Wrestling With Adversity.

As much as I appreciate inspirational encouragement, it can also be more than a bit annoying and downright depressing when you’re dealing with a situation which isn’t going to change. When no amount of positive thinking is going to turn back the clock and undo what has happened.

“I can do anything? Hello!!!!! Who are you trying to kid? I know I’m never going to Climb Everest and I’d be lucky to climb up those stairs so don’t give me that !@#$!!”

There are some things that no amount of motivational hype are ever going to change. These take you down a very different path where you’re living or more likely, wrestling, with adversity. You’re neither winning nor losing but the two of you are engaged in an incredibly heated battle. It’s such an intense, close fight where it takes everything you’ve got just to stay put. Nobody has any idea how this battle is going to play out. Who is going to win and who is going to lose. It’s neck and neck.

This is what I call wrestling with adversity. While it is possible to overcome your struggles and setbacks, that’s not to say that it’s easy or a one way journey. It’s more a case of wresting back and forwards with your opponent. However, through this process you not only become a stronger and more strategic fighter, you also come to appreciate who or what you’re fighting for. What is most important to you and how to embrace and hang on to that despite your adverse situation.

So, ironically, that thing which all but kills us, also ultimately I believe, helps us appreciate life more in the longer run. Faced with losing our life, we see things so clearly, almost illuminated, and we know what matters. Maybe, I shouldn’t talk in the plural here and only speak for myself but read books like Tuesdays With Morrie, it soon becomes apparent that I’m not the only one who sees things this way.

So, when it comes to adversity, you end up with something of a double-edged sword. The very same thing which cuts you down and almost destroys you, seemingly slices off the dead wood and helps you live life more fully. I wouldn’t go so far as saying we’re better for our struggles because some losses are just too awful but there’s something powerful in it that we don’t always appreciate or understand.

I have been wrestling with my auto-immune disease again this week. Yet again, I was reminded about just how comprehensively this disease has moved in and taken over my body. Quite frankly, I was angry. Pissed off. Wanted to tell it to take a hike, which, of course, I can’t. I could’ve told it a hell of a lot more too. Instead, I poured that angst into my pen and carved my frustrations into the page. Catharsis…It’s such a wonderful thing. You feel so free once you’ve released all that toxic junk.

I wrote  this poem while I was on the train. It’s quite a long trip to my dentist, who is located in Kirribilli in the shadows on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and an ambitious stone’s throw from the Sydney Opera House.

Right from when I was first diagnosed, I viewed this illness as a possessive stalker. However, in this most recent poem, I pushed the analogy right over the edge describing a forced, violent marriage where there is no escape but then just as suddenly as he appears, he is gone without any explanation and no idea if or when he’s coming back.

You see, like other auto-immune diseases, dermatomyositis has flares and goes into remission and isn’t a constant. Indeed, is anything but. It’s like living on a shifting carpet and nothing is predictable.

This is true of so many medical and other issues we face. Just when we think they’re gone and problem solved, they’re back with a vengeance as if to remind us that no matter how far we run or how well we hide, there is no escape. They will be back.

However, no matter what we are going through and how unique our situation might be, we must remember that we are not alone. That while each of us has our own journey and some of us well and truly take the road not travelled, that there are overarching commonalities which bind us together. Once I realised I wasn’t alone, half of the battle was won…especially once I appreciated that just because bad things happen to us which aren’t going away, that we don’t always have to feel bad. Rather, we can still appreciate the good which survives alongside the bad and that it is just as much a matter of where we focus our gaze as what happens to us. It might be a cliche but it’s not just a matter of what happens to us but also how we respond. For one person a set back is perceived as a challenge but for someone else it’s the end of the world.

This has been a difficult place for me to reach.

I know what it’s like to fall straight down. Land in the mud and keep sinking and how hard it is to swim through that same mud, desperately trying to get back to the surface. I also know what it’s like to stop fighting and feel myself drowning but someone has always helped me get back to the top. That might be by physically bailing me out but most of the time, it was their love which saved me. Mostly, that’s been the love of my family and my friends but I’ve also been very deeply touched by the Love of A Stranger.

Perhaps, you’re still floundering around in that mud not knowing if or when you’re ever going to get out. If so, I’ll throw you a life buoy and encourage you to keep fighting. I have been there. Been cynical. Lived with a disease which stubbornly refused to give in to treatment and things weren’t looking good but 9 years since my diagnosis, I am not only still here, I am making the most of a different sort of life. Not what I’d planned but I love and am loved. While I’ve always had my writing and photography which are fantastic outlets for dealing with adversity, I now have this online blogging world I can access from home and I have become a citizen of the world.

Heart Hands red heart

If you are struggling, know that I hold your heart in my hand and wish you well. Please keep putting one foot in front of the other and even if you only change course by a few degrees, as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will indeed end up somewhere else. You will be in a different place.

I also encourage you to find out more about neuro-plasticity and how even changing what and how you think actually changes the very structure of your brain. This isn’t wishy-washy hype but actual science. Well-respected Canadian Psychiatrist Dr Norman Doidge addresses it in his two books: The Brain Which Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

Things may not be the same but please never, ever give up! Keep trying to find your way out.

Love & God Bless,







26 thoughts on “Wrestling With Adversity.

  1. derrickjknight

    A superb post Ro. I am sorry you know this so well, but your determination, and, indeed, stamina, does you proud and should be inspirational. ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ is a great book

  2. vanbytheriver

    The struggles are different, the energy to deal with them is very much the same. A very inspired post, Ro. So well done. The wrestling pic is a compelling addition to your words. 💕

  3. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Van. Unfortunately. I didn’t take the pick and as I was searching found some rather “interesting” mud wrestling shots.
    I have been battling this disease for 9-10 years now and my perspective keeps changing and now that I’ve survived a few close calls, I am feeling much stronger and empowered. I hope it reaches the people who need to read it. I’m still in touch with the social worker at the hospital where I was diagnosed so I’ll forward this through to her.
    Hope you have a great weekend xx Rowena

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Derrick. Of course, nobody wishes adversity on anybody and it’s hard to understand it all. I have been very determined and a big reason behind that is understandably to be there to see my children grow up. Not so much for my own pleasure but to see them settled and on their own two feet. Your mother is such an important part of who you are and is also that person who knows all those endless anecdotes about you. I’ve written mine down so they’ll be there for them. I loved ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. I didn’t read it until a few years after I was diagnosed. I was working on my own writing project and people kept telling me how it was like it and so I didn’t want to copy it.
    As it turned out there was a very good reason my story was so similar. The symptoms of ALS and dermatomyositis are quite similar for awhile but then diverge and mine has effective treatment whereas ALS still doesn’t have a good prognosis. A school friend of mine was diagnosed with it 3 years ago. So, Morrie’s book has a great deal of resonance for me. I actually wrote him a letter after I finished the book and that process brought great healing or a sense of relief. I haven’t read that letter for a long time and should revisit and even post it. Hope you have a great weekend xx Rowena

  5. merrildsmith

    I hope you’re feeling better, Rowena. I recently wrote on someone else’s blog that I wouldn’t wish sorrow or pain on anyone, but that sometimes they do make you appreciate good things–like the spring flowers after winter.

    My younger daughter has lupus, also an auto-immune disease. She’s mostly fine (and I honestly forget she has the disease sometimes), but recently she’s had some flareups (gone now) that affected her in a different way and she was distressed and unhappy.

  6. roweeee Post author

    Merril, sorry to hear your youngest daughter has Lupus. Lupus is quite similar to dermatomyositis and it also varies in severity. Makes life complicated. I have dropped my prednisone down to 7.5 which is about the lowest it’s gone without flaring up. My legs are quite sore at the moment so I might get a blood test just to be careful.
    The hard things with living with these AI conditions is that when they flare up, it feels like it’s going to last forever and there are all sorts of concerns about the damage they’re doing to other organs. In my case, my lungs but lupus can affect the kidneys etc.
    Then, just as you’ve got your head around that, they’re back in their box again and it’s like nothing happened. You’re just left standing there going: “What the?”

  7. Norah

    Great post, Rowena. I hope you keep getting the upper hand in those wrestling bouts. I enjoyed following the links through to earlier posts. Thank you for sharing.
    I have read Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain that Changes Itself” and also one by Barbara Arrowsmith Young (“The Woman Who changed her brain”) who was a subject in his book . (I have written about both in posts of my own.) Barbara has initiated some pretty amazing educational methods for those with learning disabilities. They are both fascinating and inspirational reads.

  8. roweeee Post author

    I have Barbara’s book and really related to her section in Doidge’s book. I have always had to have things right in front of me or they don’t exist and that’s exactly what she said. I have been able to improve on that by using labelled crates and files. I have to be very conscious of my filing. I’ll have to read that book!!!
    I finally finished “Grief is the Thing With Feathers”. Highly recommend it. It’s very poetic and tells the story in three voices…Dad, crow and the boys. It is naturally a bit melancholy. I didn’t cry but it could well bring on the waterworks, which could be cathartic and healing in their way. I also read a fantastic picture book which I’ve mentioned in my coffee post which will go up later tonight. Not impressed to see it $15.00 cheaper online but I wouldn’t have found it.
    Hope you are having a great weekend. My daughter and I are off to Matilda tomorrow. I have a companion card, which entitles me to a free ticket. Should be great. I’ve heard rave reviews.
    xx Rowena

  9. Chanel Bailey

    Hi there my fellow sufferer! As one also dealing with an auto-immune disease (MS) I so can relate to this post. Emotionally when the disorder is acting up we don’t want to hear from those who have no clue that it’s gonna be alright in the morning! Please save it! But these people want nothing but to keep us motivated to keep living. Adverse responses including depression has a bad affect on these illnesses and can keep us out of remission longer. I have learned that since things may not change to have a positive attitude of gratitude inspite of. No it’s not always easy but I thank Godbi can still see, walk, hear, work and

  10. Pingback: More Caffeine Required! | beyondtheflow

  11. Norah

    I’m sure you will enjoy Barbara’s book. She’s such an inspirational lady. I was fortunate to hear her speak at a writers’ festival a few years ago.
    Sounds like your filing system keeps you on track and organised. It’s great that you have established a system that works for you.
    Thanks for reminding me about “Grief”. I haven’t ordered it yet. I do like the sound of it. Must get my copy soon. I’ll have to check out the picture book mentioned in your post, but probably not tonight.
    I hope you enjoyed Matilda. Should be good.
    Enjoy the busy week ahead.
    Norah xo

  12. New Journey

    So well said my friend….I am sorry that you are so up close and personal with it…..I am not trying to annoy you sister, but you really are an amazing woman in all ways….mum, wife, writer, friend, daughter……great article and so eye opening…..kat

  13. Reflections Of A Bear

    Yes! I wrote about this just last month!

    “I dislike clichés about storms being opportunities to “learn to dance in the rain”. That’s a nice outlook for short term struggles, but my chronic illness isn’t going anywhere, and after a while, you get sick of the rain. Instead of wanting to dance, you just feel wet and cold and miserable, and desperately wish you could go inside.”


    I’m sorry to hear you’ve also been struggling xx

  14. roweeee Post author

    I agree with you. Living with ongoing adversity is quite a different thing to that short-term but intense crisis. It’s taken me a long time to get my head around it and I got really cranky for awhile with people talking about healing but eventually I did cotton on to trying to give myself the very best chance of fighting back. I might not be able to slay the beast but I could make it harder for it to get me. So far, so good. I’m out ahead. I’ll go through and read your post. Thanks so much for your comment and best wishes. They’re much appreciated xx Rowena

  15. roweeee Post author

    Thanks so much Chanel for popping by. I am grateful to be doing so well and as annoying as the flares might be, at least I’m not stuck on a constant low. I am doing pretty well at the moment. I’ve been in remission for 2 years but lately my prednisone has gone done to 7.5 and I seem to be thinking more clearly and more calm but don’t have that energy I had on higher doses. I could’ve conquered the world singlehanded at various points on that stuff.
    Here’s another post I wrote about it called “Forgiving the UNforgivable” https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=forgiving+the+unforgivable
    All the best and I hope you are going well!
    xx Rowena

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