“But I knew in my heart I had to reach for my health this time, even if it cost me everything else.”
Over the years I have often struggled with what that really meant at the time. Because as we all know, certain kinds of losses can be good for us if we are willing to accept them and release our expectations on how we think our life should work. In my case, I was stopped in my tracks, forced to lie still. Flat on my back, I could finally hear those whispers that had been in the background all those years trying to get my attention – the quiet reminders I’d been ignoring by being totally focused on my outside world. But before I could hear those whispers, I first had to deal with the din of my demons.
It has been said the vacuum of uncertainty is filled with legions of demons and indeed it is – demons of fear and doubt and ignorance; demons of anxiety and self-contempt. They are like wild dogs that wait for the darkness to unleash themselves, and they tore through my psyche with the skill of a surgeon, going for the jugular of my fears. I spent months staring at the ceiling, blaming myself for what had happened as if it were retribution for something I had done or not done. I knew it was insane reasoning, but reason had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t my mind that tore at me, but my broken soul. Despite my snappy comeback to my religious relative, his words had had stung me. I lay there wondering, if what he said were true, then why had I been so punished by God? I tried to broker deals with my dead relatives, tried to ‘petition the Lord with prayer,’ as the old Doors song goes, trying to find some kind of deeper meaning to what had happened to me. Someone urged me to see my illness as a metaphor – what could it mean for my life as a whole? That was easy, I responded angrily. I must have been stabbed in the back, I had no real support in my life; I was losing my spine. It didn’t help that I was tanked on pain killers half the day, lying around, listening to jazz, weeping at my misfortune.
I pushed myself in physical therapy knowing the only acceptable outcome would be full restoration. As a nightly news anchor at a number one station, I did not have the luxury of working Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I was expected to be there every night in my position of trust, rain or shine, come hell or high water or blizzard or hurricane – especially during a blizzard or hurricane. That was the way the job worked. You had to be consistent in order to win. Viewers had to know they could count on you to be there. And when you were there, you had to look strong and attractive. A newscast is a difficult thirty minutes that requires total concentration and focus. If I went on the air in pain, it would show on my face and distract my concentration. If I took pain-killers, it would be even worse. If I were to return, I would have to be drug and pain free and looking like I just got back from a vacation in the Bahamas.
I watched as the weeks and then the months slipped by and the chance of my returning to my job diminished. I would watch the news high on pain-killers, bloated from steroids, listening as night after night they would announce that I was ill, until finally, they stopped saying it altogether and moved on without me. I was angry at the world by then, angry and freaked out that my health had failed me and might again. I kept pushing myself, trying to force my body to comply with my timetable, but my body had other plans. Healing is apparently a process that can’t be rushed by fear.
Deep down I knew that the station had to go forward; the strain of holding my place was hard on everyone. I felt guilty for being a burden to my colleagues and ashamed that I hadn’t bounced back so I could once again take my rightful place as the bull-busting diva of the newsroom. When we finally, clumsily, parted ways, I felt like I had been abandoned on the shore of a strange land as my shipmates departed without me. I was lost.