My journey to illness began, not with one step, but a series of circumstances and choices, actions and reactions that started in my childhood. I never realized my entire life led up to the illness that eventually consumed me.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was born in Canada, an only child, to parents who provided no nurturing. My father, also an only child, was continuously moody and sullen. He never discussed what troubled him; instead he retreated into himself and was silent, refusing to speak to either my mother or me for days. When he was in one of his silent sulks, we’d tiptoe around the house, communicating in whispers. As a child, I believed I had done something to cause his withdrawal.
Day by day, my father’s mood swings seemed to become worse. I tried desperately to become a part of my father’s world; but no matter how hard I tried, I could not please him. It was then I escaped the hurtful criticism and destructive silence, by retreating into books – where I immersed myself in the adventures of my literary heroes and heroines. In books, I lived a fantasy life where I was loved.
My real-life hero was my grandfather. Unlike my father, Granddad readily showed his love for me. Whenever we visited, he greeted me with a huge loving smile and twinkling eyes. Together we would laugh and giggle, as he hugged and tickled me and lifted me onto his lap. I delighted in the all-too-brief moments I shared with him. Sadly, my time with him was short; for one day he was admitted to the hospital and never returned. I did not see him again until his funeral. There I was permitted to say goodbye to my cherished friend.
And of course the women of the family, my mother and Dad’s mother, sparred continually – using me as their go between. With me, Mom shared conspiratorial confidences: tales of Grandmother’s dislike of her. While Grandmother shared her own hurtful snippets of information, telling me my mother didn’t want me. She wanted a boy instead. I was convinced no one wanted me. And on top of all this, each of them questioned me to learn what the other one was doing. Mom forced me to phone Grandmother daily, to make certain she was okay; but nothing and no one could please Grandmother.
My mother’s mom, on the other hand, was a sweet little woman who reminded me of my Granddad. She too was kind and loving. Shortly after I started school, Grandma developed breast cancer. After her surgery, she came to live with us. I was delighted! Every day I’d race into her room to hug and kiss her good morning. Then one day, I could no longer go in to see her; for she was having a bad day, many to be exact.
The doctor came with his black bag. I had to whisper, lest I disturb her. What few friends I had were not allowed in the house. Then all too soon, the hearse came and took Grandma away. Once again, I said goodbye at the funeral. I was broken hearted. Within a few years, I had lost the two dearest people in my life. Finally, three years after Grandma’s passing, my dad’s mother suffered a sudden fatal heart attack in her yard. This was the grandmother who was so hurtful.
Once more, I was left alone with my fears. My only escape was the safety and acceptance of the imaginary characters in the books I read. They became the family I longed for.
Komanchuk shares tips to keep in mind for those suffering from an indeterminate condition.
• Trust in yourself. “At times, the pain was so intense that I was certain my flesh was tearing away from my bones,” says Komanchuk, who was just like the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, which costs nearly $600 billion annually in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to the Institute of Medicine. Despite her unmistakable pain, the critical doubt from others as to what she was experiencing was disheartening, at times causing her to doubt herself.
“Trust in yourself, for you know what you’re feeling,” she says. “Don’t fall victim to the judgment and criticism of others who doubt your illness and the limitations it places on you or your activities.”
• Don’t quit! Despite the immense scope of chronic pain, very little is spent on research to find better ways to manage pain. Komanchuk was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of her life in a nursing home.
“Yes, the pain was excruciating, debilitating and fatiguing, yet I still felt as though my life had the potential for vitality,” she says. “The idea of going to a nursing home – reasonable for some – felt like a kind of death to me.”
Convinced that there was hope for her in overcoming fibromyalgia, she persisted in her search for wellness answers.
• Seriously consider alternatives. She was able to achieve what she thought was impossible – not just temporary relief, but permanent, lasting mind-body-spirit wellness. She had been to orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychologists, underwent MRIs and took all manner of medications for her unbearable pain. In a narrow sense, it would seem as though she exhausted her options – until she looked beyond traditional Western medicine. Alternative treatment guided her to recognize the layers of stress throughout her life that she believes were a primary driver of her chronic pain.
“Every day, I am filled with gratitude for the fact that I am free of the torment from fibromyalgia that had plagued me throughout my life,” she says. “I just wish I could give others a piece of the relief that I’ve found. All I can say is keep your eyes open, keep the hope alive and don’t give up!”
Janet Komanchuk, www.jkomanchuk.com , is a retired schoolteacher who has experienced the miraculous remission of chronic, debilitating fibromyalgia, which was the result of many overlapping stressors and unresolved issues throughout her life. While weathering extreme fatigue and pain, she’d tried everything from traditional Western medicine to alcohol consumption and various holistic treatments. It wasn’t until she experienced the healing work of medium and healer Andrew Overlee, and his wife, Tamara, a dedicated spiritual counselor and author, that she was able to regain her life. She is now pain-free without any use of prescription medication. She is an educational writer and public relations assistant with Joy of Healing, Inc., in Valrico, Fla.