When my children were sick or upset, I often wished I could take their pain away, even if it meant feeling it myself. I know many parents, especially those with chronically ill children, would gladly switch places, suffer instead of their beloved ones.
On the podcast, “Happier”, I heard about a Japanese belief that when an object is lost, it may have “sacrificed” itself to save the owner from harm. So instead of lamenting the loss, to express gratitude for whatever bad thing might have happened. I found that to be a wonderful way to reframe what can often be a source of anguish, especially for a most treasured item.
I’ve reflected on my own Cushing’s suffering during the past four years of recovery. In the beginning, it was a lot of “why me?”, which eventually was replaced with, “Why not me?” A much more humbling approach. But recently, I engaged the idea that maybe my personal suffering enabled someone else to avoid it.
Could I have taken on the pain of a loved one? Are my husband and children safe and healthy because I spent ten years with an undiagnosed terrible illness? And if so, was it worth it? Would I go through Cushing’s suffering again? Yes. And yes.
If like the pain that comes from childbirth, my time with Cushing’s served a greater purpose, then I could find such peace with it. Alas, I don’t believe it. A small, but insistent voice inside me says, “That’s not how it works.”
There are plenty of women who have uncomplicated pregnancies and easy births and wind up with as healthy or sick babies as those who suffered the entire nine months. There is no link from the suffering of a loved one to the ease of life of another. No one can “take on” another’s pain. If that were the case, mothers would flog themselves on a regular basis.
But wait, they do. Not physically, of course, but how often do parents mentally “flog” themselves with guilt, as if that changes anything? As if we had that kind of control or power.
There is no obvious reason for my intense decade of Cushing’s suffering. As much as it would be more palatable to see myself as a martyr, I don’t believe it. It doesn’t work that way. “It” being life.
There may very well have been a reason, but I won’t find out during my lifetime. In the meanwhile, I can always find a lesson. That is within my power. And learning that lesson is always within my control.