Fighter, warrior. Victim, sufferer.
I have noticed that these words are sometimes used to describe people who have covid-19 (or any other health condition really). Somehow, as a person with long-haul covid-19, I don’t identify with any of these words. Even more: I feel a resistance towards them. I really don’t like anyone calling me a covid-19 fighter or (even worse) covid-19 sufferer and I would never use these words to define myself. Here is why:
To start with I have to admit that it feels quite good, in a way, to talk about myself in terms of being a fighter because I connect this to things such as being tough, being able to endure great hardships, winning, etc. I can see why people like to identify themselves as fighters and a part of me can also feel the appeal. At certain moments during the past 16 weeks I have certainly felt like I was fighting, my fatigue for example. I just wanted to be able to do normal stuff. You know, go to the toilet AND brew a cup of tea directly afterwards. But during certain weeks I could do one small thing, rest for a long time, and then (perhaps) have the energy to do another thing. It did not matter how much I fought, my body just did its own thing and the only thing I could do was go along for the ride.
The long-term effect of covid-19 is something that is going on in my body. Fighting this implies, at least to me, that I can somehow control the outcome. It implies to me that if I just fight hard enough, I will live and become healthy again. The problem is though that I can’t control this. I can optimize and maximize my chances, yes, by eating healthy, practicing radical resting, etc. so naturally I do all of this. But if I would die or develop a chronic condition from covid-19, would that mean that I haven’t fought hard enough, that I have lost the battle? That doesn’t seem right to me.
Also, what does it mean to be a fighter or a warrior? I don’t know about you, but words that come to me when I hear this are tough, hard, strained, stressed, etc. I wonder, is this really what I need right now? To make myself tough and hard and strained and stressed? Quite the opposite! What I need right now is to be extremely gentle with myself. To be soft and vulnerable. To feel flow and find acceptance for the present moment. However stormy and challenging it might be, I benefit greatly from observing and experiencing the flow of what is happening right now. Not only in my body, but also in my mind including all my thoughts and feelings. Like the ocean and its waves. Nothing is permanent, everything constantly changes.
The above is why I don’t feel comfortable with the fighter-terminology.
Onwards to victim and sufferer.
Why on earth would I want to define myself as someone who is suffering or a victim? I really can’t think of anything positive that this would give me. Unless I’m a person who, consciously or unconsciously, wants people to feel sorry for me. Then it works quite well I believe! Because defining myself as a victim or a sufferer will most likely get me support and help in many shapes and forms from other people. To be honest, there was a time in my life when I pretty much lived like this. As I have written before, the attitude of Poor Me gave me a lot. But the more I dug deeper into myself, the more I found out that this was not the way I wanted to live my life. It made me feel dependent on other people, as if I was not a grown-up and grounded human being. The energy that surrounds Poor Me is something I never, ever want to connect to again! To clarify: this does not mean that I haven’t felt that I was suffering at certain moments during the past 16 weeks. Having severe difficulty breathing definitely felt like suffering to me. However, I don’t want these moments of suffering to define me by calling myself a covid-19 sufferer or victim. It’s just not my reality.
In my latest writing I call myself a covid-19 long-hauler. To me this felt right because it takes a really long time for my body to regain its balance again. I also read a suggestion from someone online and that is: resilient person. If you’re not familiar with the word resilience, it means: “the ability of an object or substance to spring back to shape”. Translated to human beings and our capacity to be resilient it would mean: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”.
To be a resilient person resonates with me! Living life means, for most if not all of us, experiencing tough and challenging situations at certain times in our lives. Having long-haul covid-19 certainly falls into this category for me! Isn’t it therefore wise to keep awareness and work on our own resilience so that whatever life situation we find ourselves in, we are able to deal with it in a healthy way?
If we don’t, I have learned there is a risk that we get stuck in the so-called fight-or-flight-mode. This screws with us not only mentally but also physically as our autonomic nervous system (the one that regulates our heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, etc.) gets stuck on “on” you could say. If that happens, among other things, we lose our ability to truly relax. The other end of this spectrum is to get stuck on “off”. This is where we can’t get out of bed because we are so depressed for example. A trick of living life, I believe, is to not get stuck (neither on on or off) but to keep on flowing up and down. Just like the waves in the ocean.
As the scientist and Mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn said:
You can’t stop the waves,
but you can learn to surf.
This is easy to say or write, but I truly believe it will take me a lifetime to practice how to surf the waves in life. It certainly has taken me a lot of therapy and teachings so far! But I am giving it a try, every day. I have gone all-in when it comes to inquiring into this very topic. I can’t even explain why I do this, I just feel (and always have felt) a deep longing inside me to learn about living life. It is why I write this blog which, as you can see, started way before covid-19 came into my life and will continue to live long after the effects of covid-19 have hopefully vanished from my body completely. Writing is my way of inquiring deeper into myself and this means a lot to me. And my sharing it, again, comes from a wish that it might mean something to you too.
Covid-19 has shaken me to my core and affects me deeply. I am not fighting it, I am experiencing it. I am not suffering from it, I am flowing with it. And in doing so, I am learning a lot about my body and living life. For this I continue to be very grateful.
I’m a resilient surfer.
That’s my truth.
Thank you for reading! ♥
Photo: Joey Pilgrim – unsplash.com