May Jesus himself and God our Parent, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech. (439, The Message Bible)
“When life gets hard, just push through,” the speaker tells the room of people in recovery. “Michael Jordan was sick and yet he pushed through and was able to score his team to victory.”
I raise my hand, “Shouldn’t we stop to take care of ourselves when sick? Isn’t forcing us to push through dangerous?”
I’m not trying to be argumentative - it’s a genuine question. To me, telling people to push through sickness feels like he is telling us to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps.
There is a dialectic here.
The truth is that in some ways we do have to push through, no matter what. To not push through is to commit suicide. It would be to follow through with an impulsive, self destructive thought or desire. Last year, if I hadn’t pushed through the panic attacks and called my doctor, I might not still be alive.
The truth is that my pushing through was also a surrender, a stopping, a refusal to keep pushing.
An event a month prior unsettled me and set me apart from reality. I tried to deny it by requesting more hours at work, by giving unasked for advice, by trying to do everything and more that I had been doing before. Memories and extreme insomnia had pushed me to the limit. I could not push through my denial and continue to work any longer. To push through would have been to commit suicide. It would be saying that the only option besides appearing “normal” and as a good, productive worker is death. How ridiculous.
I pushed through panic and called my doctor. I surrendered self reliance. I pushed through fear and went to a hospital I didn’t want to. I surrendered to my own intuition. I pushed through embarrassment and texted my boss, telling her where I was going. I surrendered the act of keeping up appearances. I pushed through pride and called HR to ask for what I needed. I surrendered to the fact that I am disabled and I do need help.
Does that last sentence bother you?
We must fight the able-ism that says having and accepting disability is bad. Disability is simply a fact of life. It is not bad to have limitations, as we all have limitations. It is not bad to need support, as we all need support. It is not bad to need medication or therapy, as we have no stigma accepting those things if physically challenged. (Of course, mental health challenges are also physical challenges.)
When I accepted that I need to work less hours, I rejoiced because I had more time to create art. Trauma therapy freed me from many of my traumatic memories and paranoias. Ironically, accepting my disabilities allowed me to thrive.
I can’t push through disability and be something I’m not.
However, I can push through my fear and be my best.