Our Sickness Must Grow Worse

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
–T. S. Eliot

It isn’t a new concept: wounds must be exposed before healing can begin. We know it; we’ve probably been through the process many times on subjects large and small. But we fight it. I fight it, and try to ignore the deep wound by focusing on the skin rash of generalized anxiety.

I try to explain my distress with my diagnosis, telling myself that the issues going on wouldn’t seem so overwhelming if not for the hypomania and depression. I forget that I am a human being first, capable of real pain and grief that have nothing to do with addiction or mental health. Addictive acting out, such as my recent struggles with food, may be a response to this pain–but the root remains.

Eliot’s words, for me, seem to be saying that we are tied together with pain. For healer and healed alike, wholeness lies not in a lack of pain but in authenticity. It’s the ultimate paradox, this healing found in accepting our state of incurable and defective humanity.

What does this mean to me, to us, especially those who struggle to find enough meaning to resist an immediate and tempting darkness? A life filled with suffering seems an insufficient lure.

Does it mean we should not hope? I don’t think so. Does it mean we should not fear the painful passage to the next round of healing? The gift of fearless acceptance is a wonderful thing, but we are unlikely to have it constantly.

While giving my therapist a workout this morning, I managed to get to some purer emotions that have been fueling my anxiety. To do so, I had to first get through my shame and frustration about recent self-destructive behavior. Angrily, I berated myself and the universe for my being caught in the cycle again…this cycle of falling into the pit, stewing in the sludge for a while, and beginning to crawl up and out. His attitude about it is less judgmental; he believes–as I do in my less judgmental states–that I’m simply enacting the human condition in my particular way.

Beyond all of this, I touched my intense fear, anger and feelings of loss. I witnessed, for a moment, just how strong they are and how much they need some kind of attention.

I know I need help with my psych symptoms too–and it’s quite possible that a lifting of my depression would make me more able to cope with my emotions. But I’ve been putting off going to see my psychiatrist. I’ve been telling myself it’s pointless because he’ll say my depression is situational and I need to fix the situations if I want any relief. Or maybe I just want to lose 20 pounds or so before I go (after all, I wouldn’t want him to think I was having problems or anything.)

But my gateway to needed action is to “grow worse” in the way that places me into a state of feeling broken and not trying to be any other way. Being peacefully broken is what breaks me open–only then am I a canvas for something new or a field ready to plant.

I bloody hate weeping, but it’s been necessary. The kind of weeping that involves a lot of mucus and is nothing like the delicate crystal tears of anime heroines. I feel cleaner, though, and a little less anxious. I’m able to plan some actions without caring as much about how others may judge me. I can wear my metaphorical T-shirt that says “So, you think I’m a failure. And?”

One response to “Our Sickness Must Grow Worse

  1. I love your metaphorical t-shirt: “So, you think I’m a failure. And?”

    Cry, mine the depths of your soul, accept suffering as part of the human condition, but see your psychiatrist, too. You deserve your own compassion and care. I send you my love.

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