“Every Illness is Narrative”


Debbie says:

If you aren’t reading Terri Windling’s blog at Myth & Moor every day, you are missing out on an opportunity to regenerate your joy in life. When she is well, Terri writes long photo essays several days a week (Monday is always music) usually on subjects relating to creativity, beauty, and living in the world. Terri lives with a chronic illness; this week she gave us an extraordinary post about recovery.


One of the strange things about a long-term medical condition is the abruptness with which it can overturn your life. Most of the time it simmers quietly in the background, folded into the rhythm of the days, time-consuming and annoying perhaps, but also familiar, under control. That control is entirely illusory, however, for bodies are complicated things and don’t always act in the prescribed ways that medical textbooks say they should. And when they don’t, there isn’t always a clear and demonstrable reason why. One day you’re just like everyone else: doing your work, paying your bills, making plans as though the future is ordered and predictable; and the next day you’re flat on your back. Again. Feeling like Charlie Brown the umpteenth time Lucy pulls the damn football away.

Why, you wail, is this happening again? You can blame yourself, you can blame your doctors, you can blame the Man in the Moon if you want to, but the desire to place blame, to find a reason, is a desire to maintain the illusion of control and to make life predictable once more. If I do X, then I’ll stay healthy. If I don’t do Y, then getting sick is all my fault. But life is not a straight-forward equation; it is random, messy, surprising and confounding.  You can fret, fume, cry, and tie yourself in knots trying to determine where you went wrong. Or you can give yourself over to Mystery, and turn your energy towards healing.

The piece, as all of Terri’s, is rich with visuals.


She quotes at length from Rebecca Solnit, and it’s all more than worth reading, but I want to close with more of Terri’s own words.

It’s hard to reconcile the slow, gentle rhythms that deep healing processes demand with the pace of life going on all around us: our families, friends, and colleagues whizzing by us in the fast lane, a blur of motion. Yet there is much to be learned from the fallow time and enforced solitude of illness; from those hazy, sweat-soaked, fever-dream days when the mind, like the body, is cut off from its usual pathways and preoccupations. Illness strips us of the things we believe to be central to our identity: our daily tasks, our creative work, our usual roles in family and community. What’s left is the naked, vulnerable Self who lies buried beneath these things: the person we are, not the social construct we build, and that person is worth knowing.