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Suffering. I suffer. You suffer. We all suffer. An illness. A loss. Hunger. No shelter. Bombs. Loneliness.

I frequently say, “Why can’t suffering be doled out equally?” Like if you have a severe mental illness you don’t also get a chronic physical illness, or if you lose your child, you don’t also lose a spouse. The world doesn’t work that way, though. And you can’t equate the loss of a child, or war, or starvation to schizophrenia. Suffering is not equal.

My diagnosis of diverticulitis almost two weeks ago, made me momentarily think that I shouldn’t have to deal with physical illnesses and a severe mental illness, too. For a short period, I felt bitter and sorry for myself.

I don’t like feeling bitter, or sorry for myself. Bitterness and self-pity do not suit me or feel right for any length of time, but beyond these feelings is an even more destructive force: fear.

Feelings don’t just fly away. There are times when we need to work to get our feelings on track (I certainly don’t mean you can think your way out of a mental illness, only that you can think your way out of some feelings both negative and positive).

So, I need to find a way back. A way to put my troubles in perspective, lighten my mind, heart, and soul. What I want to be is fearless.

When I was in the emergency room at the hospital, anxiety overcame me. My pulse rate was well above 100. I have felt that same anxiousness since that time. I am hyper concerned about the diverticulitis acting up again and sending me back to the hospital. During this time, I have had back problems for two months. I can lay down and stand up, but I can’t sit. I even stand at restaurants to eat (we haven’t gone out much lately). I am standing while typing this.

But back to fearless. I don’t want to be anxious or afraid anymore. I want to develop a skin of steel. Going to the doctor and hospital terrifies me. I want to overcome that. I want to be strong and brave and courageous. I want to laugh in the doctor’s office and make them laugh, too. I want to whistle no matter what the diagnosis or outcome. I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to be concerned.

Concern, anxiety, fear and worry have taken over my life these last two months. I have stopped doing the things that bring me joy because I feel an ache here and pain there and the worry begins. I am concerned by every bite of food I put in my mouth, thinking it may cause another infection in my intestines. I fear sitting down because it can cause my back to hurt for hours or even days.

I know it will take small steps to get me back to the laughter I so frequently enjoy. I know it will take time removed from these illnesses and pains to help my mind heal from their impact. I know all of this, and yet, today, I am going to get out of the house, experience a little living, get on with things.

Today, I step out, slowly, surely, and purposefully. I am re-entering the world. I miss my joy, and I want it back. I may never be completely fearless like I dream and desire, but I’m moving toward that goal – one toe out front – the rest of me is not far behind.