this chronic disorder, I was overwhelmed by fear and anxiety of not knowing what was going on with my body; of losing control and truly wondering if I was dying. The effort it took to get through each day of hospital visits, tests, medication, etc. was enough to keep self-pity at bay.
Now, over three months in, I find myself sometimes struggling to fight it. With a vague diagnosis in place about two months ago, I made a plan; a plan on how I was going to tackle this and emerge out of it. They told me I would be fine in a month. How? Who knows! I just would! The drive to build my future, to rise from the ashes like a phoenix (Yeah, I watch too many movies!) helped me stay positive on most days. I distracted myself with new interests, dove into building my skills for this future I wanted to build and basically avoided facing the truth.
Here’s the thing though; avoiding it became harder as the one month deadline passed me and I found myself feeling the same. I continued to feel the swaying, the floating, the imbalance. On most days, when I wake up, my first thought is – “Is it gone?”. And the cheeky little thing convinces me that it has by giving me a good morning. I make myself coffee, read, watch television and do my own chores. Then, it sneaks up on me. It’s a sudden whoosh of feeling the boat capsize because I turned my head too quickly or sneezed or just leaned to one side without paying attention. And, then, the feeling of defeat; defeat to this thing that clings onto me like a shadow and encompasses the light as the day turns into night.
Moving to Delhi from Bangalore didn’t help, either. My plans were shot when the realisation crept up that this damn disability followed me here too. How dare it? Why won’t it leave me alone? Ah, the inevitability of asking the unanswerable ‘Why me?’. How could this question, the epitomisation of self-pity, be avoided? What is there to fall back on other than anger and frustration?
Anger at the friend who makes grandma jokes because he is uncomfortable seeing you with a walking stick. Anger at the well-meaning people who give you advice without ever having heard of what you have, let alone experiencing it themselves. Anger at people who want to help but you don’t want to do anything except take a moment and just sit with it. All this anger and no one to blame.
I’ve tried to avoid self-pity with a variety of strategies – distraction, denial, delusion, diversion. But, three days of hell have made me wallow this week. A stomach infection triggered my symptoms to an unimaginable point (To the Gods, this is not an invitation to prove me wrong!). I was unable to sit without collapsing in bed, stand without falling (which I did, twice) or sleep because my body would not stop making me feel like I was moving. I basically could not lift my head from the pillow without feeling off balance, and when I walked, I walked with my back to the wall. It shook me, in so many ways. It made me beg for an end – not to life per se, but a pause. Just a breather. A lull.
So, is ‘self-pity’ inevitable? It was, in my case. It was either that, those moments of letting myself feel terrible and sorry, or the unleashing of the wrath that simmers within. I’ve really tried to find grace and poetry in this. To romanticise it so I can cope with it. What an idiot! There’s no romance, there’s no poetry. There can be grace, if you dig deep. But, there can be moments of self-pity, of wallowing in the injustice of it all, just so you can once again find the energy to wake up the next day and continue to live with it. Can’t there?
Article by Roshini Suparna Diwakar