by Avery Thatcher
One night I collapsed on the floor in a ball, ugly crying with my whole body shaking while our treadmill whirred on beside me, not noticing I’m not walking on it anymore. But that’s not actually where this story starts.
It’s Christmas morning at a children’s hospital and I’m working the night shift, but it’s just about time to go home. It’s a good thing because I feel completely drained, bone weary, worried that I might actually fall asleep on the train on the way home. The charge nurse comes around to get report on my patient and she looks at me and says “Whoa, you don’t look well. I’ll put you down as sick for your next shift, so just go home and rest and feel better.”
I get on the train and get to watch the sunrise and I head home and climb into the bed next to my partner, give him a little smooch to celebrate our first Christmas together as a married couple, and then go to sleep.
And I slept for 20 hours straight.
I woke up the next day feeling ROUGH, and I wondered if I had mono so I went to a walk-in clinic to get a requisition for some blood work. The doctor asked “how long have you had that lump in your neck?”
To which I responded “what now?”
She had spotted a lump on the left side of my neck which turned out to be a massive benign tumor on my thyroid that needed to be removed, but that’s another story.
That first doctor’s appointment was one of many where I kept going from specialty to specialty trying to figure out what was happening to me. Why did I have no energy? And by no energy I mean why did I need to wait until I was desperate to get out of bed to go pee or get myself a drink of water.
Why did I always feel like I had the flu?
Why did I have joint pain all of a sudden that changed from one joint to another?
Why did I gain 35 pounds in 3 months despite barely being able to eat anything without throwing up?
Why did any exercise above a light walk make me feel incredibly ill and like everything was inflamed and hot?
Why did my brain feel like it was stirred up with a spoon and I often struggled to remember common words or things that had happened recently?
And, most importantly to me, when was I going to get better and be able to go back to the life I knew and worked hard for?
The months dragged on with me going to doctor’s appointments, hearing new scary potential diagnoses thrown out there. Sitting in waiting rooms, having the other people ask “oh are you here to pick up your grandparents?” and then being surprised to find out that nope, I’m here for me.
The hope and anticipation of a doctor feeling confident that this next test was going to provide answers. Or this procedure was going to provide relief. When I was finally given my diagnosis, I was devastated because there was nothing we could do. There was no treatment other than to exercise and get talk therapy.
I spent nearly three years trying to find help, going to alternative therapists, trying IV vitamin C, supplements, working with a team of health professionals to help me find balance in my energy levels and stop crashing all the time. Nothing was working. I had gotten into the habit of walking on the treadmill before bed for 15 minutes or so and writing on my iPad journal using a keyboard to type.
On our treadmill at home we have a little board that we put across the handles so I can walk on it and type.
So one night I was walking on the treadmill and going through one of my mindset programs that I bring a coaching cohort through once a year. I always do it alongside them because I believe it’s a healthy part of maintaining the changes we want to see.
So there I was, walking on the treadmill and typing out my thoughts when I decided to write to this part of me that was sick. I started writing to my chronic illness and ooooo I got mad.
Really mad. My fingers were flying across the keys, the sound of tapping was getting pretty loud, and I was just letting my chronic illness have it. I was holding nothing back as I let out three years of frustration, loss, grief, pain, anger – it all started pouring out of me in this huge rush.
And then my fingers slowed down.
I realized that this part of me that I’ve been resisting…
This part of me that I’ve been judging…
This part of me that I was resenting…
This part of me that I wish wasn’t here – still deserved to be loved.
And that shift had me start crying while still walking on the treadmill trying to help get my thoughts out into my digital journal – but then I realized that it might be a little unsafe. So I stepped off and immediately collapsed to the floor, releasing three years of resistance, grief, loss, hurt, shame, and guilt.
It was at that moment that I realized I had to stop finding the middle ground. There wasn’t going to be a compromise! There was in all probability no chance whatsoever of me being able to go back to the person I knew myself to be.
That moment when I chose compassion over resistance – everything changed.
And from my puddle of tears on the floor, I welcomed my illness in, and told her that I was going to take care of her. I was going to listen, I was going to honor her needs, and I was going to figure out how to make the most of our time together.
The heaviness I had been feeling lifted. I felt free – I felt open – I felt confident and ready to live my life without worrying about judgment from others. Joshua Hyssop’s song, Lighter than a Stone summarizes the feelings I experienced after standing up and releasing all that grief on the floor beside my treadmill.
That moment of self-acceptance started my official journey of changing my name to Avery, but that also is another story.